Khmer Rouge Acts of Religious Persecution and Destruction of Cultural Property To Be Tried At the Khmer Rouge Tribunal
Posted by khmernews on September 18, 2007
What are the crimes that the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) or the Khmer Rouge Tribunal will try? This is the frequently asked question.
The answer which has been written in the documents of the ECCC explaining that the court is authorized to try crimes occurred between April 17, 1975 and January 6, 1979. It means the court cannot try crimes occurred before and after this period. Crimes that the court can try include: wilful killing, torture, inhumane treatment, religious persecution, genocide, crimes against humanity, destruction of cultural property during armed conflict, and crimes against diplomats.
The religious persecution was seen clearly during the Khmer Rouge regime when monks were forcefully defrocked and murdered. The Khmer Rouge considered monks as “society’s leeches”. They said that monks didn’t use their labour to do the agriculture and were only waiting to be given food or beg for food. Monks were considered as feudalists who took advantages of the others. After the victory on Lon Nol’s regime on April 17, 1975, monks in all pagodas around the country were all defrocked. If any monk delayed or opposed, he would be killed. The Khmer Rouge used some pagodas as warehouses for storing fertilizers or as stables and some others became detention centers.
In Kompong Thom, for example, Tuol pagoda in Baray commune and Baray Chean Daek pagoda in Balangk commune, Baray district; Prey Srangae pagoda in Tbaeng in Kompong Svay district; and Kdey Doung padoda in Stung Saen were all taken as prison by the Khmer Rouge. Bones of thousands of people have been found. It’s believed that the Khmer Rouge brought people to torture and kill in these pagodas.
Another point is about the destruction of cultural property. A song authored and sung during the Khmer Rouge regime was written: “The Angkor temple which has been admired by the world and represents Cambodian culture is the work of ancient farmers. However, the great victory on April 17 is greater than the Angkor period. We have Democratic Kampuchea; we have new shining rice field levees.” According to the song, the Khmer Rouge didn’t considered Angkor Wat, one of the world wonders and great national heritage, as equal to their victory. This point suggests that the Khmer Rouge didn’t value national cultural property.
Indeed, there are a lot of cultural properties in Kompong Thom province including temples, especially Sambour Prey Kok temple, built between 6th and 7th century.
According to Mr. Norm, guardian at Sombour [Prey Kok] temple, said during the Khmer Rouge regime, the Khmer Rouge had taken stones from the temple’s walls to build watercourses and dikes and they had ordered people to transport ancient bricks to build prisons, eating halls, and stoves.
The evidence above claims that it was religious persecution and destruction of cultural property did occur. These are two crimes found and witnessed by all Cambodians, leaving aside other crimes including crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes.
-Extracted from Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol. 15, #4385, Sunday-Monday, September 9-10, 2007.