The Lost Executioner: A Story of the Khmer Rouge

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Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2005 - History - 326 pages
36 Reviews
Nic Dunlopwas born in Ireland in 1969. His work has appeared in numerous publications worldwide. In 1999, he received an award for Excellence in International Journalism from Johns Hopkins for exposing the head of the Khmer Rouge secret police, Comrade Duch. Dunlop lives in Bangkok, Thailand. In Cambodia, between 1975 and 1979, some two million people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Twenty years later, not one member had been held accountable for the genocide. Haunted by an image of one of them, Comrade Duch, photographer Nic Dunlop set out to bring him to life, and thereby to account. "I needed to understand how a movement that laid claim to a vision of a better world could instead produce a revolution of unparalleled ferocity; how a seemingly ordinary man from one of the poorer parts of Cambodia could turn into one of the worst mass murderers of the twentieth century:"   Weaving seamlessly between past and present, Dunlop unfolds the history of Cambodia as a lens through which to understand its tragic last forty years. He makes clear how much responsibility the United States must share, through failed political alliances and the illegal bombing of Cambodia, for the bloodshed that followed. Guided by witnesses, Dunlop teases out the details of Duch's transformation from sensitive schoolchild and dedicated teacher to the revolutionary killer who later slipped quietly back into village life. From the temples of Angkor to the prisons of Pol Pot's regime, to his unexpected meeting with Duch himself, Dunlop's special vision as a photographer enlarges our own.The Lost Executioneris a blend of history and testimony—and a reminder that, whether in the killing fields of Cambodia or the deserts of Darfur, if we turn our backs on genocide, we must bear a collective guilt. "A harrowing book. The fact that the events described here are seen through the eyes of a photographer immeasurably invigorates his account of Cambodia's horrifying thirty-year war, and America's hapless involvement."—Gitta Sereny   "Nic Dunlop's remarkable journey into the dark, suffering heart of Cambodia is a revelation."—John Pilger   "A photographer/journalist charts the brutal, sanguinary history of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge and chases down one of its most savage officials, who now sits in prison awaiting trial. The kindless commandant of S-21, the most unforgiving of Khmer Rouge prisons, was a man of several names-Kaing Geuk Eav, his birth name; Comrade Duch, his Khmer Rouge name; Hang Pin, his name during his years in hiding, when he taught math and English in remote villages, declared himself saved by Jesus and worked for a relief agency. During his years as commandant, only a handful of prisoners survived. It's miraculous that any did. The methods of torture—60 lashes for urinating or defecating without permission, among them—bespeak both the vast dimensions of the terror and the unlimited abilities of people to imagine ways to torment one another. One of the most disturbing moments in Dunlop's narrative is an interview with a former prison guard whose lack of affect is both stunning and frightening. Many thousands died while in the care of Duch in ways horrible to imagine. Dunlop features interviews with victims and victimizers, including Duch himself, whom the author helped apprehend. Dunlop tells, as well, the sad recent history of Cambodia; at times, he is unable to restrain his disgust. He notes, for example, that the United Nations forces and bureaucrats, in the country in the early 1990s to supervise a cease-fire and monitor elections, spent $92 million on air-conditioned Land Cruisers for themselves but only $20 million on road and bridge repairs. Biography, memoir and history of unspeakable darkness."—Kirkus Reviews   "Well written, harrowing, and blunt, this book is recommended."—Patti C. McCall,Library Journal   "[A] measured but horrifying book, [and] a chronicle of [Dunlop's] dogged efforts to understand the carnage and bring about justice. With Duch at the book's core, the author (who worked in Cambodia throughout the '90s) weaves a contemporary account of a war-ravaged nation into the history of its ancient past and rumination on terror in the name of ideology. Dunlop also deepens his story with thoughtful—and very personal—commentary on photography and violence. In 1999, Dunlop found and confronted Duch, who voluntarily confessed to his role in the Khmer Rouge. Though Duch was then charged and imprisoned, he has not yet been brought to trial . . . Dunlop's personal quest for international justice holds the narrative together.—Publishers Weekly

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Review: The Lost Executioner: A Journey to the Heart of the Killing Fields

User Review  - Goodreads

Read this several times - it's easily one of the best books written about Cambodia's tortuous late-20th century history. Nic Dunlop is a Bangkok-based Irish photojournalist who spent years searching ... Read full review

Review: The Lost Executioner: A Journey to the Heart of the Killing Fields

User Review  - Ryan - Goodreads

Excellent story in the middle of an extremely helpful and detailed synopsis of what happened to Cambodia during the 1960s through 1990s as the Khmer Rouge sweep to power, then slowly sweep back out. Extremely helpful before, during, and after a trip to Cambodia. Read full review


The Burden of Angkor
The Good Khmer Rouge 57
The tree grows in the rural areas
Brother and sisters go to the jungle
A Vision of a Better World
Democratic Kampuchea
The Perfect Institution
My Enemys Enemy Is My Friend
The Return of the Khmer Rouge
Policies and Practices of the Recent Past 250
The Humanitarian
Chapter 19 The Confession
The Quest for Justice

The Interrogators Manual
A City with No People
The Photographer
The Last Joint Plan
Feeding the Guilty
Living with the Past
Lessons from an Empty Schoolhouse
Bibliography Notes on Sources 518
Glossary 525

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About the author (2005)

Nic Dunlop is a freelance photographer specialising in human rights work.

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