biography

Vann Nath, 63, born in Battambang, Cambodia, is one of seven survivors -- and three still alive today -- of the Khmer Rouge's secret prison known as S-21, where 14,000 men, women and children were interrogated, tortured and executed during the 1975-79 Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. He is one of Cambodia's most prominent artists, and it was this skill that kept him alive at S-21. His life was spared by his jailors so that he could be put to work painting and sculpting portraits of Pol Pot.

In 1979, Vann Nath escaped from S-21 as the Pol Pot regime collapsed under a Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. When the former secret prison was converted to a genocide museum, Vann Nath returned to work there for several years. The craft which saved his life would allow Vann Nath to show the world some of the brutal crimes of the Khmer Rouge. His paintings depicting scenes he witnessed in S-21 hang in the museum today, one of the few public reminders of the regime's brutality.

Nath has relentlessly advocated for justice for the victims of Khmer Rouge atrocities through his writings, paintings, and interviews. From 2001 to 2002 Vann Nath worked intensively with Cambodian film-maker Rithy Panh in the making of the documentary "The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine." Vann Nath is extensively featured in the film in which Panh brought together former prisoners and guards and filmed them on site at the prison or at the killing fields known as Choeung Ek. With calm yet penetrating dignity, survivor Nath confronts and interrogates his former torturers, illuminating aspects of life at Tuol Sleng that had been previously unknown.

Vann Nath and his work has been recognised by many awards, media coverage, and exhibitions around the world. In 1998 his "A Cambodian Prison Portrait: One Year in the Khmer Rouge's S-21" was published. He currently lives and works in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.