Archive

On Island of Massacre, Chams Remember

Related Articles

Pich SamnangVOA Khmer

On an island in the Mekong River in Krouch Chhmar district, about 50 km from Kampong Cham provincial town, lies a Cham village that is little more than a few bamboo, thatched-roof houses.

The village is on Koh Phal, or “Island of Harvest,” where Cham Muslims resisted the Khmer Rouge in an uprising in September 1975, just five months after the radical Maoists took power in Cambodia.

“The reason for the rebellion was that there was no more Islam,” Chet Sman, a 75-year-old widower and the head of one of the four families living here, told VOA Khmer in an interview recently. “The Khmer Rouge collected our Quran for burning and cut women’s hair, including my mother’s. This is the reason.”

Chet Sman sat in front of an old black-and-white TV in his cottage, smoking tobacco and describing the uprising, which led to a massacre of the Chams on the island. These killings, and others like them, will be a part of the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s upcoming trial against four jailed leaders of the regime.

The Khmer Rouge shut down mosques, forbid prayer and abolished head-covering for women, he said. They also forced the Chams to raise pigs and eat the pork, a deeply offensive act to the traditional Muslims.

Before the Chams of Koh Phal were pushed to rebellion, the Khmer Rouge went house to house, collecting swords, knives and other tools that might be used as weapons, Chet Sman said. But many villagers hid theirs, or quickly constructed new ones, as they decided to resist.

“The desperate villagers who dared fight against the Khmer Rouge with their swords or bamboo wanted to die as our religion disappeared,” he said, his own long knife and axes lying nearby.

In response, the Khmer Rouge surrounded the island with artillery and weapons. Within a week, they had killed the rebellious villagers, burned down their homes, religious schools and mosques and then turned the name of Koh Phal to Koh Phes, or “Island of Ashes.”

Then, two weeks later, Cham villagers in Svay Klaing, 10 kilometers away, rose up as well, after their teachers and religious leaders were arrested by the Khmer Rouge. Many more were killed in a single day and night.

Ysa Osman, author of “The Cham Rebellion,” which chronicles the uprisings, said the Khmer Rouge then sent survivors to four prisons in Kroach Chhmar district, in areas prone to malaria.

“At that time, there were not enough prisons to put people in, as there were thousands of people both young and old,” he said in an interview last week. “So the Khmer Rouge used schools and pagodas as detention centers for the rebellious villagers.”

Among an estimated 1.7 million people who were killed or died of starvation, overwork or torture under Democratic Kampuchea, an estimated 500,000 are believed to be Chams, according to the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

In late 2009, the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal added the charge of genocide for four former Khmer Rouge leaders awaiting trials. The four, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith, had previously been charged with crimes against humanity, murder, torture and religious persecutions.

As part of the trial, which could begin next year, Yusos Pinyamin, a survivor of the Svay Klaing massacre, was among those who have filed complaints as civil parties, and he said recently he wants justice done more quickly.

He worries the old leaders will die before they see trial.

“I knew that I could not win, but it was not worth living any longer,” the 56-year-old “hakim,” or village elder, said of the 1975 rebellion. “I was so desperate that I could not wait to be killed.”

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one
Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Seeking Stronger Ties as Cambodia’s Political Reforms Move Forward​i
X
28 August 2014
A senior US diplomat says the country is looking to strengthen ties with Cambodia, now that the opposition has ended a boycott of the National Assembly. “We want to have a good relationship with the nation of Cambodia, the people of Cambodia,” Scot Marciel, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Bureau, told VOA Khmer in an exclusive interview. “We have an interest in a Cambodia that is successful, democratic, more prosperous, enjoying good health, and good education. Again, this is mostly up to the Cambodian people but we want to be supportive because it’s in our interest for Cambodia to be successful.” The US has made a recent diplomatic resurgence in Asia, where China’s influence continues to grow.​ Marciel, who is visiting the country, said Wednesday that Cambodia’s moves toward electoral reforms are encouraging. “I think what we’re looking to see, like the Cambodian people, the people here have made it clear that they would like to see some more reforms some progress on some of the challenges that the Cambodia faces, and we feel the same way,” he said. “We are hopeful that the government and the parliament as it is now seated can move ahead on some of the reforms that people here have called for. We think that would be a positive step.” (Sok Khemara, Washington)

English with Mani & Mori

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Doze Off (Movie: Hairspray)i
X
25 August 2014
You can say, "I don't know why, but every time I eat 'prahok' (Cambodian anchovy) I find myself 'dozing off' all the time." What does it mean? Watch here. For more videos - go to facebook.com/voakhmer or www.youtube.com/KhmerSpecialEnglish. To contact Mani & Mori - write to them at maniandmori@gmail.com.
Video

Video Doze Off (Movie: Hairspray)

You can say, "I don't know why, but every time I eat 'prahok' (Cambodian anchovy) I find myself 'dozing off' all the time." What does it mean? Watch here. For more videos - go to facebook.com/voakhmer or youtube.com/KhmerSpecialEnglish. To contact Mani & Mori - write to them at maniandmori@gmail.
Video

Video Scratch Someone's Back (Movie: Batman Begins)

You can say, "Yeah sure, I can get you a job at CNN easily. Now, if 'YOU SCRATCH MY BACK, I'LL SCRATCH YOURS'." What does it mean? Watch here. For more videos - go to youtube.com/KhmerSpecialEnglish. To contact Mani & Mori - write to them at maniandmori@gmail.com.
Video

Video Wild Goose Chase (Movie: Inside Man)

You can say, "The policeman was sent on a 'wild goose chase' to find the killer. All the clues that were given to him turned out to be false." What does it mean? Watch here.
Video

Video Let Bygones Be Bygones (Movie: The Social Network)

You can say, "I know he hurt you, he gave up on you, and that broke your heart. But that's the past, you have to 'let bygones be bygones." What does it mean? Watch here. For more videos - go to youtube.com/KhmerSpecialEnglish. To contact Mani & Mori - write to them at maniandmori@gmail.com.
See more >>>