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Paperback Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison Book

ISBN: 9747551152

ISBN13: 9789747551150

Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. The horrific torture and execution of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge during the 1970s is one of the century's major human disasters. David Chandler, a world-renowned...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Terrified and terrifying

Prof. Chandler gives us a remarkably deep analysis of Pol Pot's secret prison S-21, which within the autogenocide of the Cambodian people stands out as a haunting symbol. It reflected the unlimited paranoia of Angkar and its schizophrenic regime that 'was at once terrified and terrifying, omnipotent and continually under threat'.All family members (women, children and BABIES) of the condemned were slaughtered. Only 7 of the 14000 inmates survived.As prof. Chandler remarks chillingly: 'a reign of terror and continuous revolution requires a continuous supply of enemies.'There were no limits. As one of the interrogators rightly asked: 'If Angkar arrests everybody, who will be left to make a revolution?'The same subject has been treated by Ben Kiernan in his book 'The Pol Pot regime'. But whereas Ben Kiernan sees racism as the main motive behind the murderous regime, prof. Chandler digs far deeper and concludes clinically that 'the real truth behind S-21 is to be found in ourselves'!Indeed, the S-21 experience is not unique in the 20th century with its Nazi camps, communist show trials, Indonesian, Rwandan and Bosnian mass killings, Argentinean tortures ...He remarks also that the Cambodian regime was an imported phenomenon. The Khmer leaders were all recruited and educated by the Stalinist French PC in the 1950s.This nearly unbearable book should be read as a reminder that 'ordinary people can commit demonic acts' (R. F. Lifton).David Chandler is not afraid to say 'how things really are' (L. Betzig).A terrifying book about a terrifying experience.

Excellent view of a lost chapter in 20th century history!

Chandler has done a magnificient job bringing the Khmer Rouge prison "S-21" into clear view.During the reign of the Khmer Rouge S-21 was used as the prison, interrogation center, and finally, the place of execution for several thousand Cambodians who were suspected of counter revolutionary activity.Chandler shows that the mania of the Khmer Rouge leadership could not differentiate between the truth and made up stories under torture. One example of this gross misconception of reality within in the minds of the Khmer Rouge leadership is the fact that people were thrown into S-21 and executed on grounds of counter revolutionary activity simply because they had broken farming equipment, thereby tried to hinder the outcome of the 4 year plan for the agricultural sector!Chandler also manages to draw interesting parallells between the Nazi KZs and Stalin's terror in the 1930's, and the Chinese cultural revolution in the 60's. He shows that some ingredients of terror are always there, no matter if it happens in Treblinka, Moscow, the country side of China, or in the killing fields of Cambodia.Chandler's book is more than just a story of an awful prison in Cambodia. It is about the mechanisms that make some humans commit unspeakable acts(apparently by their own free will) against their fellow human beings, simply because of a belief in a political ideology!A must read for people interested in the thoughts and methods behind the slaughter of millions of people in communist and faschist countries in the 20th century!

It haunts you long after you have finished reading

An extraordinary view into the secret prison of the Democratic Kampuchean (DK) government of Cambodia (1975-79). This well researched book by a renowned historian provides the reader with an in-context look at the horrors of Pol Pot's regime and the consequences of his paranoia of "hidden enemies". Dr. Chandler's poignant use of confessions forced from unfortunate and often innocent victims paints a grizzly portrait of power without constraints. It mattered not that neither interrogators nor prisoners knew what crimes had been committed, it was merely enough they had been arrested and sent to S-21, therefore they were guilty. With their de facto "guilt" established, it was the interrogators job to obtain a proper confession of these unknown, but treasonous, crimes. With or without a confession, there was only one verdict-death. Dr. Chandler has woven extracts from these confessions, interviews from the hand full of S-21 survivors, prison workers, and senior DK cadre, including Pol Pot, and a comparative analysis of other similar atrocities from the 20th Century into a balanced, historically valid picture of the horrid activities that took place at S-21. This work will be useful text for any person interested in Southeast Asian history or human rights issues.

Superb work

David Chandler, a well-known historian of Cambodia, has penned a superb work. As an historian of Southeast Asia, I am acutely aware that most works on the region only appeal to a specialized audience. This work, limpidly written, is different. It is a powerful witness to one of the great disasters of the twentieth century: the deaths of approximately 1.7 million Cambodians under Khmer Rouge rule. The work draws on a wide range of scholarship, ranging from studies of the Holocaust to those on Stalin's terror. But what makes this work compelling is that Chandler zeroes in on one place -- S-21, or the infamous Tuol Sleng prison, where the Khmer Rouge interrogated, tortured, then killed suspected enemies of the state. Drawing on the mass of forced confessions recorded by the prison interrogators, this book takes us into the terror of Khmer Rouge rule. A powerful, disquieting book that will "appeal," if that is the word, not simply to specialists on Cambodia but to a wide range of persons troubled by humankinds propensity to engage in acts of terror and brutality.

Betrayal, torture, fear and bravery in the anteroom of death

S-21 -- an interrogation center where even the interrogators eventually fall prey to a mindless system of betrayal, false accusation, forced confession, torture and execution. A place where guilt or innocence is irrelevant to the task at hand. "Voices from S-21" is an in-depth study of extensive archives of S-21 "death confessions" interwoven with stunning interviews of surviving Khmer Rouge cadre who try to explain how and why they carried out the orders of the "Upper Brothers". David Chandler's meticulous research sets the stage for his thoughtful, scholarly, and compassionate analysis of this horrorific Cambodian tragedy, and places the brutal acts that occurred there in international historical perspective. With "Duch", the former S-21 commander, now in detention awaiting an agreement on an international tribunal on crimes against humanity during the Pol Pot regime, "Voices from S-21" is most timely, and will be an invaluable resource to human rights advocates around the world. This book served in some ways as an inspiration to Ysa Osman, a young Cambodian Muslim researcher at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, who in September 2002 published "Oukoubah - Justice for Cham Muslims under the DK Regime." The author profiles 13 Cham Muslims who were held at S-21, including one of the most vicious interrogators on the staff who was eventually himself executed there. Using biographical material in their confessions, this ambitious reseacher tracked down surviving family members and neighbors for the full details of how each prisoner was arrested and an overview of DK genocide against Muslims. Highly recommended for readers of "Voices from S-21." Updates -- The 2005 DVD version of Pan Rithy's film "S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine" is an equally brilliant look at S-21. Two surviving prisoners and numerous former KR cadre assigned at S-21 discuss the insanity and barbarity that once filled S-21 and the its associated killing field at Choeung Ek. The 2005 book "The Chain of Terror" by the impressive young scholar Meng Try Ea of the Documentation Center of Cambodia provides an inside look at the horrors of the KR Southwestern Zone's prison system.
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