Negotiating Memory

Medical support has also been provided to the genocide survivor of 1,700 persons in total (through this project) by a doctor from The Philippines, Dr. Demy Reyes who is a surgical oncologist.

Mobilizing Victims on their Perspectives of Genocide Memorialization. As the Khmer Rouge Tribunal winds down, we will continue our work in empowering survivors by way of ensuring their continued ability to speak out openly about the country’s justice, memorialization, and educational processes.  The aim of this project is to establish informal survivor associations whose core mission will be to review, give input, and advise on local, regional, and national efforts and projects of justice, memorialization, and education about the Khmer Rouge period.  

We will leverage our relationships with survivors (including civil parties of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal) throughout the country to build loosely established, informal organizations covering the north, south, east, and western regions of Cambodia. Under Documentation Center of Cambodia oversight, survivors will meet quarterly in order to review, give input, and advise on focus issues as well as comment on topics of their choice as it relates to the justice, memorialization, and educational processes of the Khmer Rouge period.  

Although there will be an emphasis on topics specific to their region, survivors may elect to give input or advice on topics, issues, projects, or efforts in other regions and on a national or international level.  The intent of this project is to build a sustainable, informal platform for survivors to comment on the country’s and the world’s justice, memorialization, and educational processes as they relate to mass atrocities. With the survivors’ permission, their work, input, and comments will be published for use in educating Cambodian institutions, projects, and the public at-large on the perspectives of survivors.

The project activity would have an impact on victims’ understanding, appreciation, and ability to interact with the country, the international community and the universe of organizations engaged in justice, memorialization, and education as it relates to the Khmer Rouge period.

FIELD REPORT
On Revisiting Survivors in Toek Thla Commune
Svay Antor District, Prey Veng Province
By Un Sodavy
Date: August, 2019

GEOGRAPHICAL DESCRIPTION

A Beautiful landscape covers the darkness of the past. The land of conflict, rebellion and murder has been transformed into a green land with rice field that is flourishing under the raindrops during the rainy season. In Cambodia in the 1970s, genocide occurred and spread throughout the country. The brutal  regime, in power from 1975-1979, claimed the lives of up to two million people and about 5 million people who still alive are living in anxiety due to the legacy of the Khmer Rouge.

At least two specific events happening during the Khmer Rouge time in Svay Antor District. First event was ethnic cleansing of mixed Cambodian-Vietnamese which was took place in Svay Antor Commune. In 2016, the Extraordinary Chamber in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) listened to more testimony relation to the Khmer Rouge policy in which the children of mixed Cambodian-Vietnamese parents were to be murdered if their mother or father was Vietnamese.

Another event was a rebellion of former So Phim’s right-hand Khmer Rouge cadres to the coming Khmer Rouge cadres from Southwestern Zone. The rebellion was happened in Toek Thla Commune where the team worked during the trip in August 2019. Both events were in 1978. Most of villagers who were living in Toek Thla commune were evacuated to Kampong Chhnang, Pursat and Battambang provinces. This happening was after a group of people rebelled against another group who were recognized as KR cadres from Southwestern Zone. The rebellion was took place at Wat Prey Lveay, located in Prich Village. The one-day rebellion caused many villagers died and injured. A former commune chief who was belong to Khmer Rouge cadres from Eastern Zone and a head of the rebellion died of hanging his neck to the bamboo tree after knowing that his group could not win the fighting.

Toek Thla Commune is one of the eleventh communes in Svay Antor district. According to the 2008’s National Census, there were populations of 8,002 residents living in Toek Thla (National Census wrote: Tuek Thla). Mr. Chhauv Dum, Toek Thla Commune Chief, said that villagers in his commune are living peacefully, giving hand to each other and financially well. Unlike living under the Khmer Rouge Regime; people lived in cooperative and no rights to do something. People were forced to work and sometime killed without reasons.

OBJECTIVES

As the Khmer Rouge Tribunal winds down, we will continue our work in empowering survivors by way of ensuring their continued ability to speak out openly about the country’s justice, memorialization, and educational processes.  The aim of this project is to establish informal survivor associations whose core mission will be to review, give input, and advise on local, regional, and national efforts and projects of justice, memorialization, and education about the Khmer Rouge period.

ACTIVITIES

The project activity would have an impact on victims’ understanding, appreciation, and ability to interact with the country, the international community and the universe of organizations engaged in justice, memorialization, and education as it relates to the Khmer Rouge period.

From August 18-23, 2019, team members of the Negotiating Memory Project visited 5 complainants who are currently living in several villages of Toek Thla Commune. After 10 years of meeting with them in 2009 to do file complaint to the Khmer Rouge tribunal by DC-Cam, they are still living in the same villages and commune. Everyone welcomes us and remembers the work that DC-Cam did with them in 2009. We met them all again.

On Day one, August 19, the team went to Toek Thla Commune Office and met all 5 survivors. Under the roof of the Commune Office, Dr. Demy Reyes checked up their health.

On Day Two, August 20, the team worked with two survivors, Sim Soeung at his house in Mean Chey Village and Pheng Ly at a Pagoda in Prey Torting Village. The meeting with Sim Soeung was shorter than the meeting with Pheng Ly. Sim Soeun was not good during the meeting, and Pheng Ly was not so good as well.

On Day Three, August 21, we met another two from Prich and Banteay Village of Toek Thla Commune. They are Moem An and Phang Bunly. Not different from the previous day, the team interviewed them at their home asking more about their experiences across Khmer Rouge regime.

On the last day, Day Four, August 22, the last survivor we met was Chauv Dum. He is Toek Thla Commune Chief. The meeting was held in his office.

ACHIEVEMENT/RESULT

Sim Soeung, 67 years old, a village chief of Mean Chey Village, Toek Thla Commune

Soeng shared his life’s experiences with us at his house. He is one of the complainants who filed complaints with ECCC via DC-Cam in 2009.  Soeung said that he had been following up the Khmer Rouge trail proceeding before getting sick. He satisfied with the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s result because the Khmer Rouge tribunal is a part of the healing to his wound. He added that education on Khmer Rouge history and establishment of a Khmer Rouge archives are a great way for younger generations to remember the Khmer Rouge history and prevent it from happening again.   Soeung couldn’t speak a lot from his experiences because he was not feeling well during the interview due to his heart disease (more about him, please read article in Appendix II of this report). He said he cannot sleep well all night and cannot hear any sound clearly. His wife said that Soeung had been unconscious, but luckily he regained consciousness after two days. His wife really wants to have doctor to check him up at home because nowadays her husband has to travel to Phnom Penh city which is about 150 Kilometers for a checkup that happen almost every two weeks. After checking up by Dr. Demy Reyes, the result showed that he really has heart disease. Dr. Demi gave him a medical prescription that Soueung should drink and Dr. Demi also gave him a result of his heart disease data for further consultation with Soeung’s doctor later.

Phen Ly, 69 year old, Prey Toting village Chief, Toek Thla Commune

Sitting in the pagoda, Ly expressed his concern about his health problem and forgetting his experiences during the Khmer Rouge regime. He gets a diabetes mellitus since 16 years ago until now and still not getting better.   In 2009, he filed his complaint to ECCC to find justice for himself, his family members who died during that time. He said that he never expected the Khmer Rouge tribunal could happen and be able to sentence Khmer Rouge Leaders in life prison at all. He never even hopes that he can live freely because at that time, it was very hard to even find something to eat. After the Khmer Rouge collapsed, Ly was selected as village chief and continue to work on his position until nowadays. He usually talks to villagers and younger generation in his village about his experiences during Khmer Rouge Regime (DC-Cam’s genocide research and education program plans to conduct a public education forum at his village).  Ly expressed his interest by saying that he came to visit ECCC one time and listening to a radio about the trail proceeding, and now he got news from social media that Nuon Chea, recently died. At the end, Ly only hopes that he would be able to participate in any social works that can helps to preserves memory of the Khmer Rouge history in his village. He wants a memorial to worship to all people who died without knowing that real justice is happening to them.

Phang Bunly, 59, a village Chief of Prich village, Toek Thla Commune

He said that he is always waiting for reparation since he had file a complaint to ECCC in 2009. He wants stupa or memorial that can represent people lives who’s passed away during the Khmer Rouge regime. Bunly never forgot to follow up the trial proceeding even he was so busy with his job. He was invited to visit ECCC once by DC-Cam and he really enjoyed it.

Bunly was born in a farmer family with 5 siblings. Until now, he is still disappointed with people who killed his father. In 1978, his father was brought a way and killed because his father refused to join a rebel group against Khmer Rouge cadre from south west zone. During the Khmer Rouge, Bunly was forced to work in the field without sufficient food the same as other villagers. All those memories seem that just recently happen to him.

Moem An, 73 years old, Banteay Village Chief, Toek Thla Commune

Sitting on the floor under his house and told the stories of himself with his eyes tight and worried, Moem An said that “talking about the Khmer Rouge regime is talking about the dead, sadness and anger.” Then he stated that “I still miss my relatives who passed away without even saying goodbye to me. My relative’s lives are so important than everything. If someone asks what a reparation I want after the Khmer Rouge regime, I will tell them that I want my relative’s life back”. An lost his parents and 6 siblings during the Khmer Rouge regime. Only him in his family survived from the regime. His relatives were sent to Pursat and never return back, so he’s sure that they died.  Under control of the Khmer Rouge in 1978, An joined the rebellion to fight for freedom. The said that there were a lot of people joined the rebellion and after that, there were a lot of people were arrested, shot and evacuated to other places. He is so excited when he heard that the Khmer Rouge leader was jailed in prison. An wants the whole world recognize that Khmer Rouge Leader are not human because they killed their own people. He said education about the Khmer Rouge history to younger generation is an important task to prevent genocide happening again. An request to build a memorial in his village to remind all people who past a way and represent to the Khmer Rouge regime.

Chhauv Dum, male, 72 years old, Toek Thla Commune Chief, Svay Antor District

He was born in Traok Tapaong village, Toek Thla commune, Svay Anthor district, Prey Veng Province. He said that he vividly remember the day that he filed a complaint to ECCC via DC-Cam. Dum came to visit ECCC about 5 times to see trial proceeding of case 001 and case 002/01. Beside of visiting ECCC, he also followed the ECCC by listening to radio and watching television. He added that he is really interested in the trial proceeding because he wants to know the result of Khmer Rouge leader’s lives after they made a sin. Dum was living in the commune since he was born. He noticed that this commune was getting worse during the Khmer Rouge Regime. Khmer Rouge dissolved his commune and evacuated people to other places because they didn’t truth the villagers who live there.  Dum hopes that there should be built something to represent the Khmer Rouge regime in his commune, so people will remember this. For him, the Khmer Rouge regime remained a very bad legacy in his commune as well as himself. His health is not well because of the result of hard labor at that time. He would like to say thank you to DC-Cam that always truth and visiting him. He is really proud of DC-Cam for doing research on Khmer Rouge history and using as a public place for all people to do research, especially for ECCC in helping them to find evidences.

FOCUS

Next trip will be scheduled in September 2019. The trip will take place in Svay Rieng province’s Kampong Ro District. Another 5 survivors will be our target to meet. These survivors were once met with the team during last two months, July 2019. Thus, the trip at this time will be a following-up trip. The team members will conduct more and detail interview with them. A staff from DC-Cam’s Searching for the Truth Magazine will be responsible for writing at least one article from this trip.

CHALLENGES

This trip has encountered two significant challenges. First, it is about complainant’s health problem. One of complainants, Phen Ly who live in Prey Toting village, Toek Thla commune, Svay Anthor district, Prey Veng Province, couldn’t remember his experiences during the Khmer Rouge very well and he is now suffering from diabetes too. However, he tried to recall his memory back and share with us. Sim Soeung, a complainant who live in Mean Chey village, Toek Thla commune, Svay Anthor district Prey Veng Province, asked to stop talking while I was interviewing due to his heart disease and, in this case, would lose information of his experiences during the Khmer Rouge Regime and also his understanding about the Khmer Rouge trail.  Second, Rainfall is also a barrier of travelling on the path roads in the villages.

CONCLUSION

Among the five visited survivors, none of them are ordinary villagers. Most of them have been serving as village chief since 1980s. Through our meeting with them, they are very important in the commune. Many villagers come to them for helps. Looking back to the purpose of the project, they would be best to be members of the Informal Survivor Association in the future.

According to their interview records, most of them agreed and support the Association and they would help this association alive.

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