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Khmer Rouge survivor weeps giving evidence

ONE of the only survivors of the Khmer Rouge's main torture center gave a long-awaited testimony yesterday, weeping as he recounted the conditions at a facility where 16,000 others were tortured before execution.

Vann Nath, 63, escaped execution because he was an artist and took the job of painting and sculpting portraits of the Khmer Rouge's late leader Pol Pot. His special status did not spare him misery, however.

"The conditions were so inhumane and the food was so little," Vann Nath told the tribunal, tears streaming down his face. "I even thought eating human flesh would be a good meal."

Van Nath said he was fed twice a day, each meal consisting of three teaspoons of rice porridge.

"I lost my dignity," he said. "They even gave animals more food."

The testimony came at the trial of Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch, who headed the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh from 1975-1979.

Up to 16,000 men, women and children were tortured under his command and later taken away to be killed. Only 14 people, including Vann Nath, are thought to have survived.

Duch, 66, is charged with crimes against humanity and is the first of five defendants scheduled for long-delayed trials.

He has previously testified that he was only following orders to save his own life. Duch is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions.

Senior leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Sary's wife, Ieng Thirith, are all detained and likely to face trial in the next year or two.


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