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Former Child Soldier Describes Khmer Rouge

A former child soldier of the Khmer Rouge described on Monday being forced to kill innocent people, saying he still has nightmares about the past.

Arn Chorn Pond, who is now 42, told reporters at a press conference in Phnom Penh he was pressed into service in Battamabang province when he was 11 or 12 years old, a few days after the Vietnamese ousted the Khmer Rouge from Phnom Penh, in January 1979.

Arn Chorn Pond’s testimony was sponsored by Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst, under the German Development Service in Cambodia, which gathered former child soldiers from Cambodia and Liberia to tell their stories.

“They armed us,” he said. “If we hadn’t carried the weapons, we would have been shot.”

Arn Chorn Pond, who now lives in America, said he soldiered for the Khmer Rouge for a year, as it battled Vietnamese-backed soldiers. He was injured, as well, he said. The Khmer Rouge also ordered children to bring the dead to their graves.

The experience made him sad and lonely, he said, and he felt he as not a good person and is plagued by nightmares.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said at least 200 children between the ages of 12 and 17 were forced to fight the Vietnamese. Around 20 girls were also pressed into service, carrying food and supplies.

“A number of Khmer Rouge soldiers were children,” he said.

Arn Chorn Pond was willing to tell his story, but he said he was not very interested in the current trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders under a UN-backed tribunal. He did not know enough about Cambodia’s political situation, he said.