The Voice of
Victims from Cambodia
My first name is Moe. I used this name when I was in Lon Nol’s army in
Cambodia. I was born in 1953 in Odong, not too far from Phnom Raja Trop,
which is a little west of Phnom Penh. I do not yet want to reveal my
last name at this time, for the current government is not as safe as it
appears. It uses a lot of dirty tricks—more than you think. I have five
other siblings, and I am the fifth child. I do not want to reveal their
names either. The current regime is a communist regime. It is not much
different from Pol Pot’s. In fact, it may be worse. The Vietnamese
soldiers are invisibly behind the scenes. The former soldiers from the
Khmer Republic are still living in fear. They are still being hounded
down to be killed, and they are hiding as I speak.
I was a Buddhist monk before I joined the army of the Khmer Republic.
Back then, it was a Khmer tradition for Khmer men to become a Buddhist
monk, a way to respect one’s parents. I intended to stay a Buddhist monk
for many years, but I was not able to do so as I wished because the war
was so imminent.
On March 18, 1970, there was a coup d’état to remove as the head of
state Norodom Sihanouk, who was supporting the communist Vietnamese
inside Cambodia. Three months later, at the age of 21, I joined the
Khmer Republic army to fight against the vicious foreign invaders.
I got military training in Odong, and I was part of the 93 BC Battalion.
My commander was Ith Soung. I fought mostly southwest of Phnom Penh. In
January 1975, I was wounded on the frontline. I was treated at a
military clinic in Phnom Penh until the country fell to the communists
on April 17, 1975.
The city of Phnom Penh was ordered to evacuate immediately. The
communists were telling people that the Americans would come back to
bomb Phnom Penh. Whether or not one believed that the Americans would
come back and bomb Phnom Penh, people were told at gunpoint to leave and
to keep moving out of the city at once. No one was allowed to walk back.
I was fortunate that I was released from the military clinic a few weeks
before the communists marched into Phnom Penh. I was able to wear
civilian clothes. I did not have any military identification with me at
the time. Because of the bullet wound on my leg that was not yet
completely healed, I was limping toward Battambang Province and reached
a town west of Battambang City called Sisophon.
In the town of Sisophon, I changed my name to Saroeun. I always told the
communists that I was born and raised on the farm with a peasant family
and, because my parents were so poor, they couldn’t afford to send me to
school. Thus, I could only speak the language, but I could neither read
nor write Khmer at all. My answer was always consistent every time I was
asked. I never mentioned I was a soldier in the Khmer Republic. I was
able to fool them every time. I am a survivor of the Killing Fields, and
I am still living in Cambodia today.
The questions the communists asked appeared extremely harmless. They
encouraged the former soldiers to tell the truth so they could be
appropriately placed to help society based on their individual
backgrounds and skills. The traps were cleverly set; these former
soldiers had no clue what they fell into. For those who told them the
truth, they were quietly taken away at night to be executed.
I was working in rice paddies at the time and was separated from my
brothers and sisters. I did not know where they were whereas my parents
were allowed to live at our birthplace in Odong. We were not allowed to
have any contact with our family members. I was oftentimes told that my
relatives were taken care of by Angka. I was told not to worry about
them: Angka took care of everyone.
By acting profoundly stupid and ignorant, I was safe, but not well. When
the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia on Jan. 7, 1979, I went running to meet
my parents in Odong. I did not expect them nor my five siblings to be
alive, but I went to look for them anyway. When I met them, I was so
happy, and I cried like a baby. Eventually, four of my brothers and
sisters arrived home as well. My oldest brother never made it back
though. He died during Pol Pot’s time from unknown causes—perhaps from
deprivation of food.
In the 1980s, I got married, and I have four children—one girl and three
boys—and I also have two grandsons. My parents passed away in the 1990s.
I am still working on the farm. My farmland may not be safe in the near
future because the government needs land to give to the Vietnamese in
the form of concessions. There are too many Vietnamese people in
Cambodia right now. The government is accommodating them by taking land
away from the Khmers. Hundreds and hundreds of Khmer families are being
evicted from their homes so the government can have more land for the
Vietnamese. As I speak today, many Khmer families have no home to go to.
Later there will be more Khmer homeless. The worst is yet to come.
Khmers are helpless and powerless at the moment. The government is not
for them but for the Vietnamese people. Whatever people own can be taken
away by the government at any time.
As I mentioned, the Khmers are living under the tyranny of communism. It
remains dangerous to reveal my military service in the Khmer Republic
army. The key is that the Khmer Republic soldiers had affiliated with
the Americans, and they continue to do so. I’m still viewed as a
“poisoned seed” by the communist government. Many former soldiers are
still treated that way. To hide my identity, I again changed my name
from Saroeun to Yi. Now I am Yi.
Life under this tyranny is so unpredictable. The communist regime does
not live by any rule. In 1993, the United Nations went to Cambodia to
help with “free and fair” elections. The FUNCINPEC political party won
the election, but the communist Hun Sen did not concede. With a
demeaning attitude, he wanted to tell the world that he did not care
whether or not he lost; he still won. He was a powerful man, and he was
untouchable. No one said no to him. Even the United Nations had to
respect his demands. The United Nations gave in: the tyrant got what he
demanded. As a result, Norodom Ranariddh shared power with the tyrant in
the government that took office in 1993 to avoid a bloody war.
Being mentally immature, Sihanouk conceded to Hun Sen as well. The
friction began behind closed doors as soon as the sharing of political
power started. In 1997, the tyrant staged a coup d’état to dethrone
Ranariddh. As a consequence, many FUNCINPEC members were brutally
murdered on the streets of Phnom Penh by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
The FUNCINPEC Party was totally in disarray, and Ranariddh
disappointedly fell from grace. He abandoned his members. Ranariddh was
sunk by his own father’s contemptuous action. Sihanouk did not support
his own son but rather Hun Sen.
Some of Cambodia’s victims
(Photos from thaifilmjournal.blogspot.hk,
There are voices of victims who are powerless and
defenseless in Cambodia. There are political killings in Cambodia.
Chea Vichea, a labor activist, was shot to death in broad daylight. The
Hun Sen government restricted people from speaking out. It was an
organized crime, and it was believed to have been organized by Hun Sen
Chut Vuthy, who cared for and protected Cambodia’s forest, was gunned
down in broad daylight too by organized gangsters. The buck stops with
Hun Sen. If he chooses to stop it, he can do so, but he has no intention
to stop any criminal activity.
Then there is the unjustified arrest of Buddhist monk Tim Sakhorn at Wat
Phnom Den in Cambodia’s Takeo Province in broad daylight as well, and
the abuse and constant harassment of another Buddhist monk, Loun Savath.
They have been treated as second-class citizens in their own country. As
second-class citizens, they will, among other rights, lose their right
Meanwhile, after defrocking Tim Sakhorn, the Cambodian authorities sent
him to prison in Hanoi—a decision that clearly indicates that Hun Sen
takes orders from Vietnam. In prison, Tim Sakhorn was tortured, and he
was forced to have sex with Vietnamese women; there were many of them.
He refused to engage in sexual activity though. Because of his refusal,
the Vietnamese guards grabbed his head and slammed it into brick walls.
He lost conscious, and he was near death so many times. With his arrest,
the world’s religions protested and demanded his release. Through
international pressure, Hanoi released him, but he was not allowed to
return to Cambodia. He is living in Sweden. He came to Minnesota in the
United States in 2010. From the torture of the Vietnamese, he is now
psychologically traumatized. His speech is not as it was previously. He
is willing, however, to tell the world about the Vietnamese’s cruelty.
He was forced to drink urine from one of his female interrogators and to
smell her underwear. He is living proof of this depraved torture and
People in Boeung Kok and Red Earth were cruelty evicted from their homes
as well. Their houses were razed and burned down to the ground by
soldiers. Those who refused to leave were beaten, kicked—even shot and
killed—including women and children. These evicted people are still
homeless, and they are hopelessly drifting from to place to place. Many
Khmers will soon become domestic servants of the Vietnamese.
Living in Cambodia under Hun Sen’s government is like living under the
rule of the Mafia in the United States. The police and criminals are
living side by side; the criminals are well protected by the police.
However, ordinary people who are seeking to live in good faith with
others are mistreated, punished, prosecuted and sent to jail. Good
people want to speak the truth, but speaking the truth is viewed as a
crime. Those who abide by the law are convicted; those who commit crimes
go free. There is no doubt that the rules are set up to enhance
corruption. To maintain this privileged position, people have to pay to
keep it. Some top officials have been falling from grace because they
have no money to maintain it.
Finding justice in Cambodia is strictly forbidden. Free speech is an
archenemy to top officials. Intimidation and violence are the only rules
they know—rules that are designed to protect criminals and allow
incompetent, ignorant officials to feed on corruption with one another
from the top down.
For example, a farmer lost his bicycle at a market on Highway 5 and made
a report at a police station. The police took the report and told him
that the bicycle would be found soon if the farmer first paid them. He
needed to pay 100,000 riels (US$24). The cost of getting the bicycle
back from the police was more than the bicycle itself was worth. The
reason the police most likely assured the farmer that they were able to
find the bicycle soon: the bicycle was probably inside the station.
Again, the police have to demand money from the public. They first need
money to pay Hun Sen to maintain their position. Secondly, this corrupt
and illegal practice is how they make money on the people’s backs. The
thieves do all the stealing; the police stock the goods away. When the
owner comes to claim the items, the police always ask for money. If
there is no money, there is no item for them either.
The system is also run by cronyism. They are not interested in serving
the public with dignity. They put self-interest ahead of the people. To
justify stealing, they come in the guise of public servants so they can
dress up and steal from the people openly. Again, the buck stops with
Hun Sen. If he wants to stop corruption, it starts with him.
Cambodia is a country where the truth is suppressed. To speak the truth
is viewed as a crime. I would personally appeal to all Khmers oversea:
please stand up for us. It is strictly forbidden to speak the truth in
Cambodia. Help us voice our concerns, and help reveal the truth.