Film-maker Rithy Panh says unmoved by death of Khmer Rouge torturer

Paris (AFP)


Franco-Cambodian film-maker Rithy Panh, whose family was killed by the Khmer Rouge said Wednesday he was "neither sad, nor happy" at the death of the regime's notorious torturer "Duch".

But Panh, who has won a string of awards for his documentaries on the Khmer Rouge, stressed the need to preserve the memory of the genocide perpetrated by the regime in the mid- to late-1970.

"This man, this butcher, I knew him well," 56-hear-old Panh told AFP. "He was an extremely complex, intelligent and manipulative character."

"But to be frank, and at the risk of shocking, I can't say that I hate him, nor that his death gives me pleasure.

"Honestly, I'm neither sad nor happy at his death. It doesn't interest me."

Kaing Guek Eav, 77, better known by his alias Duch, served as the head of the infamous Tuol Sleng prison in the late 1970s and was convicted of crimes against humanity in 2012 by a UN-backed tribunal for his role in the "Killing Fields" regime.

He died while serving his life sentence.

Panh was himself a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge regime, imprisoned at the age of 11 for four years before escaping and eventually making his way to France.

But his parents and sisters perished in the regime's camps.

Even after the death of Duch, the duty to document and preserve the memory of what happened remained, said Panh.

"With his death, you might think that a page is turning -- and it's precisely against that that we have to fight..," he said.

"The Khmer Rouge who are still alive, they continue to inject venom into Cambodian society by publishing untruths. We must not give them a free hand."

He added: "It is essential to put the history of the Khmer Rouge in its context.

"Without that work of remembrance, we will never be able to get over this history, which still haunts Cambodian society."

After losing almost all his family during the Khmer Rouge rule between 1975 and 1979, Panh went on to make a series of hard-hitting documentaries that helped break the silence surrounding the genocide.