“Be on Guard Against The Strategy & Tactics Of The Enemy So As To Defend The Country, The People & The Party!”
Portrait of Cambodian Voeuk Peach, murdered by Khmer Rouge soldiers at the S-21 killing center, Phomn Penh, on or before October, 11, 1977. The bird wing was drawn at the ornithology lab, Burke Museum, Univ. of Washington, Seattle.
I was inspired to draw this portrait by a photo in the book Voices from S-21 – Terror and History in Pol Pot’s Secret Prison by David Chandler (Univ. of California Press, ’99).
Next to a mug shot of Peach (which the drawing was done from) is a post-mortem photo of Peach with a hand-painted sign on his chest dated 11-10-77. The photos are attributed to the Photo Archive Group. Footnotes state the PAG staff cleaned, developed and archived over 6 thousand negatives found at the site in 1994-95. Most of the photos are viewable on the CD-Rom prepared by the Cambodia Genocide Program at Yale University. [Check the Yale U website for more info].
Chandler writes that when the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia in January 1979, most of Phnom Penh (the capital city) was empty. “No people or animals could be seen.”
“On Jan. 8th two Vietnamese photojournalists were drawn towards a particular compound by the smell of decomposing bodies…they found themselves on the grounds of what appeared once to have been a high school. Over the gate was a red placard inscribed in yellow with a Khmer (Rouge) slogan:
S-21 had been a high school before the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia in 1975. It became a museum in 1979.
“….Between April ’75 and the first week of 1979…at least 14,000 men, women and children had been held by S-21. Because the entry records for several months of 1978 were incomplete, the true number of victims was undoubtedly higher.
“…Of the documented prisoners, all but a dozen specially exempted ones, including Ung Pech [who became the director of the museum when it opened in 1980] had been put to death…Since 1979, seven of those 12 prisoners have come forward [for interviews.]
“…The resemblance between S-21 and Nazi deaths camps are striking…Works discussing the Holocaust provide insight in the psychology of torturers, administrators and victims at the prison.
“…The most striking difference between the German and Cambodian cases lies in the extent of documentation produced at S-21….In Nazi Germany, political prisoners were kept in separate camps from those targeted for execution and were somewhat better treated. At S-21, all were charged with political offenses and were to be killed.
“…Like the Nazi death camps and the Argentine torture facilities, S-21 was a secret facility…a factory worker in a nearby compound, interviewed in 1989, referred to S-21 as “the place where people went in but never came out.”
For those interested in learning more about how this “auto-genocide” [mass murder of Cambodians by Cambodians] began and history, Chandler also addresses the Reign of Terror in 18th century France; the Moscow “Show Trials” of the 1930’s; land reform and “re-education” campaigns in the late 1940’s and in Vietnam a decade later.