The survivor of a massacre of Cham Muslims at the Au Trakuon pagoda told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday of his escape from the slaughter and subsequent time in hiding, insinuating that he even resorted to cannibalism to survive.
Him Man, a Cham from a village near the pagoda in Kampong Cham’s Kang Meas district, recalled evacuations following the Khmer Rouge takeover.
“After evacuation, there were only 30 Cham families living in the village, out of 200 or 300,” he said.
Called to a meeting, they were informed that “Cham were required to have our hair cut . . . prohibited from worship and . . . required to eat pork” and warned that anyone who opposed would be “caught by the wheel of history”.
Cham “were under watch by the militia and if any of them saw us praying to Allah we would be risking our life. They would come take us away at gunpoint,” Man said.
Remaining Cham in the commune, numbering around 300, were “rounded up” and walked to Au Trakuon, which had been turned into a security complex by the regime.
Man confirmed this was the same incident that took place in 1977 as described by prior witness Sen Srun.
Ducking away into “a nearby bush”, Man made his getaway with his wife during the roundup.
Unable to escape due a perimeter of cadres around the village, Man listened to the murder of his relatives and neighbours including his mother and elder brother.
“I was hiding about 100 metres away from the pits where they were killing the Cham people,” he said. “I was lying in the bushes with my wife and we heard screams . . . People screamed for Allah to help.”
After several hours, Man searched for weapons and survivors in the village but found only empty homes.
“I stepped down [from] the house crying, weeping, and I was thinking . . . only my wife and I were still living,” he said.
Man and his wife then moved to a nearby lake only to be shot at the next day by cadres.
“The bullets did not hit me and my wife . . . I was so afraid at that time.” He recalled.
Arranging tree branches as cover and eating water hyacinth roots as well as “snail, frogs, toads and other insects”, Man said he and his wife could smell the “stench” of decomposing corpses.
“If the dead bodies were floating in the river, and I could reach them, I may have eaten those dead bodies, because of hunger. I had no food to eat, no rice, for a period of three months and 29 days.”
The couple was eventually caught but allowed to live until liberation by the district chief under the false names “Lin” and “Na” because Man could repair machinery and dive to untangle fishing nets.
The court announced yesterday that it would adjourn until September 28 to allow the defence time to prepare for the questioning of three newly added witnesses.