Meeting with Former Khmer Rouge Prisoner at Temple of Samraong Knong Pagoda; January 7 [1979 Liberation Day] Saves His Life

Posted by khmernews on December 6, 2006

Aek Phnom, Battambang: Okhna Seang Namm, a current parliamentarian for Siem Reap, is a former Khmer Rouge [KR] prisoner.

KR jailed him in Samraong Knong pagoda, located in Samraong Knong village, Samraong Knong commune, Aek Phnom district, Battambang province. Fortunately, because of the liberation day on 7 January 1979, his life was saved.

Mr. Seang Nam was born in Kompong Cham province. Before leaving for Battambang, he had lived in Kompong Cham. He said that in 1973, lots of bombs were dropped on Kompong Cham, so he decided to flee to Bos Khnaor of Chamkar Leu district. After living in there for three months, he moved alone to Tang Krasang of Santuk district. In July 1974, he fled to Vietnam. In October 1974, he and other Cambodians were deported on ferry from Tang Chau (former Cambodian province, known as Mot Chrouk) through K’am Samnar of Kandal province to Chroy Chorngvar of Phnom Penh. After living in Phnom Penh for a short period, he took a flight from Phnom Penh to Battambang on 10 November 1974 and lived in there until 17 April 1975, the day KR completely controlled Cambodia.

He went on to say that since 17 April 1975, KR evicted him to Samraong Knong of Aek Phnom district. Like other Cambodian victims, he was forced to work like a slave both day and night. He was forced to carry sakes of rice from trucks to warehouses and vice versus. He stressed that in 1975, he was only 22 year-old. In 1977, Angkar (Khmer Rouge leadership organization) forced him to marry a woman whose name is Un Vonly (his present wife), who lived in Samraong Knong commune.

He further said that in Aek Phnom district of Battambang, lots of innocent people were allegedly arrested and killed. Moreover, some people were tortured to dead. The temple and Buddhist school in Samraong Knong pagoda were used as a prison.

He added that when the night came, he used to hear people cry and moan painfully while they were being tortured, and voices asking for helps from Samraong Knong pagoda, where was transformed into the prison and torture center.

Mr. Seang Nam asserted that at the night of 7 January 1979, when the United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea [UFNSK] army had not yet come and liberated Battambang, Khmer Rouge caught about 100 people, especially men, and jailed them in the Buddhist school. Also, he was one of them. Because the Buddhist school was full of prisoners, he and other nine men were sent to jail with about 90 women in the temple of Samraong Knong pagoda instead.

Mr. Sean Nam explained that that was the last plan of KR to kill all prisoners before UFNSK had arrived. However, the plan could not be successful because the UFNSK came and completely liberated Battambang on 11 January 1979, only four days after liberating Phnom Penh.

He affirmed that at midday of 11 January 1979, before leaving, KR soldiers used M79 rifle guns fire into the Buddhist school, where men were detained. Consequently, all prisoners were killed and badly injured.

He continued that after KR soldiers had left, the villagers whose hands carried hammers, crowbars and axes came and burst into the building of the Buddhist school and temple to release the prisoners. The prisoners walked out with fear. Luckily, three hours after the prisoners had left, a lot of KR soldiers came to Samraong Knong pagoda again in an attempt to shot and to throw bombs to kills them. But this attempt was failed because the prisoners had already left the prisons. As a result, they got angry and used M79 rifle guns to open fire at villages around Samraong Knong pagoda, and most of people were killed and injured again. Then, they fled while the UFNSK army was arriving.

Referring to documents that had been researched and compiled by Mr. Huot Robeab, the deputy director of Wat Ou Trea Primary School, and to Mr. Thun Sovath, a Buddhist elder of Samroang Knong pagoda, it was made known that between 1975-79, 10,400 (ten thousands four hundreds) innocent people were killed by Pol Pot cadres in Wat Samraong Knong prisons, Samraong Knong commune, Aek Phnom district, Battambang province.

Mr. Thun Sovath told Rasmei Kampuchea on 16 November that Samraong Knong pagoda had built a memorial for keeping the remains of victims.

He continued that the memorial was built on a highland behind Samraong Knong pagoda, where lots of innocent people were killed during KR regime.

Extracted from:  Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.14, #4143, Friday-Monday 26-27 November 2006


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