Cambodia and the U.N. are still haggling over tribunal ground rules, but it's unclear if trials will ever take place. For now, Bo has been commissioned by the Documentation Center of Cambodia to paint a scene of Tuol Sleng survivors receiving justice. He once painted his nightmare; now he paints his dream.
During the genocidal reign of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot in the 1970s, 16,000 Cambodians were herded into Tuol Sleng prison. Only seven made it out, and just two of that group were still thought to be alive. But this month, a third Tuol Sleng survivor emerged. His name is Bo Meng, and he could provide key testimony against his former jailers if long-planned tribunals for the perpetrators of Cambodia's killing fields go forward. Last week, Bo, 61, told TIME how he endured 18 months in the death camp. His wife and children were killed. Bo was allowed to live because he could paint, and Pol Pot wanted portraits of himself. "If (the work) was not correct, I would have been executed," Bo says. After the Khmer Rouge fell, he returned to the countryside and worked painting pagoda interiors. Recently, he heard about a magazine article on Tuol Sleng survivors that omitted his name. Bo wanted it known that he is very much alive and that he wants to help prosecute former Khmer Rouge officials, particularly Tuol Sleng's ex-warden, Kang Khek Ieu, "Duch", who has been in a Phnom Penh jail since 1999 but has yet to face charges. "He is too inhumane to describe," says Bo.