Witnesses Talk about Mass Grave Raids for Gold Following 1979

Posted by khmernews on March 9, 2007

Kompong Thom: After the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime on the 7th of January 1979, many groups of grave raiders traveled throughout the country to search for Khmer Rouge mass graves. These illegal grave raids were to search for gold that victims were wearing before Angkar killed them. 

Some villagers accused grave raiders of being perpetrators because they knew exactly where the mass graves of victims killed by Khmer Rouge were. They did not feel nauseous and even used their hands to touch corpses’ clothes in order to search for gold and other valuable things although the corpses were stinking and putrid. Local authorities denied that they gave permission to those grave raiders and said that the grave raiders aimed at searching for valuable things only. In some grave areas, bones of victims were inappropriately re-buried or were left unburied; therefore, cows, buffalos and dogs carried them everywhere. Seeing that, the post-1979 authorities designated people to collect the bones and to construct a memorial statue for keeping them.

Uncle Hang Chhort, 64, living in Sla village, Trea commune, Stoung district, said that in early 1979, he saw a group of people from Kompong Cham province entering to dig up mass graves in Tuol Pluong area located behind the Rasmei Sereisophon high school in Stoung district. On seeing this, the villagers near there also participated in the digging. He went on to say that he also joined them. He further said that some people found golden necklaces, golden rings and even diamonds which victims had hidden inside the hems of their shirts and trousers.

Uncle Tann Lakk, 77, currently lives near the Baray Chhorn Daek pagoda in Balang commune in Baray district. During the Khmer Rouge regime his house was near the Khmer Rouge security center. He asserted that after the 7th of January 1979, he saw grave diggers coming to dig up graves near Baray Chhorn Daek pagoda in order to search for gold and other valuable things. Those grave diggers knew whether the corpses had gold or not. He added that when seeing the corpses in black clothes, they stopped digging the graves immediately but when seeing the corpses in colorful clothes, they carried on. Consequently, they found gold, as expected. He continued by saying that they knew this because the black-uniformed corpses were Khmer Rouge cadres. Those corpses had no gold or valuable things because they were members of the revolution who were killed by Angkar on accusation of betrayal. They were killed and buried in mass graves different from ordinary people.

The corpses wearing colorful clothes were people of the 17th of April or villagers. They hid gold and other valuable things inside their clothes, hats and even inside their different orifices before being killed.

However, some people criticized grave raiders for their immoral acts and disrespect to dead people. One source said that following 1979, starvation led Cambodian people to do anything to feed their stomachs.

Extracted from: Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol. 15, #4229, Wednesday 7 March 2007.


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