Picture of Kaing Guek Eav
Kaing Guek Eav in court in Cambodia in 2009 cc Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia/Flickr

Decades after the Khmer Rouge regime terrorized Cambodia, one of the Khmer Rouge trials has concluded. In 1999, one of the chief executioners of the murderous regime, Kaing Guek Eav, also spelled Kang Kek Iew, or “Comrade Duch” was found and put on trial. The trial of the man who presided over more than 17,000 executions has concluded. He received only 19 years for his crimes, after credit for time served. Survivors of the era and the bereaved of the victims announced outrage at the sentence.

Khmer Rouge warden killed thousands

In 1975, the Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia. Led by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge sought to eradicate the middle class and create an isolated agrarian collectivist utopia. The regime immediately set about executing anyone considered opponents, including educators, intellectuals and even people who wore glasses. Kaing Guek Eav was the head of security for the Santebal, the state police, and was put in charge of Tuol Sleng prison, or S-21. More than 17,000 inmates were sent to Toul Sleng to be tortured and executed. Only 12 survived a trip to Toul Sleng.

Capture and the trial

Many Khmer Rouge personnel scattered after the regime was toppled in 1979. Pol Pot went into seclusion, eventually being forced into house arrest until his death in 1998. Other officials of the Khmer Rouge went on trial, and some are still awaiting verdicts. Kaing Guek Eav was discovered going under a pseudonym near the Cambodia-Thailand border, surrendering to authorities in 1999. He was brought before the Khmer Rouge tribunals and went to trial. He was convicted of crimes against humanity, and on July 26 2010, he was credited for 11 years of time served and five years of pretrial detention against a 35-year sentence. He will serve 19 years in prison, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Brace yourself, my dear

According to the BBC, people who lived under the Khmer Rouge and the families of the murdered are not happy with the sentence. Millions perished at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, and one of its chief henchmen may live to be released. Present at his trial was Chum Mey, one of three living survivors of Tuol Seng. The Khmer Rouge murdered his wife and children. He opined that “millions of people died, a lot of money has been spent on the court – and the perpetrator is free (in 19 years )? I am not happy with that.”

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