September 2012


Doctrine divides, Action unites

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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.

Chea Vichea,

Chut Vuthy

Tim Sakhorn

Loun Savath
Some of Cambodia’s victims
(Photos from,, and

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 himself.

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 to vote.

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 repression.

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.