Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Vann Nath, 65, artist and Cambodian genocide survivor

From The International Herald Tribune:

Vann Nath, 65, artist and Cambodian genocide survivor
BY SETH MYDANS

Vann Nath, an artist who was one of only a handful of survivors of the Khmer Rouge torture center Tuol Sleng, and who lived to testify two years ago at the trial of his jailer, has died in Phnom Penh. He was 65.

The cause was cardiac arrest, his family said after his death on Monday, adding that he had been in a coma for three days. He had suffered from kidney disease and other ailments for years.

Shackled and tortured along with other prisoners when he was arrested at the end of 1977, Mr. Vann Nath was spared by his jailers to paint portraits of the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot. His more recent paintings of scenes of torture hang on the walls of Tuol Sleng, now a museum in Phnom Penh.

Just 14 prisoners are known to have survived Tuol Sleng, where at least 14,000 people were sent to their deaths, according to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, a repository of Khmer Rouge records. Altogether, 1.7 million people died during the Khmer Rouge rule, from 1975 to 1979.

Mr. Vann Nath's 1998 memoir, ''A Cambodian Prison Portrait: One Year in the Khmer Rouge's S-21 Prison,'' is the most vivid written account by a survivor.

Mr. Vann Nath's death came as long-delayed trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders were under way. He was the first survivor to testify, in 2009, against the Tuol Sleng commandant, Kaing Guek Eav, or Duch, who is now appealing a sentence that the judges reduced to 19 years from 35.



http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/06/world/asia/06vann.html

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