Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch, the former chief of the Khmer Rouge S-21 Tuol Sleng security centre, died of chronic bronchitis at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh just after midnight on Wednesday. He was 78.
Duch’s body was cremated at the Chak Angre Krom pagoda in the capital’s Meanchey district and his ashes were given to relatives.
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) said Duch was placed in detention by the Cambodian Military Court between 1999 and 2007 before being detained by the ECCC on July 31, 2007.
In July 2010, the ECCC’s Trial Chamber sentenced Duch to 35 years in prison on charges of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Convention. But in 2012, the Supreme Court Chamber reversed the sentence and gave him life imprisonment.
During his time overseeing the S-21 security centre, no fewer than 12,272 people were killed, the ECCC said.
After about a year at the ECCC’s detention centre, Duch was transferred to the Kandal provincial prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.
A Kandal Provincial Court press release said: “While serving his sentence in the Kandal prison, convict Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, was in a weak condition. At 78, his health was in critical condition due to many chronic health problems.”
Duch had been sent to hospital three times before his death. He was transferred to the Chey Chumneah Referral Hospital in Kandal province in 2018 for shortness of breath. Later that year, he was hospitalised again for kidney disease. Last year, he was admitted to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital with swollen legs.
Prior to joining the Khmer Rouge, Duch excelled as a mathematician. He received his baccalaureate degree at the prestigious Lycee Sisowath in Phnom Penh and taught mathematics at a school in Kampong Cham province.
Chum Mey, an S-21 survivor, told The Post on Wednesday that he was not bothered by Duch’s death as he had already been sentenced to life imprisonment.
However, Mey said Duch should have been brought out to see Cambodia’s development and compare it to the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror.
“If I had it my way, I would bring him [around] on a vehicle and let him visit the Royal Palace, along the riverside and bridges to see the development. The government has tried hard to make the country blossom.
“We should have let him see how Cambodia has developed before he died. During his time, there were no schools, overpasses, underground bridges, or skyscrapers.
“His death is a reminder to all of us that if you commit crimes against humanity, you will be punished until you die,” he said.
Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) executive director Youk Chhang said: “He died on the first day of Pchum Ben and this will bring us together, perhaps to remember his many victims as well.”
The ECCC’s National Co-Prosecutor also issued a press statement on Wednesday confirming Duch’s death.
“Today, the National Co-Prosecutor notifies that Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, passed away . . . The investigation into the cause of Duch’s death is under the responsibility of the national authorities,” it said.