Chum Mey

Chum Mey (Khmer: ជុំ ម៉ី, born c. 1930) is one of only seven known adult survivors[1] of the Khmer Rouge imprisonment in the S-21 Tuol Sleng camp, where 20,000 Cambodians were sent for execution.[2] He survived two years of torture and fear in a Khmer Rouge death camp, sustained by thoughts of his pregnant wife and unborn child. His life was only spared because of his high level of competence in machine repairing for Pol Pot's soldiers.[3]

Chum Mey
Born1930 (age 8889)
French Cambodia
OccupationMechanic and writer
Known forSurvivor of the Tuol Sleng prison camp
Children7 (1 killed)

Marched at gunpoint into the provinces by his fleeing Khmer Rouge jailers following the Vietnamese invasion, he had a chance encounter with his wife and the young son who was born a few weeks after he was sent to the infamous Tuol Sleng prison in early 1977.

For two days they travelled together to an isolated hamlet with a group of other prisoners. On the second evening, as the family rested beside a pagoda, the guards ordered them to walk into a rice field before suddenly opening fire with their AK-47 assault rifles.

"First they shot my wife, who was marching in front with the other women," he said. "She screamed to me, 'Please run, they are killing me now'. I heard my son crying and then they fired again, killing him. When I sleep, I still see their faces, and every day I still think of them".[4]

Chum Mey later remarried and had six children, three sons and three daughters.

In 2003 he appeared in the Rithy Panh documentary S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine along with Cambodian artist Vann Nath where they were reunited and revisited the former prison, now known as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh. They meet their former captors – guards, interrogators, a doctor and a photographer – many of whom were barely teenagers during the Khmer Rouge era from 1975 to 1979. Their appearances are in stark contrast to the two former prisoners, who are both elderly men. Vann Nath, who was made to paint portraits of prisoners, has a full head of white hair.

The guards and interrogators gave a tour of the museum, re-enacting their treatment of the prisoners and daily regimens. They looked over the prison's detailed records, including photographs, to refresh their memories.

In 2009, he gave evidence at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, the trial of surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime. On 9 November 2014 Mey appeared on BBC's The Mekong River with Sue Perkins.

See also


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