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Survivor of Cham massacre testifies

Witness Ahmad Sofiyah appears before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan yesterday in Phnom Penh. ECCC
Witness Ahmad Sofiyah appears before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan yesterday in Phnom Penh. ECCC

Survivor of Cham massacre testifies

Witness Ahmad Sofiyah, also known as “Mad So”, recounted in chilling detail the detention and execution of some 20 ethnic Cham women in Kampong Cham’s Kroch Chhmar district before the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.

“After the Khmer Rouge entered the area, they called all the Cham people to come out of their houses and line up along the road,” So recalled, saying she was about 14 years old at the time.

Following the takeover, the predominantly Muslim ethnic minority were forced to abandon their language and take on the black uniforms of the regime.

“We were ordered to cut our hair short, and our religious practices were abolished,” So said.

Thereafter, So was separated from her family – most of whom would die during the regime – and assigned to a mobile work unit of about 30 other Cham women. However, she said yesterday, the regime had other intentions for Cham residents.

“We were divided up in a male group and a female group; my parents were gathered up to be killed . . . There was a plan to kill us all,” she said.

The day after the men were taken away, So and her group of workers – which included former tribunal witness No Sates – were sent to Trea village.

“We were told to go up to that house, then they closed the windows and the door and we, about 30 of us, were detained in that house,” she said.

According to So, about a dozen armed cadres were guarding the structure, and as her group approached, they were sharpening their knives and taunting the prisoners, saying, “Tonight we have a lot of big pigs so we need to sharpen our knives.”

Once detained inside, So continued, the women were tied up with pieces of cloth and interrogated about whether they were Khmer, Cham or mixed.

“I gave the answer that I was Khmer to save my life,” she said, adding that the women were sorted based on their responses. The 20 who said they were Cham or mixed were taken outside, while So and about 10 others remained with her bound in darkness.

That night, So was able to see the killings through a 3-centimetre hole in one of the window boards.

“They ordered those people to stand close to the pits, and they were killed and fell down into the pits,” she said. “It was a full-moon night, so I could see and there were no trees blocking my view.”

Asked what she heard, So said, “I heard the screams ‘please don’t rape me’,” although she testified to not having witnessed any rapes occurring.

So said she went on to be married in a mass wedding at age 17 in 1978.

After the ceremony, she and her husband – also a Cham pretending to be Khmer – fled into the forest, where she rode out the last months of the regime, pregnant, before the invasion of the Vietnamese.

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