A few moments from a Khmer Rouge jail in Cambodia

A.H. Starlingsson
3 min readJan 4, 2018

Show me your hands!” He barked, “See! Clean. Soft. Idle! This is no worker, or farmer”

“To kill her now, after her confession, comrade brother number seven Deuch?”

“First find out if she is a spy. Let her know what is coming.”

Petrified, she was photographed then pulled by her hair to a tiny cell, with nothing but concrete floor and crude cement block walls. A cell that fit one had four people in it, two other girls and an old, wizened man.

“Listen!” Shouted one of the gaolers, “To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss. You will give detailed autobiographies of your lives, beginning with childhood up to why you are being punished. You will surrender your clothes. You will wear those iron shackles, tied to the floor. You will face opposite directions. You are forbidden to talk to each other. You start at 4:30 a.m. when you strip for inspection. You will work all day. You have four spoons of rice porridge and soup of leaves two times daily. Drinking water without asking the guards for permission results in beatings. Every four days we will hose you. You will eat human shit if we are angry.”

She stared at the guard in shock, dumbfounded, unable to talk, unwilling to utter a sound. Only a few hours ago her brother had been beaten to death with iron bars around the head in front of her when he found a bush of wild berries, and was picking them, despite her begging to stop, begging him, frantically.

Her parents were expecting her home. She felt a heavy guilt at not even saying goodbye, and knew, inside, their anguish was only just really starting.

“You! You are first!”

She looked up, terrified. The gaoler was looking straight at her, pointing with his metal baton at her head. A sudden dizziness overcame her but she did not fall. On matchstick legs she forced herself to walk, step by step, to become just a statistic of horror.

She walked past the guards but did not look up, did not glance, only heard a song playing on their tin-sounding small transistor radio, that she had heard somewhere before, “Wish you were here,” a few English words she had learnt.

‘Some things can’t be forgotten,’ she thought to herself, in her brave, young mind, but did not dare say, or mumble, or even whisper; ’but will there be anyone there to remember?’


In memorium, to Cambodia’s victims of the horrific Khmer Rouge regime. Up to one quarter of the population of 8 million people (2,000,000 people) were tortured and killed from 1975 to 1979, until Vietnam was able to put an end to the monstrosity. The Khmer Rouge remained in existence until 1999.

Between 1964 and 1973, in a secret campaign, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Cambodia’s neighbour Laos during 580,000 bombing missions — a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years — making Laos the most heavily bombed country in history, a country that was not even at war.

When a country is invaded the knock-on effects, the shaking of societies to their foundations, bring the worms out of the wood. Laos then Cambodia paid a terrible price for the Vietnam war up to 1975 next door.

Detailed descriptions in the prison in the short story above are all factual, inclusive of comrade Deuch.

The photo below shows one of the victims of torture of the Khmer Rouge regime, in a prison photo at the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh. It is extremely unlikely she survived.



A.H. Starlingsson

—dispatches from Ukraine🌲currently writing "Distant Taps The Woodpecker," https://federated.press/@callsign_santa contact: starlingsson@gmail.com_