My Life Story

CHUM MEY personifies the tormented history of his country, surviving gunfights and rocket attacks during a civil war, losing his wife and four children during the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, and dragged blindfolded into Tuol Sleng prison, where more than 12,000 people were chained and tortured and sent to a killing field. Only a handful survived, and Chum Mey’s story provides a rare glimpse inside the workings of a brutal and highly organized assembly line of death. At least 1.7 million people died between 1975 and 1979 when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia.

It was his skill as a mechanic that saved him, when after 12 days and nights of beatings and repeated electrocution, he was plucked from among the other prisoners and put to work repairing the typewriters his torturers used to record their forced confessions.

Chum Mey himself confessed to a wild fantasy of counter-revolutionary work for the CIA, an organization whose name he had never heard before his torture began. He was ready to say anything in order to stop the pain. His confession is one of the few that have been translated into English and it is reproduced in this book, the first of thousands of Tuol Sleng confessions to be published.

Over the years, Chum Mey has come to understand and even identify with his torturers, rather than to condemn them. “I considered them victims like me, because they had to follow other people’s orders,” he says in an introduction to the book. “How can I say I would have behaved differently? Would I have had the strength to refuse to kill, if the penalty was my own death?”

He escaped death, but his survival itself continues to bewilder him. “It was such a rare chance that I survived when so many people were killed there,” he says. “I think about it every night, how lucky I was to survive. Why did I survive?”


  1. I think he was a real hero. I couldn't survive it without going crazy for good. He had to be very brave, he has got my respect. Feeling sorry for him.

  2. Hahaha....many thanks.

  3. Hello Chum
    I am planning to come visit Cambodia next sept 2018 and I really hope I can meet you. It would be an honor. I am from the US. I hope you are still at the school when I make journey there.
    You are such an amazing person and an inspiration. Much love
    Kim Mook

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Dear Kim Mook,
      Many thanks for being interested in meeting me, and also take your time to commented me on this side,i do hope we can meet whenever you arrive at Cambodia..!
      With Best Regard,

  4. Dear Kim Mook,
    On the behalf of Chum Mey,we would love to say" many thanks " for letting us know about your plan is going to Visit at Cambodia and also do hope we can meet as your planning schedule.....!
    With the best regard,

  5. I was in Cambodia last August but I didn’ come to your museum: I didn’t know anything about S21, I am so sorry! But some friends went there and told me about your story and I bought your book on web and I got information about your story and what the Khmer Rouge did!
    Chum Mey be proud of you...never give up and keep on informing people because there is always someone, like me, who doesn’t know anything of the Cambodian genocide.
    Thank you,
    un abbraccio forte
    Naples, ITALY

  6. Hello, U write some extraordinarily attractive about your life story. I always check back here and also from here frequently to see if you have updated