Look back, look ahead

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

by Soratha Chan, CARE

I had to queue with a lot of people. I was about to give up my aspiration before I finally could reach my destination: Anne Frank house, in Netherland. I really wondered what was inside. After waiting for 80 minutes, I could get into the house. I walked slowly with other tourists. We observed and read everything carefully. I did not want to lose any information in this house. There were photos and description hung on the wall.

I feel absorbed by Anne Frank story although I know nothing about her except her diary. Maybe it is similar to stories in Cambodia. On April 17, 1979, people in Phnom Penh were evacuated to the countryside by the Khmer Rouge. They were told to stay out of the city for only three days; however, it was more than three years. They were forced to work hard in the farms day and night with insufficient nutrition. They can get only watery porridge instead of rice and meat. Some even starved to death. Pol Pot, the leader, wanted to change Cambodia into a pure communism country called Democratic Kampuchea.

My grandmother’s story

My grandmother lost six of her eight children and her beloved husband because of starvation, overwork and illness in the Khmer Rouge regime. They got up at three in the morning for farming and went to bad at midnight. There was no one daring to complaint about the overloaded job because they saw many people being re-educated or killed. My grandmother tried to exchange all her belonging for food in secrete, but it does not help much. She could get less than it was before the war. Sometimes she tried to dig out those small potatoes next to her cottage for her children. The neighbour, even her relatives, scolded my grandmother, “You are mad. How you can dig out such potatoes. They are still small.” My grandmother said nothing because she really needed those potatoes for her children’s survival. They were waiting for her help. As a 17th -April person, a name called those people from city when Pol Pot occupied Phnom Penh in April 17, 1975, she understood that all she did was always wrong.

After the fall of Khmer Rouge, there were only my grandmother, my mother and her younger brother alive. They walked from Battambang, a province near Khmer-Thai border, to Phnom Penh. They all worked too hard to survive in a very poor country like Cambodia after the brutal regime again.

Thirty years later

My mother burst into tear when she tried to tell my brothers and me about Khmer Rouge regime in detail. Sometimes I do not dare to ask her a lot more. Now, there is a Khmer Rouge tribunal, but my mother and my grandmother do not want to get involved. They do not want to be reminded about their past.

I read in the press that there will be a trial against Duch late September or early October. Duch, 65, is a former chief of S-21 or Toul Sleng — a torturing centre during Khmer Rouge regime. Under his control, there were at least 12, 380 individual tormented and killed from the whole country. He will be charged for war crime and crime against humanity. There are four other leaders during Khmer Rouge regime waiting for similar charge in the custody. Up to two million persons were reported to be killed then.

 

Justice or Revenge

Although I am a child of Khmer Rouge survivors, I never think about taking vengeance for crime then. No one can bring what my family lost back again. Trial is just the way to find out the reason behind the killing and torturing. I only want to know why those leaders brought Cambodians to the killing field without remorse. Many people told me that gap of poverty and different political ideology pushed Cambodia into the prison without wall—Democratic Kampuchea. I hope that we all, Cambodian as well as the rest of the world, will learn from this bad experience in my country and individually avoid this.

Source: http://blog.care.de/en/category/editor/soratha-chan/

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