Over 30 years have passed since the fall of the Khmer Rouge’s brutal communist regime. While they ruled over Cambodia for only four years, in those short years all hell broke loose on the Cambodians. 1.7 million people died, 21% of the population. They were either murdered by the Khmer Rouge, killed whilst fighting against them or starved to death because of their disasters policies. Among those persecuted were Muslims from the Cham ethnic group. They were sought out and executed for their faith. Nobody knows exactly how many Muslims died under the totalitarian movement. But estimates say somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000 of the country's 700,000-strong Cham community died at the hands of the regime. In this documentary Cham survivors will retell for us the horrific stories of life and death under the Khmer Rouge, while the tribunal finally seeks to convict the leaders who presided over so much bloodshed. Pol Pot himself is long dead but Cambodia is still coming to terms with the genocide carried out in his name.
Narration Over 30 years have passed since the fall of the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot’s brutal Communist regime ruled Cambodia for only 4 years, but in that time 1.7 million people died. 21% of the population were either murdered by the Khmer Rouge, killed whilst fighting against them, or starved to death because of their disastrous policies. At least 100,000 Muslims from the Cham ethnic group were killed. They were sought out and executed for their faith.
Norng Settas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime During Pol Pot's regime, they eliminated everything. Our Islamic culture was eliminated, even speaking Cham was banned.
Narration Cham survivors will retell for us the horrific stories of life and death under Khmer Rouge while the tribunal finally seeks convict the leaders who presided over so much bloodshed.
Mary Yas,Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime When the Khmer Rouge are sentenced, I listen to the news. I want the to be killed because they harmed my family and relatives.
Narration Pol Pots himself is long dead but Cambodia is still coming to terms with the genocide carried out in his name.
Narration The Khmer Rouge were children of The Cold War. During the 1960s Prince Sihanouk, the Cambodian head of state, sought to keep his country neutral in the Vietnam War. He tried to play both ends against the middle, allowing Vietnamese supply routes to pass through their shared borders, whilst telling the Americans that they could drop bombs on Cambodia provided they only killed the Vietnamese and spared his countrymen. In 1970 an anti-vietnamese faction of the Cambodian government seized power whilst Sihanouk was out of the country. Prime Minister Lon Nol wasted no time in changing the nation’s foreign policy; he wanted the Vietnamese out, and sided with the United States. Unfortunately for Lon Nol, the battle-hardened Vietnamese turned and fought against his troops. A war broke out between Lon Nol’s army and the Viet Cong who were aided by Cambodia’s own communists - the Khmer Rouge. Lon Nol’s forces were pushed further and further back, with the communists capturing large tracts of land.
Yosos Yoksas, Imam in Phnom Penh During the war, religious practices diminished. We didn’t know Pol Pot at that time. We just knew that there was war between Lon Nol and Samdach Sihanouk.
Narration As the Communists pushed deeper into Cambodia the Khmer Rouge grew in numbers. Many people had become angry with Lon Nol’s corrupt government and unfulfilled promises, others wanted to return Sihanouk to power, and still more had lost their homes and possessions to American bombs. The balance of power shifted, with the Khmer Rouge now leading the communist forces and setting up communes in their captured land. Many Cambodians had an early taste of Khmer Rouge's rule, before they had even taken the nation’s capital.
Tes Sen, Farmer during Khmer Rouge Regime The situation in 1971, 72, 73, was becoming stricter and stricter. It was very strict in 1975.
Norng Sttas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime When I was 15, there were cooperatives. When there were cooperatives, there were difficulties. We were controlled. They started to control us at that time.
Tes Sen, Farmer during Khmer Rouge Regime Initially, we worked privately, but when the cooperative was founded, we were saked to share what we had with one another. We shared with on another.
Hak Sory, Tes Sen, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime We also built the levee in the rice field. We were ordered to build 4.5 metres of levee per day. We tried to build it. We hardly ever rested or drank water. I went wherever I was asked to go. I got sick, but I had to work. If we didn’t work, they would say that we exploited others’ labour.
Norng Sttas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime At 3 o’ clock in the morning, they whistled, and at 4 we started our work again. We had to carry the soil again. We slept on the ground and ate a ladle of porridge with salt almost every day. Over three months we had soup to eat only three times. The soup was not tasty—it was salted soup with banana tree and Tamoung leaf. The water of the soup was really black in colour……and there was no fish at all; there was only cheese and salt and banana tree.
Ajisakrya Penasmat, Islamic Teacher During that regime we didn’t remember the day or month. All we knew was working in the day and sleeping at night.
Mary Yas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime It was very miserable. I was very thin. We didn’t have enough to eat. When we were sick, there was no medicine. They gave us tree-root medicine. There was no modern medicine.
Tes Sen, Farmer during Khmer Rouge Regime At the time of the cooperative they started to kill intellectuals. Each time they took four or five people. They took them and imprisoned them in the district prison. Most of them were killed. Only a few people returned. At that time we didn’t know what they did to people.
Narration What were the Khmer Rouge trying to achieve by this hardship? It was a case of ideology being more important to them than people’s lives. Farina So, Documentation Center of Cambodia They wanted to socialist country in a very short time. They made only four-year plan and wanted people to achieve this four-year plan. And so, this… in addition to the other factors resulted in death of many people.
Narration As the communist forces took control of Cambodia, more and more drastic changes began to happen. The Khmer Rouge stopped the import of crucial modern medicine from abroad, because it did not meet with their socialist ideal. Total self-sufficiency was the aim, to import nothing and be completely self-reliant as a nation. To this end the entire population was to be put to work in the fields. And the people who didn't live in the fields? Well they were to be sent there. Once the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh, the population was evacuated from the city and sent to the countryside to work.
Farina So, Documentation Center of Cambodia People no matter what, they were old or they were young. So, they had to leave their house or their shelter in order to go to countryside and to implement or undertake the agricultural policies.
Mary Yas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime I was brought to one place and my relatives were brought to another place. We didn’t know how many of us had survived until the liberation.
Farina So, Documentation Center of Cambodia We don’t have the exact number of many people who evacuated but almost all of the people in their hometown were evacuated to other places.
Tael Ly, Koh Phal Resident I was asked to do the farming, such as chopping the soil. I was brought there to chop the soil. If we could not finish three to four meter of land, we would be killed. Many city folk from Phnom Penh were killed there.
Farina So, Documentation Center of Cambodia In Phnom Penh they were told that the US would bomb and then they wanted to clear the enemy in the cities and many other things. But in addition to that in Kampong Chhnang in called Kandal Kampong province, where I interviewed there some people who said that the Khmer Rouge also said they would be sent to Arabic country in order to exchange for a while. It is very interesting. Some people believed, some did not believe. But they had to leave because you don’t have choice.
Narration The Cham people are an ethnic group living in Cambodia who are predominantly Muslim and speak their own Cham language. They are a minority within the country and suffered particularly from Pol Pot’s rule. The communists wanted everyone to be equal, for everyone to be the same. The Cham’s muslim lifestyle, which is quite different to that of other Cambodians, singled them out as being enemies of the ideal that the Khmer Rouge aspired to. They instructed the Cham people to abandon their faith and threatened them with punishment, and even death if they did not.
Tes Sen, Farmer during Khmer Rouge Regime The Khmer Rouge were atheists. It was not only Islam but also Buddhism that was forbidden. During the evacuation I could still see Buddhist monks, but after a few days there were no longer monks in the pagodas.
Yosos Yoksas, Imam in Phnom Penh During 1974 we practiced our religion less, and we spoke our language less. Women had their hair cut short. Traditionally, Cham women must have their hair long, have it tied, and wear a scarf over it.
Tamin Chim, Imam in Koh Phal If we don’t pray, Allah will harm us. But at that time it was prohibited, so we dared not pray during the Pol Pot regime. If we prayed, we would be killed.
Yosos Yoksas, Imam in Phnom Penh I want to tell you what was happening after 1975. Religion was forbidden and Qurans were collected and burnt.
Norng Settas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime During Pol Pot’s regime, they eliminated everything. Our Islamic culture was eliminated, even speaking Cham was banned. Praying in the temple was stopped. They destroyed everything.
Issa Ousman, Researcher All religions were forbidden but this affected those who follow Islam more than Buddhism, because Islam is stricter. As you already know, Islamic people are required to go to the Mosque and pray. There are differences with our food and clothes. So when the Khmer Rouge forbade this religion, their habits were affected. For example, in Buddhism, people are not required to pray five times a day. Buddhists can go to pagoda whenever they want, but it is not necessary. So the harm to Buddhism is less than Islam. But for Islamic religion, Cham people thought that they lost the religion which is essential to them… and they were strongly affected. So, the followers of Islam rebelled against the Khmer Rouge. Though it was not like Koh Phol and Svay Khleang, they cherished their religion and they could not accept it.
Narration There were regular purges during the years that the Khmer Rouge were in power. Intellectuals, former soldiers and politicians, ethnic minorities, religious leaders and teachers were just some of the groups targeted. Many areas saw purges of the Cham people; their Muslim faith was used against them as a way to discover who they were. Increasingly, the Cham Muslims were sought out and killed not for disobeying the Khmer Rouge, but simply for being Cham.
Norng Settas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime I was called at 7, and they asked us to let them tie us. We let them. We dared not resist them for fear of being killed. We stood up, and they tied us. Then, they asked. They asked approximately 100 people at that house. They asked, “Are you Cham or Khmer?”. All the people there were Cham. Those who answered that they are Cham were ordered to leave. I could see how the country was going, I had to hang on in case the country changed. This is what I was
thinking. I thought I could not die now. I needed to handle the problem at that moment… and if we need to lie, we lie. If we need to steal, we steal. And he asked me whether I am Cham or Khmer, and he touched my face. I said “I am Khmer”. He said that I am not Khmer, and asked whether I am Vietnamese. But I answered that I am Khmer. I answered him three times. I screamed, “I am Khmer! Why are you still asking me?”. They said “If you are Khmer, go to the other side. If you are really Khmer, go to the other side.” He brought me to the other side, and the people after me answered like me. Some 30 people survived out of the 100.
Farina So – Documentation Center of Cambodia They were killed based on the ethnic, religious, and political background. And this was evidence at some part of the country, not everywhere across the country. For example in Kampong Chhnang province they were asked to give their ethnic background, or religious background and they were sent to be killed or treated very harshly.
Norng Settas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime After nine we were allowed to leave that place. They made porridge and killed a pig to make a pork curry. Those who didn’t eat would be discovered as Cham. While we were eating there were soldiers there to observe us to see who ate and who didn’t. We had to all eat together. But as Muslims we are not allowed to eat pork; it is a sin. They ordered us to eat pork, and we ate together, but we could not eat much. We ate just for the sake of eating.
Issa Ousman, Researcher They were killed because they prayed, spoke Cham, and didn’t eat pork. These were the major reasons for the killing of the Cham people. And the killing in 1977 was because of one policy from the administration to clear all Cham people in Cambodia. The situation in 1977 was serious. In each village, there were a number of people who died. Like in Svay Khleang, only 10% of its population were still alive. The same as Koh Phol.
Narration This Cham woman's family fled their village when one of her siblings was taken away by the Khmer Rouge. They were taken in by a stranger, an old lady who took pity on them and gave them a place to stay.But Khmer Rouge soldiers became suspicious of these new arrivals and came to investigate.
Hak Sory, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime The soldiers came and asked whether we had spoken Cham or not. Though she didn’t know us, she was kind-hearted, so she said ‘No.’ She told them that we didn’t speak. And at that moment, my nephew spoke Cham. He said he was hungry, and my mother pinched him. The soldier was still asking whether we had spoken Cham or not to that old lady. She said we didn’t speak even a word. She was very kind-hearted. Our neighbours were also kind hearted; they always shared food with us.
Norng Settas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime A few days later we were ordered to dig a hole half a metre wide and two metres long. They said it was to be a toilet, but I did not trust them… I thought that it was for us – I thought we were digging our own graves.
Narration Although the Cham suffered particularly, the conditions in which Cambodians of all ethnicities and backgrounds were forced to live, were terrible. Always hungry, always working, and always in fear that at any moment they might be imprisoned, for an imagined offence.
Issa Ousman, Researcher The people who were killed by the Khmer Rouge were gentle people. But the Khmer Rouge didn’t think those people were gentle. They saw them as traitors.
Tes Sen, Farmer during Khmer Rouge Regime They accused us of being enemies. They accused us of being military. Some people didn’t even know where Phnom Penh is. Yet they were accused of being military. They tortured these people until they falsely accused others of being enemies. They tortured these people until they falsely accused others of being enemies.
Issa Ousman, Researcher Those who didn’t know how to plant rice were also considered traitors. Like those who were living in Phnom Penh and then were evacuated to live in the countryside...they didn’t know how to plant the rice and were accused of being traitors.
Narration There is still much bitterness and pain at the loss of loved ones during this period. Many simply disappeared, never to return, leaving their loved ones to fear the worst.
Norng Settas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime When I was 16, my relatives were caught. They said that they took my relatives for education. But they were confined; they were mistreated; they were not allowed to eat; they were tied up and beaten countless time per day.
Tael Ly, Koh Phal Resident My parents died in the village because of hunger, and so did my uncle, nieces, and nephews.
Hak Sory, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime At the back of our house there was a bridge to bring people to the prison at Prek Chi. At that prison there was a big grave. They brought about four or five people every day. They were all tied together with a big rope. After seeing this, I thought they would do the same thing to my father. I cried silently not letting anyone hear me crying. I wiped my tears with my scarf. The old lady gave me that scarf.
Narration Fears about what befell those who disappeared are fuelled by what people saw during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror. These people saw horrific acts befalling everyone around them all the time.
Tael Ly, Koh Phal Resident When I took the cow to drink, it wouldn’t go to the water. When I went into the water, I stepped on a human corpse, and saw blood there. I saw corpses piled up on top of one another in the water. We know because we are the eyewitnesses. We saw with our own eyes. Those people were taken to the car or boat, and the Khmer Rouge returned their clothes to us.
Mary Yas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime When I was brought to Pursat, I saw corpses in a grave. They dug a big grave, then killed people and took all their clothes. I was asked to carry water… and people who were about to be killed asked for the water from me, but I dared not give it to them for fear of being killed as well. The teens about this age took the elders to kill. Each time they would take 20 to 30 people. There were only three of them. They used rifles.
Norng Settas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime One day a youth, who was the district security guard, was caught. His ankles were shackled and his hands were tied. On the day he had to be killed, the soldier could not find the shackle key and he took an axe to those ankle shackles. The sound was like “phus” and I turned out to be very shaky and remained silent in my house. I saw it from my house; they cut him in front of the house. I saw it clearly. The youth dared not yell, and became very shaky. His leg was cut off, and he was taken away. He disappeared from that day on.
Narration More than 3 decades after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime the conflict can still divide people. This woman's aunt was appointed as the village leader, and therefore was allied to the Khmer Rouge. Whilst some villagers are still angry at her, even after her death - her niece defends her, insisting things were not so black and white.
Cheav Thon, Former Khmer Rouge Member Many people liked here very much because she helped people in the village. Many people gave her gifts whenever there were festivals. There were many people at her funeral. She didn’t commit any sin, neither did I.
Narration Many people were pushed to breaking point by living in such stressful and appalling conditions. Their inability to cope led them to take drastic actions. Some Cham people simply fled into the wilderness, desperate to escape.
Norng Settas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime Many people were killed and floated and some were put in mass graves. I was picturing that scene when I decided to flee into the forest. I went with two companions. We joined other people who came to pick us up. I came with only three people including me. I lied and said I wanted to visit relatives in Kroch Chhmar and take some clothes with me. They allowed it since I initially came with only one person. They were waiting at the boat, and they brought me to the profound forest the super profound one where no one goes. It was very tranquil. I was gone for one day and one night before they assailed the forest. They projected light in the entire forest… but they could not find us since we lived far away. We could see the light though. They spent three days and nights looking for us. Every night, we risked ourselves to find food, and sometimes we got nothing. Pol Pot’s troops were waiting to shoot us. They imitated the wolf, calling: ‘juk juk juk’. They always did so when there were people coming. If there were many people, they would shoot straight away even though it was dark. I preferred dying to being caught. If I was caught, they would cut my flesh. I would rather die from a bullet.
Narration Running away was not the only reaction to the unbearable pressure placed upon the population During the early years of the Khmer Rouge regime there were several localised rebellions in Cham areas. People sought to take their villages back and regain their religious rights.
Tes Sen, Farmer during Khmer Rouge Regime They rebelled because they were harmed. They prohibited us from obeying our religion. They took people to kill; they killed intellectuals. Only illiterate people were left alive. They commanded women to have their hair cut short. They made us eat together. So people decided to rebel.
Issa Ousman, Researcher The cause of this rebellion was the fact that the Cham people could not abandon their religion. They could not accept the banning of going to temple, praying, and speaking Cham. And at the same time, their leaders were killed one after another. So, they had lost their leaders and religion; they could no longer practice their religion. They started to rebel even though they knew that they would not be successful. They could not stand the pressure on them.
Farina So, Documentation Center of Cambodia The Khmer Rouge arrested the leaders, the religious leaders, and they abolished religion, culture, and then they forced them to do things that they didn’t want to do, which is again their region, their culture. So, something in their mind became so strong and they came together in one voice in order to rebel.
Tes Sen, Farmer during Khmer Rouge Regime At that time there was an announcement that 60 more people would be taken, and then people started to rebel. They announced that tomorrow we would stay in the village and didn’t need to do the farming. And we knew that it was true. In the morning they would come and take people. That night, they were prepared for troops to enter the village and would cut them with blades. Sure enough, there was rebellion. That night, they came to take a few people. They took a person named Him, and people started to fight against them. One of Pol Pot’s people was killed.
Tael Ly, Koh Phal Resident When they came once again, they destroyed everything. There were a few cannons there, directed at our village. People had no choice but to use blades and knives to protect themselves.
Farina So, Documentation Center of Cambodia At the end there suffered, they were crashed, and peer immediately or some was sent to the place who get diarrhoea and died afterward.
Tael Ly, Koh Phal Resident In the first resistance, no one died, but there were 38 people imprisoned. The second time, there were 48 deaths. We buried them in a mass grave.
Narration Some of those accused of betraying the Khmer Rouge were executed immediately, but many suffered lengthy interrogations and torture as their captors sought to extract everything they knew about other potential traitors.
Issa Ousman, Researcher If they answered that they had committed a fault, they would not be tortured, but the Khmer Rouge would record all of their admissions. They would ask “why did you steal the rice?” “How many people were there during the theft?”, and “who were you stealing for?” They thought that if one betrayed the regime, there must have been other people involved. Then, the prisoners had to report the names of the people involved. Then, they had to create stories, even though those people have not stolen anything. This is the reason why people were caught. From 1 person you catch 10, and from 10 you catch 100 – this went on without end.
Narration The attitude that Cambodians have taken to relics of the Khmer Rouge regime is to preserve them as reminders of the atrocities committed, to try and ward off any repeat of the past. Even prisons survive. Strange, that in a beautiful country one of the biggest draws for tourists are remnants of a genocide.
Bou Meng, Former S-21 Prisoner My name is Bou Meng. When I was imprisoned, I was 35. Now, I am 71. They told me they would bring me to the university of fine art to paint, but they brought me here, and didn’t even know that the prison was here.
Narration This is what remains of Tuol Sleng prison or S21 as it was also known. Located in Phnom Penh, it is notorious for being Pol Pot’s worst jail. Thousands passed through S21, but only a dozen survivors have been confirmed. Most prisoners were interrogated, tortured, and then killed. The few survivors were spared because they had special skills that the Khmer Rouge believed would come in useful.
Bou Meng, Former S-21 Prisoner I was a painter in Samdach Sihanouk and Lon Nol’s period. They suspected that I was CIA or KGB. I was caught and questioned about this issue. I didn’t do anything. My back was hit until it was wounded and they poured saltwater on my wounds. I suffered very much from the torture of the genocidal regime of Pol Pot. Duch ordered that I be hit until I was nearly dead. They hit me with wooden sticks, rope, or sometimes electrical wire. It was very brutal. Within one week, they tortured me every day, from 7am to 1pm. Those who talked to one another were tortured by the boy who gave us meals, whose age was around 15 or 16. They hit an old man who was put near me until he died. He was about 65 years old. He was short, with dark skin. The teen of about 15 stepped on his chest until he died. After people were tortured, they were put here, and if they died here, they brought the corpses to Cherng Ek.
Narration There is still great shame at what occurred within these walls. Even those who worked here hide away from the memories of what occurred.
Issa Ousman, Researcher I have met an interrogator from S21. Initially, his wife was very surprised when I went to interview him. He had never told his wife that he used to work in S21.
Narration The 7th of January 1979 saw the Khmer Rouge defeated, a day which is still celebrated as a national holiday. It was, ironically, the Vietnamese who overthrew Pol Pot. They were allied with former Khmer Rouge leaders who opposed his rule, and their victory brought joy to the nation.
Norng Settas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime We were helped by Hun Sen. He and his people were humane. We were freed. We had our Khmer Cham Vietnamese Chinese religion back. Cham people could have their religion, and also Khmer people could have their religion. We had freedom. We were not banned anymore, and there was no pressure. Tes Sen, Farmer during Khmer Rouge Regime After the collapse of the Pol Pot regime in 1979, I was very happy. I was able to obey my religion. I was very happy.
Ajisakrya Penasmat, Islamic Teacher I want to thank the Cambodian People’s Revolutionary Party that freed the whole nation from that genocidal regime.. Now we live happily, and there are elections everywhere. The 7th of January is the day that all Islamic people were reborn.
Tes Sen, Farmer during Khmer Rouge Regime When we came back home after the Pol Pot regime, our mosque had been destroyed. There were two mosques but they were both ruined. I didn’t see any Qurans when I came back.
Narration Although there was celebration at being free once more there was also much pain. The great upheaval the country had been through could not be reversed overnight, and the lost loved ones would not miraculously return.
Tael Ly, Koh Phal Resident I was not wounded, but my heart was hurt because they killed all my relatives. I have suffered from that. I don’t know how they were killed.
Norng Settas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime I met none of my relatives, and I was alone, with no support or backing. Then I heard that my relatives arrived at my home village. I was very happy, and hoped that I would meet my parents. I had three men who lived with me in the forest accompany me to the village.
Narration Unfortunately her family was nowhere to be found. Like so many others, she had lost people without ever knowing where they went or how they died.
Norng Settas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime I was separated from all my siblings. I was alone, having no relatives for backing. My tears dropped every day.
Farina So, Documentation Center of Cambodia One person in one family dies, at least. And sometimes, some people even lost the whole family. So this is very important to bear in mind that, they lost a lot, people, land, house, and also their property.
Narration In 2003 the Cambodian Government and the UN set up a tribunal to investigate the most senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge, reveal their crimes, and finally convict them. Unfortunately this has been an incredibly slow process, the court started work in 2006 and since then has indicted 5 people but convicted only 1. Of the remaining 4 - 1 has died, 1 has been found mentally unfit to stand trial, and the remaining 2 are entering a 3rd year of hearings. A prosecutor at Cambodia Tribunal These crimes were the result of organised plans, developed by the accused and other…
Narration This slow and inefficient tribunal can be frustrating for the victims as they naturally want to see swift and harsh justice.
Norng Settas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime I want the KRT to sentence the senior Khmer Rouge leaders faster. I am afraid that when I die, I still will not have seen them being sentenced. If those five people are sentenced, it is enough for me. We cannot sentence other people.
Bou Meng, Former S-21 Prisoner I don’t want a regime like that to happen again. I want the court to sentence all of them to lifetime imprisonment.
Narration Some say prosecuting the senior leaders is not enough, and that lower ranking Khmer Rouge deserve punishment too.
Tael Ly, Koh Phal Resident The people want them all to be sentenced from the tip to the stump. Because the tips of the branches did what the stump told them. It was not only because of the tips but also because of the stump.
Issa Ousman, Researcher They said that the orders from their bosses was why they had to question, kill, or torture people. They said that it was pressure from their bosses. If they didn’t do these things, they would also be killed. But I think it was also because of their own brutality that they dared to kill people. Though they were ordered to it, if they were not brutal people, they would not dare to torture and question people.
Narration Bringing up the tribunal and the possibility of punishment for the architects of the horror that befell Cambodia, provokes strong feelings. The whole population was touched by tragedy, everyone lost family or friends and the emotions are still raw even decades later.
Mary Yas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime When the Khmer Rouge are sentenced, I listen to the news. I want them to be killed because they harmed my family and relatives.
Tael Ly, Koh Phal Resident I want them to be sentenced, but we have no rights to resist the court. If I could, I would cut open their abdomens.
Mary Yas, Victim of Khmer Rouge Regime If there was a baby, they killed the mother first and put her corpse in the grave before throwing the baby in after her. The babies sucked their mothers’ blood. They didn’t kill the babies they just threw them in and buried them straight away. The baby assumed that the blood was milk, and they sucked it. I feel hurt when recalling this memory. I want them to be killed. I don’t want them to be imprisoned, I want them to be killed.
Narration Cambodia is still coming to terms with what happened between 1975 and 1979. There are certain NGOs which show how the nation is healing from the great scar in its history. The Documentation Centre of Cambodia - commonly known as DC-Cam - is concerned with memory and justice. They preserve the records of the Khmer Rouge and document what happened by collecting aural accounts from victims. They say that these tragedies must be remembered if they are to be prevented from happening again. This is not just an academic project though, they work with the people of Cambodia.
Farina So, Documentation Center of Cambodia So we work with various communities, including religious group, ethnic minority group, and those who live in remote area in order to inform them about our work and also the tribunal progress and make them participate as much as possible.
Issa Ousman, Researcher The reason why I do research about Cham people during the Khmer Rouge regime is because I am the child of one of the victims of that regime. I am also a victim. I also lived through that period. When there was a rebellion in my village, Svay Khleang, I was four years old. In 1979, I was 7 or 8 years old. I remember the hunger; I was separated from my parents, and my siblings died of hunger and illness. I still remember those stories. So I think that I have to do
Narration TPO Cambodia is an NGO concerned with mental health and does a lot of work with victims of the Khmer Rouge.
Yuon Sarath, Transcultural Psychological Organisation Basically we are working to provide psychological support to the Khmer Rouge survivors and the civil party but also the witness at the ECC, the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Narration Both DC-Cam and the TPO talk to victims, with DC-Cam also collecting these accounts. They do this in order to make sure the brutality of that regime is not forgotten, but it has a more immediate effect on the people concerned.
Yuon Sarath, Transcultural Psychological Organisation They believe that to deal with the past is to forget about it and just let it go and just think about daily life and move on. But from our perspective ask their psychologists or ask their agencies who we are working with mental health. The process of healing is not just forget the past is not just to let it go but it is also expression but also to talk about it with strong support.
Farina So, Documentation Center of Cambodia Of course, some didn’t want to share, they didn’t want to tell but mainly one could tell us when we go and explain to them that we want to collect the story in order to do this, in order to do
that. And it will helpful for you because the next generation can learn and they admit it that after the interview we also ask what happened and how do you feel? They said I feel a relief, at first it was very painful because nobody asked me and I buried in my heart, and so I now after I told you so it is a relief.
Narration DC-Cam works with Cambodia’s department of education to ensure that the next generation is taught about the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. To make sure that such brutality, racism, and genocide can never occur again. For now, there are still voices that experienced the worst of that time, and have seen liberty and religious freedom return to their country. They carry a powerful message - a warning from history for the younger generation of Cambodia, and for people worldwide as well.