Khmernews

Should the Stupa at the Foot of Phnom Voar Mountain be Built?

Posted by khmernews on June 7, 2007

The committee of “Knay Prey pagoda” request for the building of a stupa in the pagoda’s compound as a memorial place for the people who were killed by the Khmer Rouges after 1979.
The request was made in a ritual which was celebrated in the compound of newly built “Knay Prey pagoda”. The reasonable request was supported by the villagers who were remembered about the Khmer Rouge regime and the killing of three foreigners by the Khmer Rouge soldiers in 1994 near the foot of Phnom Voar Mountain.

It should be remembered that since 1971, Voar mountain range had been controlled by the Khmer Rouges. Srae Chea district was divided into another district called “Raong Veng” where a rehabilitation center and a killing field were established.

Kong was the former chief of Raong Veng commune from 1971 to 1975, and Phorn replaced him in early 1975. After the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, Kon and Phorn were killed. However, Phnom Voar mountain range was still under the control of the rebellious Khmer Rouges. During 1990s, the Cambodian government managed to get it back by fighting. Some of the Khmer Rouges who were alive after the fighting were arrested and some escaped to Koh Sla and then to the Cambodian-Thai bordering region.

Under the control of the Khmer Rouges from 1975 to 1979, a killing field was established in ‘Prey Ou Dei Bak’ next to the foot of Phnom Voar Mountain in Trapeang Chranieng, Srae Chea Khang Cheung, Dang Tong, Kampot. Hundreds of the people who were evacuated there were killed and buried in 70 to 80 graves in ‘Prey Ou Dei Bak’ compound. Kol Mark, 57, Srae Chea primary school principal said that those evacuated people were innocent. “No! I’m still wondering. I can’t stop wondering because the [evacuated] people who I knew were working even harder than the “local people”, but why were they brought to ‘new village’,” he said.  ‘New village’ is the word the Khmer Rouges used in order to cheat evacuated people to kill them. Local people did not know where the ‘new village’ was and that there were killings out of this word.

Ven Kon, 51, Kol Mark’s wife, said that for those evacuated people, they needed not to be guilty to be killed because the ‘Angkar’ was the one who had their lives. In 1978, large number of evacuated people was ordered to live in the ‘new village’ since [the Khmer Rouges cheated people that] it was a place full of foods and need not to share the work and place to sleep.

Long Soeun, ‘Knay Prey’ pagoda layman, said that he saw the [Khmer Rouge] guards brought ‘evacuated people’ in carts in early-1978 to new village. Rain, Soeun’s brother-in-law warned Soeun not to go near ‘Prey Ou Dei Bak’ since the Khmer Rouges killed a lot of people over there. However, Rain accidentally saw a lot of bodies of the people who were killed into the graves when he herded his ducks to ‘Prey Ou Dei Bak’. Besides Rain, only few cadres knew about the killings at ‘Prey Ou Dei Bak’ since those cadres were related to the killings.

After January 1979, all the graves were dug up for gold. Bones which were left from the digging were not kept properly. Men Kon, 65, a villager living in Trapeang Chranieng, said that during the rainy season in 1984, he was looking for his losing cow, and he arrived at Prey Ou Dei Bak. He saw a lot of skulls and bones scattered on the ground. He was so frightened and decided not to find his cow anymore. Since then, Prey Ou Dei Bak was left alone since it was controlled by the Khmer Rouges. During 1990s after 3 foreigners were killed, the Cambodian government seized back Phnom Voar Mountain region and arrested the [Khmer Rouge leaders] including Som Bith and Chhouk Rin. They were accused and punished of killings the 3 foreigners. Kol Mark said that Bon was the one who killed those 3 foreigners and that but he died already.

I traveled to ‘Prey Ou Dei Bak’ with Soeun, Kon, and Mark to have a look. There were a lot of graves. They were similar to those at Cheung Aek killing field. Decayed bones appeared on the surface when the researchers flicked the earth on the graves with stick.

A heavy rained was pouring down at Voar Mountain two kilometres away from the graves. The 3 researcher and reporters came back. On the way back to ‘Knay Prey’ pagoda, Layman Seoun complained that he want a stupa to keep those bones although there are not many bones. Seoun reasoned that there is no ‘different’ between cremating and keeping the bones. He continued to say that keeping the bones is useful for finding justice for victims who died during the Khmer Rouge regime, while cremating the bones will bring those spirits of victims to paradise. He concluded that when the bones are cremated it should be kept in a safe place.

It should be remembered that Kol Mark and Kon as well as many other villagers have initiated to celebrate ceremonies to pray for the dead people two times already. Soeun said that if there is a stupa to be built, he and the pagoda’s Buddist followers will allow it to be built in the newly built ‘Knay Prey’ pagoda’s compound.

(Informal Translation)
-Extracted from Rasmei Kampuchea. Vol.15, #4251. Sunday-Monday, April 1-2, 2007.

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