“One Of My Eyes Damaged Because Of The Khmer Rouge”
Posted by khmernews on July 17, 2007
Kampong Thom: “I believe that victims will receive justice when Khmer Rouge leaders are prosecuted.” This is a statement made by Uncle Hem Sim, 67, who is living in Anlong Louk, Prey Kuy commune, Stung Saen district.
The bitter past experiences of Cambodian people under the Khmer Rouge regime are still echoing through in everyone’s state of mind. While some victims were suffered but didn’t lose their family members, some others were not only underwent atrocities, but also became disabled and lost their parents, siblings and other relatives. Uncle Hem Sim, for instance, has a cataract in his right eye because of the Khmer Rouge and it is the evidence that shows his younger generation about the Khmer Rouge regime. He recalls that since he was the “old people”, he was not afraid of the village cadres at the time, and he, moreover, insisted on owning possessions such as bike, radio, and other belongings, but eventually, he was forced to leave the village and his family to live in Stung Trang, Kompong Cham.
He said that he had lived in Anlong Louk up to 1972. Because of the war between the Khmer Rouge soldiers and the US-backed Lon Nol’s troops, his village became a vulnerable area where sometimes was controlled by the Khmer Rouge soldiers and some other times controlled by the Lon Nol’s troops. Around 8 to 11 kilometres away from Kompong Thom provincial town, the village was the town belt.
Therefore, after each fighting if the Lon Nol side won, the people would be gathered into the town while if the Khmer Rouge side won, the people would be evacuated upward to northern regions. In 1972, his family was evacuated by the Khmer Rouge soldiers to Pralay, Tang Krasau commune located 30-40 kilometres away from the provincial town.
After April 17, 1975, his family fled back to live in Anglong Louk. Since he had run to the liberated areas [of the Khmer Rouge side], he was considered as the “old people”. However, other villagers who had run to the Lon Nol side were considered as the “17 April people” when they returned back to the village.
Hem Sim said that the “Angkar” started to order the villagers endure difficulties, to save foods and to put the belongings together, but he refused fearlessly. One time, his eyes became swollen, but he didn’t have medicine to cure. Moreover, a female cadre in the village named Ouen ordered him to make hoe handles, but he refused. Comrade Ouen used sarcastic words to him that, “The eyes are diseased, but the hands are not. [You] can make hoe handles. You use your hands—not your eyes—to make them.” He was very angry and tried to make around 8 hoe handles per day. He continued to say that while he was living in the village, 12 villagers were captured to be killed one after another. He started to protest all the times which made the cadres send him to the commune where they discussed and were about to take him to kill. Fortunately, some of them disagreed and they said they couldn’t kill him since he was the “old people”. So, they decided to exile him from the village. The village cadred told him to leave, so he traveled alone to Stung Trang, Kompong Cham in 1978. It wasn’t until 1979 when the Khmer Rouge regime was toppled that he returned back to his wife and children. He said that it was his luck only.
He was not only suffered, but also lost 3 brothers-in-laws who were killed by the Khmer Rouge since one of them was a doctor who had studied a lot in Phnom Penh. “They accused us of being feudal.”
“Although some of the Khmer Rouge leaders died already, there are others who will be prosecuted by the Cambodian and international judges. Justice must exist,” said Hem Sim.
-Extracted from Rasmei Kampuchea, vol.15, #4336, Sunday-Monday, July 15-16, 2007.