Mr Kong Vanna, called “Chao Kit” is 53 years old. Today he lives in Sithor Kandal district, Prey Veng province, and works as a farmer. He is married with three children and had eleven siblings, five sisters and six brothers out of which one younger sister and two older sisters are still alive. Before the Khmer Rouge regime he was a high-school student and joined the section for traditional music at the frontline. During the Khmer Rouge, Mr Vanna lived in the same district, where he watched water buffalos, farmed and drove horse carts to transport material to the kitchen and valuable materials such as gold, silver or others depending on their orders. In 1978 during the rainy season, probably in October, the Khmer Rouge killed one of his older sisters and one of his older brothers. One week later at around seven in the evening one man came to call another of his older sisters for a meeting. His sister was called Gung Somon, was 23 years old, and was the head of the women’s unit in Prey Teng commune, Sithor Kandal district. Because he was worried about his sister, he asked to also accompany her to the meeting. After half of the way, they met two other men who ordered Mr. Vanna to go back to his house but he secretly followed them on a different path.
They led his sister into a room under the monk’s dormitory in the Boeng Chor Pagoda. Outside the room there were three to four people, inside there were another four perpetrators, two young men and two older married men. In the room, one of the perpetrators had lit a bunch of old coconut leaves with a lighter to brighten the room. Mr. Vanna knew them well because the perpetrators lived in the same village. The oldest perpetrator ordered his sister to take off her clothes. At that moment, his sister was startled and did not agree to undress. “The young one tore apart her shirt, the old one took off her trousers.” he said. The young perpetrator raped his sister first. After the rape, the perpetrator said: “This is it for you now. Soon you will be under the earth…” After that, another older perpetrator started to rape her. All four of them raped his sister.
He secretly watched the entire incident outside of the room at around three to four meters away from the place where they raped her through a window on another side which was broken. He could see because of the light that came from the burning coconut leaves on the brick floor nearby. As it was hard for him to stand the sight of what happened and as he was also afraid they would discover him, he moved 30 meters away from the place to observe what would happen next. At around ten at night, he heard the sound of his sister groaning in the room as if they were beating and hurting her. Then, he heard the sound of the room’s door opening. The sound of agony and the curses against the perpetrators uttered by his sister became even clearer. They continued to beat her until she was quiet. He knew then that his sister was dead.
Three days after the rape, he secretly went again to see the place where they raped his sister during the daytime. By chance he saw a bamboo tree trunk with blood stains, the underwear and the broken necklace of his sister were there. Her body was buried around 20 meters from the place of the rape near a tree trunk in the pagoda leaving the arms and legs unburried. For the four abusers mentioned above, three are still alive and two of them are living in the same village as Mr. Vanna today. The other one is working in a high position in Prey Veng province. He said there was no need to give their names. If they read this story they will know what they did.
The moment he saw them taking his sister into the library of the pagoda and forcing her to undress, he already knew that she was a dead person. At the first moment, he was terrified and was ready to go inside to help her. He was not afraid to die but he thought about his younger siblings and his old mother; how would they live in the future? He felt very sorry. First, after this story happened, he told it immediately to his mother. She fainted and became sick until she passed away some time later. Secondly, he is angry because he could not do anything when he saw them hurting his sister in this way. This story reminded him about his fiancé of that time who other people said was raped. He believes that the perpetrators or that regime were very cruel.
He had never told this story to anyone except for his mother. He said: “To struggle with anger or revenge has no benefit, but if we pretend as if we did not know or did not hear anything, it is not good, either, and will cause even more pain.” He went to two human rights organizations to tell them this story but there seemed to be no answer from them. But then he spoke one time on the radio and his purpose was fulfilled. The decision to tell the story of his sister was not easy to make but helps keeping the memory about her life and also lets the general population and the following generations know how gruesome that regime was. He expressed one wish: It would be good if it was possible to draw pictures of these cruel behaviors to preserve the memory because he still remembers it very clearly.
Ms. Nam Mon is 50 years old and a widow with one child. Today she is a farmer and lives in Kampong Siem district, Kampong Cham province. She has six siblings. Before the Khmer Rouge regime she lived with her mother in the province of Kampong Cham. In 1973, because her father came to hide in Phnom Penh during the movement of the Khmer Rouge, she also came to live in Phnom Penh with her parents.
At the end of 1975, she distributed medicine to the prisoners in Tuol Sleng. Her father was a supplier of logistics and her two brothers were guards in the prison of Tuol Sleng and another brother was a guard at the airport of Pochentong. In 1977, her father was arrested and imprisoned in Tuol Sleng. Around 10 days later, they arrested her mother and imprisoned her in Tuol Sleng as well. She met her father there one time and her father told her to pretend not to know each other to avoid being killed together. From this day on, she did not see him again. After they killed her parents in 1977, her two brothers who were guards at Tuol Sleng were also killed. Not only that but her other brother who was a guard at the airport of Pochentong was also taken to be killed in Tuol Sleng.
In 1978, they stopped letting her distribute medicine to the prisoners. They ordered her to plant vegetables before they also imprisoned her. There she was raped by a prison guard. At around six in the evening in a small room on the lower floor the perpetrator came into her cell and told her to lie down. He pressed her shoulders down with his hands and took off her shirt. Then he took off her trousers with one of her legs tied in iron bars. He closed her mouth and told her not to scream. After the rape he told her to put her clothes back on but the clothes were heavily stained with blood and she could not change them. Around 15 days later, they sent her to the prison of Prey Sar where she received new clothes to change.
As for the perpetrator, she did not know his name but had only seen him working in the prison of Tuol Sleng. He was around 17 to 18 years old. According to what she knows, this person was not only a guard but was also close to Duch. Since that day, she did not see the perpetrator again. When she went to give evidence at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in 2008 she met the perpetrator again. She told her lawyer about this. When she met the perpetrator in person he said that he did not remember her. She does not know where he lives and what he does today.
She said that such a crime should have never happened to her. She was always afraid that such crimes would happen to her children today. She thinks that if such a crime would not have happened to her, she certainly would have a more serene feeling. She still thinks of this story all the time. When by chance she saw the perpetrator again for the first time at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal her hands and legs were trembling and she felt hate towards him.
At the beginning she did not dare to tell this story to others. But after having told this story, she felt relieved to some extent because the others acknowledged and sympathized with her unlike she had imagined before. In addition, she is old and does not want to hide any secrets anymore. When she tells this story, she laughs confusedly so that some young people may not believe her. To remember this story they need to be collected in a document and explained to the next generations.
Net Savoen is 55 years old and works as a farmer. Today she lives in Svay Chrum district, Svay Rieng province, and has three children. During the Khmer Rouge, Ms. Savoen lived in Svay Chrum district, Svay Rieng province. She was a member of the Women’s Mobile Unit, farmed rice fields, carried earth and dug canals.
In 1978, after the harvesting season, she was moved to Pursat province. She is the only survivor of around 30 women who were taken to be killed by the Khmer Rouge and who were raped before being killed. This happened in the cooperative of Prek Chig in Pursat province. At around six in the evening when they were taking a rest from carrying earth, Khmer Rouge chlob selected 30 strongly built women who were told they had to go carry salt. There were around ten Khmer Rouge chlob who led them into a forest. When they were close to the forest, the chlob made them sit down and tied them up immediately. After they tied them up, they continued to lead them into the forest. On the road, some realized that they were taken to be killed and refused to follow them but they were beaten.
When they arrived at the execution site in the forest, they started to rape the women and beat them to death with axes and finally they cut their throats. The pretty women were raped by them as they wished. Some women were raped by three to four men before they were killed. She could clearly see everything that happened because it was full moon. They started to kill and rape the women from the time the moon was rising at sunset until the moon was fully up in the middle of the sky. Then it was her turn. She was the last person among all who was standing and waiting for her turn until her whole body was numb because she did not know what to do.
She was raped by two people with her hands tied up. After that she did not know what else they did to her. When she regained consciousness, the sun was already rising. She had no clothes on her and was full of blood because the perpetrators hit her three times on the middle of the head with an axe. Barely alive, she looked for clothes near the dead bodies to cover herself. She saw dead bodies around her and looked around for some time to see if there were any survivors but did not see any. She tried to walk back to the village but she was not sure about the direction. She followed the sound of the chickens. When she arrived at the house of her mother her mother did not let her stay because she knew that sooner or later the murderers would know about this and then would come to take her again to be killed and they could take the family or the people close to her. Her mother told her to run away. She started walking without knowing the direction. When she arrived in a village the people there helped her to recover from her injuries. Around 15 days later, the Vietnamese troops marched in.
As for the perpetrators, she did not know them because she was a new person. The perpetrators were very young, around 17 to 18 years old and most of them were chlob. Until today, she does not know where they live and what happened to them.
The torture committed against her was severe and hard to endure. But she also feels very lucky to have survived until today. Now she can control herself much better. At the beginning, every night of the full moon she felt as if she was still sick and always remembered the story. Sometimes she would walk to other houses in the village or walk around in her house. Through the psychological support of the organization CDP, she feels much better. She has told this story to other people before. When she spoke about what happened to her she felt even more relieved. To preserve the memory, she is willing to tell the story to others if they want to know the truth. She is telling this story to make the next generation understand about such crimes.
Mr. Chhuon Song belongs to the Khmer Kampuchea Krom minority, is 54 years old and presently lives in Bakan district, Pursat province, and works as a farmer. Before the Khmer Rouge regime, he was a monk until he was disrobed by the Khmer Rouge. He is married to his second wife and has five children.
During the Khmer Rouge, Mr. Song was married in 1977. He was told by the unit chief that he should take a wife to avoid being taken to break rocks. According to him, “to break rocks” meant the same as “to be taken to be killed”. In fact, he did not yet want to get married. During that regime they told him to catch fish, dig canals, and use the ox-cart to plant rice and to transport different materials.
Between 1977 and 1978, he saw the killing of around 1,000 people in Outa Paung commune, Bakan district, and he witnessed many cases of rape committed by the Khmer Rouge cadres. They were new people– people who were just forcibly transferred from the province Svay Rieng. Among the victims were young and old, women and men. Entire families were killed by them, each time between 40 to 100 people. He described a number of these incidents below.
During the killing, they would ask the men to sit on one side and the women and children to sit on the other side. They first took the men and killed them before they killed the women and children. The women were forced to undress. They always forced them to undress in this way to collect the clothing and valuables which the victims were carrying. He also saw pregnant women being killed.With regard to rape, he said there was a woman who after being raped ran towards him naked for help but he did not dare help her. He said that all virgins were raped with no exception. Whoever they wanted to rape, they raped. But there were some who were considerate and did not behave
like the others. He talked about another case of rape before killing where an old man who was the father of the cooperative chief took his arm and told him: “Come here, you don’t know much! Let me tell you which one is still a virgin and which one already has a husband.” This old man took his big toe and pushed it into the vagina of the women who were lying next to each other and asked him to look and said: “Hey, young man! This one here has a husband and children already, this one not yet…”
Mr. Song talked about another case where they cut off the penis of a man while alive and inserted it into the vagina of another woman who was also still alive. Then they took a wooden stick and inserted it too. As for the perpetrators of the killings, each time there were around 10 to 20 people. He said some of them probably already died, but there are some who are still alive. He does not know where they are now and did not want to mention their names. He witnessed these crimes because he was among the three ox-cart drivers who were ordered to collect and transport the materials and clothing of the victims. As for the other two carriers, he does not know where they live. When asked if he personally committed similar acts as described above, he answered that he only prayed for his survival.
Mr. Song says that it is a big immorality that our human kind went through this. Why did they hurt people in this way, especially women? He said that our people should not be hurt in that way. They were worse than animals; the perpetrators are not human at all. He has told this story to a foreigner before, at that time some people started crying. He has also told this to other people before and those who lived through the Khmer Rouge regime believed him. But when it comes to the young people of the generation afterwards, they may not believe this. To remember these stories, they need to be collected, documented and used for education and outreach. Talking about these stories offers important information to the general population and the following generations.