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Memoirs of a survivor.

I was twelve years old when the Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia in 1975. I managed to survive. Others in my family were not so lucky.

I saw the Khmer Rouge shoot my mother dead. They decapitated my uncle and his entire family, including his pregnant wife. They killed another uncle of mine.

The recent trial of Pol Pot by his fellow Khmer Rouge members has brought some relief to me and other Cambodian survivors in the United States. But justice has not yet been done. Pol Pot should be tried by an international tribunal for crimes against humanity.

Most of us are still coping with the horror we suffered during the Khmer Rouge's rule from 1975 to 1979. Between one million and two million people were killed during those four years. The trial of Pol Pot has brought back painful memories.

Many Cambodians actually welcomed the Khmer Rouge forces when they marched into Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, on April 17, 1975. The euphoria turned out to be short-lived.

I was in Battambang, Cambodia's second-largest city. Within twenty-four hours, I heard on the radio that everybody had been told to evacuate the city. In the midst of the chaos, my siblings and I grabbed whatever food we could carry and forced our way into the crowd. Khmer Rouge soldiers pushed us and shoved us throughout the trek from the capital to the countryside. Soon, Khmer Rouge trucks were busy moving prisoners to the execution sites.

I stood behind a tree some distance from the main road and saw several truckloads of prisoners turn onto a dusty gravel track. I then heard a succession of shots. Soon, another truck arrived with more prisoners. More shots followed. This continued for several days.

Finally, I made my way to the place where the trucks had turned off the main road. I could scarcely believe my eves. I had discovered piles of bodies lying in bomb crates on the side of the road. My knees weakened and I limped my way back to the village. I finally knew the purpose of all these trucks.

Sitting in our shanty, my family and I could smell a foul odor from the bomb crates when the wind blew our way. Sometimes the stench interrupted our meals, and we gagged and vomited. But we were so busy trying to fill our stomachs with the little food available that this seemed like a minor discomfort.

By the time the Khmer Rouge began to reorganize the entire social structure, our food had run out. Men, women, and children were all separated and given various duties. We were told that the Khmer Rouge wanted everyone to be a contributor to society and to be independent. We were told that "one depends only on oneself" and that if anyone couldn't contribute toward society. he or she "must be demolished and be discarded."

Unfortunately, stories like this are very familiar to many Cambodians who had to suffer through similar ordeals. For four years. the Cambodian people paid the price for being caught in a "wheel of revolution," a wheel that spun out of control. Pol Pot, the man responsible for creating all these death camps, should face his victims in a proper trial.

For the first time in decades, Cambodians have been able to see the face of Pol Pot. All we saw on the television screen was a handcuffed old man with a freckled face who sat listlessly as Khmer Rouge cadre denounced him.

The sentencing of Pol Pot to life imprisonment does provide comfort; we finally know that the man responsible for the death of our loved ones can no longer commit any genocidal acts.

But why did he and his henchmen inflict all this suffering on the Cambodian people? Only an international tribunal could help supply an answer, and it could compel Pol Pot to name his key accomplices, who must also be brought to justice. We need Pol Pot to be judged not by his comrades but by the world community. He violated international law. which we must uphold. or another genocidal leader could get away with murder. Until there is an international tribunal, until all those responsible for the Khmer Rouge holocaust are held accountable, the Cambodian people will have received only partial justice.
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Title Annotation:survivor of the 1975 Khmer Rouge massacres in Cambodia wants questions answered
Author:Mouth, Sophea
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 1, 1997
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