Tuesday, 17 February 2009

An afternoon with a survivor of Tuol Sleng

I've been following the start of the trial of Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - the head of the notorious Khmer Rouge S21 Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh.

Duch is accused of presiding over the torture and killing of some 14,000 inmates - there were only seven survivors.

In 2007 I interviewed one of these survivors, Vann Nath.

On a typical hot and humid afternoon in Phnom Penh, we met at the small Khmer restaurant that he owns and runs with his family. I found Vann Nath a calm and kind man who thought deeply before answering my questions.

I'd read his book "A Cambodia Prison Portrait" describing how he managed to survive Tuol Sleng using his talents as an artist painting official portraits of brother number one Pol Pot.

I found it difficult to begin an interview with someone who had experienced such violence and horror. But Vann Nath feels he carries an enormous responsibility as a survivor to tell his story and to make sure such crimes never happen again.

Here's a look back at the story I produced for Radio Australia in April 2007 examining the steps towards reaching this day and the start of the trial.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Abdallah and the Algerian Ahaggar

I recently received a very sad email from Tamanrasset in the central Sahara:

"Chers amis et famille,

Mon cher et adorable mari SAHKI Abdallah est partie auprès de notre créateur suite à un terrible accident dans le puits de notre auberge à Tamanrasset. Mon adorable époux a eu une mort terrible et je vous demande à Dieu le tout puissant de l'acceuillir dans son vaste paradis. Que tout ceux qui l'ont connu et aimé ait une prière pour lui Abdallah est parti mais Temidoua son âme et son rêve est toujours là.

Son épouse Rabèa SAHKI"

Rabèa wrote that her husband Abdallah Sahki had fallen into the well of their backyard and died a tragic and painful death.

Four years ago, Abdallah was our great and knowledgeable guide who made us discover the Hoggar Mountains - or Ahaggar as the Touaregs call the highland region in Southern Algeria, close to the border with Libya and Mali.

It was my first encounter with the desert - an unforgettable, magical experience.

I dug out the photos and made a slide show in memory of Abdallah.

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