Survivor of the Killing Fields Tells His Harrowing Tale
Posted by khmernews on October 17, 2007
Kompong Cham: “It was a rare lucky moment amidst thousand of dangers” that a victim of the Khmer Rouge or Democratic Kampuchea regime, who had already been brought to the edge of the Khmer Rouge’s murderous grave, could escape and survive until the present.
Seventy-four-year-old Seng Date, who is living in Phnom Monty, Prek Kak, Stung Trang, was sitting pensively and trying to recall the tragic events occurred to him and his family.
“My wife and 7 children were killed. I was tied and transported in a truck to a grave. However, I could escape,” said Seng Date.
The fortunate old man said that in 1960 he served as a national policeman in Stung Trang. After the coupe which ousted Norodom Sihanouk in 1970, he stopped working as the police officer and lived as an ordinary person.
In 1975 when Pol Pot came into power, the Angkar evacuated him and his family to Kla Koang, Prek Kak, Stung Trang.
Under the Khmer Rouge’s Angkar, like other people in the village, he had to work heavily with the slogan “[The Angkar] moves forward by leaps and bounds” and received not enough food which made him so frail because of exhaustion. People were forced to move to work from one place to another and heavier from day to day.
In mid-1977 the Khmer Rouge’s leadership broke apart due to the internal conflict. The Khmer Rouge started to loose faith on one another, to “purge” internally and to even kill their cadres. Meanwhile, people were restricted and killed too. The Khmer Rouge used a method by calling the people who they wanted to kill for a meeting or for a new life on new land or land of “prosperity”.
Khmer Rouge guards or “Ni Ros” first called for the new people or “April-17 people” in the village. Then they did not care about whether new or old people anymore. They brought away one family after another. The people in the village started to disappear gradually.
Seng Date and other villagers were so afraid that they tried to work very hard for fear that the Angkar would accuse them of being an internal enemy or a democrat.
People had to work continuously from dawn to dusk with only a plate of rice or watery porridge which the Khmer Rouge called “a small bag of possession”.
At night everyone could not sleep peacefully since they were afraid that the Khmer Rouge guards would call them for “education”, which was the “killing”. Whenever Seng Date heard dogs howl, he always had got goosebumps. His heart beat faster and he always tried to strain his ears to hear the footsteps which people believed to be those of Khmer Rouge guards since no one else dared to leave their house at night.
Seng Date could escape the death because of making a right decision
In late-1977 or early-1978, Seng Date and 5-6 other villagers were asked by the village chief to look after a plantation in Trapeang Robaes, around four kilometers in the west of Kla Koang village while his wife and 7 children were working “normally” inside the village.
One day while Seng Date was looking after the plantation, a cluster chief came to him and called him for a meeting. He was brought to Preah village and showed way to a big tile-roofed house.
After he entered the house, 5-6 Khmer Rouge guards dressed in black pointed their AK guns at him and kicked him to lie face down. Then the Khmer Rouge took a rope to tie him and Krama cord to tie around his neck so that he would not move.
Around him Seng Date saw more than 40 people already tied like him. Some of them were teachers; some were soldiers of the Khmer Republic. These people were evacuated from Kompong Cham provincial town. There were also ordinary people and people he did not know.
As the night fell, a GMG truck arrived and the tied people were made to walk into the truck. The people who were slow would be kicked into the truck. When they fell into the truck, some of them were hurt.
The truck took them away to a place and stopped. The “prisoners” were commanded to jump out of the truck in pairs.
Seng Date and a soldier were sitting near the cabin. Seng Date knew that the “black-shirt murderers” would kill the people in the truck. He thought that if he escaped, he might survive or that he would rather be killed by the bullets when he was escaping.
After making the decision to run away, Seng Date whispered the soldier to help untie the each other’s knots by sitting back to back. First, they untied the Krama knot at their wrists. Then they undid the knot at their arms. After untying the knots, the soldier asked him to tie him back for some reason Seng Date did not know. Seng Date dared not ask but had to tie him back. When he jumped off the truck, Seng Date pretended to put his hands at his back like he was tied, but all the knots had already been untied. As he landed on the ground, he ran very fast into the forest.
“Stop! Stop! Don’t run!” the black-shirt murderers screamed to stop him. They started to fire at the place to which Seng Date escaped.
Where did he live after he escaped?
What did Seng Date do in order to escape from the hunting of the Khmer Rouge’s omniscient Angkar?
These questions will be answered in the following issue in Kampuchea Thmey.
Extracted from Kampuchea Thmey, Vol. 6, #1465, Tuesday, October 9, 2007.