Victims of Khmer Rouge Torture Support Themselves Through Book Sales at Former Prison

Khmer Rouge victims sell books at former prison

Bou Meng, 70, and Chum Mey, 81, both make their living as booksellers. However, their place of business is what makes their situation unusual. The two men operate out of what used to be Prison S-21, where they endured years of brutal torture at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.

S-21, which now houses the Tuoi Sleng Museum, does a brisk trade in tourism, and the two elderly men, receiving little to no help from the state, have decided to sell copies of books and magazines devoted to their story in order to support themselves and their families.

Bou Meng sells copies of his biography, A Survivor from Khmer Rouge Prison S-21 by Huy Vannak, and earns anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred dollars a day. The former prisoner says that he sells the book for $10, but his customers occasionally pay more.

I thank them and kiss their hands to show that it’s their hands that help feed me for my daily survival.

Both men say they would prefer not to have to make their livings at the site of their imprisonment, but Chum Mey says they are given little choice in the matter when the state has set up no benefits for surviving victims of the Khmer Rouge.

Why does the court not pity the two remaining survivors who are sitting selling books to feed our stomachs? Why does it pity only the accused so much?

John Jarzemsky

News by John Jarzemsky

John is a freelance writer who has been with LitReactor since the days of its halcyon youth. You can check out John's blog, the poorly titled Super Roller Disco Monkey Hullabaloo!, for other reviews, random musings, and ill-thought out rants. He was recently published in Bushwick Nightz, a collection of short stories about the Brooklyn neighborhood in which he resides.

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