Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Witnesses describe 1975 Cham uprising

Witnesses describe 1975 Cham uprising

No Sates (left) gives her testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan yesterday in Phnom Penh.  ECCC
No Sates (left) gives her testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan yesterday in Phnom Penh. ECCC

Witnesses describe 1975 Cham uprising

Following a one-week hiatus to give the defence time to prepare for additional witnesses, proceedings resumed yesterday at the Khmer Rouge tribunal with vivid accounts by civil parties on the persecution of the predominantly Muslim Cham ethnic minority.

Him Man, who began describing his experiences last week, testified on the quelling of the 1975 Cham rebellion on the island of Koh Phal by the Khmer Rouge, who coerced an arrested Imam to “speak on the loudspeaker to instruct all the Cham . . . to surrender and that they should not resist”.

“This was the reason behind the Cham’s defeat,” he continued, adding that thereafter the island gained the epithet “Koh Pesh”, or “Island of Ashes”.

Prior to the midday recess, Man delivered a statement relating his ongoing pain.

“I have lost all of my relatives and sometimes I think it is better for me to die rather than to live. Sometimes I think that I become psychotic . . . I do not have any hope in my life,” he said, struggling to maintain composure.

In the afternoon, No Sates, a Cham woman, began her civil party testimony, recounting detention, roundups and purges of Eastern Zone cadres.

After 1975, Sates and the Cham in her village were evacuated, her father “disappeared” and she was detained along with “about 300” other women in a warehouse for a month, during which time they were interrogated.

“Those that said they were Cham were taken away, there were only about 30 of us left behind who said we were Khmer,” she said, saying she was awoken at night with a torch held to her face and questioned about her ethnicity by cadres.

The surviving 30 were then made to eat pork soup, forcing survivors to choose between betraying their faith and proving their assumed identities.

“Only our group of 30 women was instructed to eat the soup; there were soldiers watching us,” Sates said.

Seventeen years old in 1975, Sates recounted the start of the Cham uprising in Svay Khleang, when “Qurans were collected and burned”.

Along with other imposed restrictions on Cham, the uprising’s trigger was that “all hakims [elders] were gathered and sent away. Intellectuals and professors were arrested, and for this reason there was rebellion in Svay Khleang.”

Later, Sates was assigned to work along the riverbanks and witnessed floating corpses, “even children who were tied up”.

“The corpses did not flow with the current, they flowed in circles . . . as if the souls of the dead did not want to go away” she added.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all