Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch was the most notorious killer during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror in Cambodia back in the 1970s, died Wednesday at the age of 77 in the nation’s capital, Phnom Penh.
The Kandal provincial court said in a statement that he died of lung disease, according to the New York Times.
Dutch was born in the early 1940s. He was originally a teacher, but later joined the communist party. When the Vietnam war was near Cambodia, Dutch joined the Khmer Rouge communist rebels under the leader Pol Pot.
Once the rebels took control in 1975, Dutch became the director of the Tuol Sleng prison.
At least 1.7 million people died due to torture, starvation, execution, untreated diseases, or overwork from 1975-1979.
According to BBC, Duch kept a large archive of pictures and documents. These included thousands of “confessions”, that showed what the Khmer Rouge regime was really like. It also helped prosecutors learn about the final months of thousands of prisoner’s lives.
Prisoners were officials from the old government in the beginning, as well as those accused of being in the middle class. Later those in the regime accused of disloyalty were placed in there.
“Whoever was arrested must die. It was the rule of our party,” said Dutch. “We had the responsibility to interrogate and give the confession to the central committee of the party.”
In 1979, Duch fled to the countryside near the Thai border. Living under fake names for many years. He was identified as Nic Dunlop in 1999.
According to the New York Times, Duch was sentenced to life in prison back in 2010 for acts he committed as a commandant of the Tuol Sleng prison. At least 14,000 people are reported to have died after being held in the prison. Most were sent to a killing field after being tortured and forced to confess crimes they didn’t commit. Very few survived.
During the trial, Duch admitted that he was in charge of Tuol Sleng and apologized for his participation. He later claimed he was just following orders, but his appeal was rejected by the tribunal.
According to BBC only three of the former Khmer Rouge authorities have been sentenced.
In the last few days of Duch’s trial, he begged for freedom.Relatives of victims called his claims of remorse a mockery.