Witnesses And Victims Recall Mass Killings At “Ou Trakuon Pagada” Detention Center
Posted by khmernews on September 10, 2007
By : Kong Heng
Walking with two grandchildren and holding a stack of foods, 79-year-old Moa Hour, in a moderately strong movement, smiled and said: “This is the 2007 Buddhist Lent, and I’ve already offered foods to monks.”
When asked about where the detention center and mass graves of Pol Pot’s regime at Ou Trakuon Pagoda were, grandfather Hour suddenly stopped at the wall of the pagoda and turned back pointing at the temple and said: “This is the temple of Ou Trakuon Pagoda, and it was a prison for interrogations during Pol Pot’s 1975-1979 regime. People were killed in front of the temple.”
We heard the sound of monks chanting mixed with noises from the engines of motorbikes and cars passing by as Grandfather Hour was leading us to the mass graves where the Khmer Rouge once had killed many people. “Around 70 metres from the temple are mass graves where the “Angkar” of Pol Pot’s regime killed more than 30,000 people. [The graves] have become ponds while bones and skulls of the people were collected and placed in a mass stupa in the pagoda,” said Grandfather Hour as he was guiding us.
The old man recalled that he had seen and gone through it by himself 30 years ago. At that time, he was assigned by the Angkar to look after all cattle of the whole cooperative with two other boys during the daytime, and at night he had to irrigate the rice fields in Sambuor Meas Ka, Peam Chi Kang. “Comrade Horn was the head of 11 guards of the detention center in Ou Trakuon Pagoda. Amongst those guards, a female comrade had two long guns. A wooden wall was build, dividing the temple into two questioning rooms, one in the North for male prisoners and another for female,” he said. Few people were allowed to enter the place, but he could enter it, since he was assigned to bring materials for prisoners to make reins.
Grandfather Moa Hour said that when loudspeakers had been blaring across the village, groups of people of all ages were transported in carts to the edge of graves already dug for them, while other prisoners from nearby villages had already been waiting there. “They were really brutal!” the old man ejaculated, “seizing a child from its mother and flung it against a coconut tree and then threw it into one of the graves. The child’s parents as well as other women “naked” were hit from behind and pushed into the grave. It didn’t have to be daytime or at night. Whenever there were noises of the loudspeakers, it was the killing time.”
• Living in a lake for 4 months, Man was called “Man Kom Bloak (Water Hyacinth)”
Him Lina, 52, and her husband Him Man are the only two Cambodian-Muslims who survived the 1975-1979 Democratic Kampuchea regime in Sach Sou, Peam Chi Kang, Kang Meas.
Him Lina said she and her husband were made married by the Angkar in a 50-pairs-marriage in Sombuor Meas Ka, Peam Chi Kong during the harvest season of 1977. “In that year, the Angkar started to evacuate Muslims from one village to another and kill one family after another. All of Muslim villagers were startled with caution and fear.
During the transplantation season of 1978, Lina as well as other Muslims in the village received news that a new Angkar’s plan was to gather all the Muslims in Peam Chi Kong Commune to be killed at Ou Trakuon Pagoda. For one night, all Cambodian-Muslims in one village would be slain. She believed that there was the new plan since in Damnak village there was no any single Muslim left. The next day was the Sach Sou’s turn. The Cooperative chief gave her a permission to visit her home. At around 4 p.m., her husband and she were told that [the Khmer Rouge] were capturing the people in the village. Both spouses decided that they would rather die of hunger in the forest than be killed by [Khmer Rouge]. Then, they disguised as cattle finders. Since there are no big woods for hiding, they escaped into a lake. They hid themselves in the lake water among water hyacinths in the daytime and went up on the trees around the lake at night.
She said that due to the worry about their parents and relatives, her husband Man fled into the village to get their news the night after that. Her husband told her: “When I arrived home, no one was there.” Having heard this, she wept terribly. She thought she was going to die too since she was only eating stems of water hyacinths, lotus rhizomes, and raw snails and crabs. Moreover, the place they were hiding was only 300-400 metres from the grave where their parents and relatives were killed near Ou Trakuon Pagoda.
Living in the lake with fears and no foods, they became very skinny and their health was declining gradually. She said, “We could not stand it any longer. Our lives were like those aquatic animals.” “If we had stayed there one day more, we would have lived in the water for 4 months. So, we decided to leave the water and walked into the village after sunset. We hid ourselves in the graveyard near Ou Trakuon Pagoda.”
“While we were secretly eating papayas and green bananas, guards in Ou Trakuon Pagoda surrounded us. They captured and then kept us in a corn storage house in the south of the pagoda,” Him Lina recalled. Since then, the villagers and the guards called her husband “Man Kom Bloak”.
During the period, both of them were not tortured or starved since her husband told those guards that he knew how to make iron plates and pots. So, they let her husband and her stay alive. They were living there for more than a month, but then they were tied with a rope and were going to be killed with many other people in Reay Pay village. However, while the guards were walking the people at Angkor village, liberation troops arrived.
“Up to today, July 29, 2007, my husband and I still do not understand clearly about the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia or the tribunal for the prosecution of former Khmer Rouge leaders yet,” pointed out Him Lina.
“…My husband and I want to tell our story to the court so that the court will find justice for our parents and closest relatives who were killed at Ou Trakuon Pagoda,” said the Cambodian-Muslim lady.
Neang Sovath, director of ADHOC Human Rights group in Kompong Cham province and who is in charge of disseminating information regarding the Khmer Rouge trials, said that up to present, he had already spread the information to some districts in Kompong Cham province. “If the victims want to file complaints or give evidence, please come to ADHOC Human Rights group located in the opposite of Kompong Cham’s Agriculture School.
“We are going to provide them with funds for transportation and accommodation and seek for lawyers for them,” said the director.
Extracted from Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol. 15, #4375, Wednesday, August 29, 2007