Cambodian art show casts light on Khmer Rouge horrors

Tue Jul 28, 2009 5:23am EDT
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KOMPOT, Cambodia (Reuters Life!) - Cambodian artist Vann Nath only survived the Khmer Rouge's most brutal prison because its chief torturer liked his paintings of the tyrannical leader Pol Pot.

Now, the survivor of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison is using art to educate younger generations about one of the 20th century's darkest chapters through an exhibition of paintings reflecting the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime.

"I come here to share my experiences as well as to remember our country's history, and ensure that it's not lost," Nath told Reuters Television.

An estimated 1.7 million people died during the Khmer Rouge's four-year "killing fields" reign of terror, which ended when Vietnamese forces invaded in 1979.

Three decades on, villagers at the exhibition reflected on the horrors of the regime with paintings of skulls, bodies lined up in a room, blindfolded prisoners and people with weapons in their hands.

The exhibition showcasing the work of about 16 Cambodian artists is the second of seven in the Cambodian countryside this year.

"It is good to have the Khmer Rouge tribunal going on because it can let the victims know what has happened then, why Pol Pot killed innocent people," said Chan Pisey, an artist and co-organizer of the exhibition.

"Of course, it cannot heal the suffering of everybody but at least 20 to 30 percent of it can be done."

The exhibition comes just weeks after Nath testified against Duch, Tuol Sleng's head jailer. He told the joint United Nations-Cambodian tribunal his experience inside the S-21 prison was like "hell."   Continued...