THE HAUNTING NIGHTMARE
During Khmer New
Year in April 1975, I was a young 13 years old. It was an age too old to forget
and too young to deal with what I have witnessed and experienced in Cambodia’s
recent bitter history. Exactly twenty-five years later, during Khmer New Year
2000, I found myself sitting on the top floor of the Popular Guesthouse in my
old neighborhood and reliving the old memories once agin. From the top of this
popular backpacker’s establishment, which sat just across from Siem Reap River
and my old home site, I reflected on what had happened to my beloved birthplace,
my people, my family, and myself. I suppose I was attempting to understand and
make some sense of tragic events that had occured here in the past 25 years.
Twenty-five years may seem to be a long, long time, but it was just “yesterday”
for me personally. The memories of the days gone by are still fresh in my mind.
The world, in
general, now knows what had happened to Cambodia since April 17, 1975. Most
notably, the world now knows about the Khmer Rouge reign of terrors and the
Killing Field that followed. It was a nightmare that I would rather forget
completely. Unfortunately, it was not possible for me to forget this tragic past
in Cambodia’s history and my own. It is part of me, the nightmare, like it or
not. The Khmer Rouge was back in the news again after 25 years. Perhaps justice
(not revenge) for my murdered family members and for my own suffering is near as
the United Nations and the Royal Government of Cambodia were negotiating for a
tribunal of the last surviving Khmer Rouge leadership, the mass murderers of
more than three millions. I am still hopeful for justice because vengeance can
be very bitter, I know.
I am not certain
why I wanted to be in Siem Reap again at this specific time. Perhaps it was the
25th anniversary of the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge that drove me here.
Perhaps it was the great ancient city, which was a good home to me once during
my early childhood. Perhaps it was the “stoic” smile of the simple people of
Siem Reap that drove me back here again. Perhaps I was in Siem Reap to reflect
on the good and bad memories from my youth, to heal and reconcile. Whatever the
reason, I knew that I needed to be back at my birthplace.
New Year 2000 came
and went with great fanfares and festivities. People from big and small villages
in Cambodia (and around the world) came to take part in the year’s biggest
celebration. Traditional games were played and crowds of people were celebrating
all three days and nights to welcome the New Year’s Angels. It was absolutely
wonderful, just as I had remebered it was during the old days. It was a
tradition that Khmer Rouge tried and failed miserably to take away from these
spirited Khmer people during their mad reign. The Khmer still know how to
celebrate and live, in both good times and bad times, regardless.
April 17th, the
25th anniversay of the Khmer Rouge victory, came right after Khmer New Year
without any noticeable fanfare. The Khmer people have had enough and they would
rather forget about the Khmer Rouge even if it continues to haunt them. I sat
alone on a concrete bench, holding on to my cold drink and reflecting about my
past. I took a long look at my old home site across the Siem Reap River, which
is now occupied by distant relatives, and two teardrops rolled down my cheeks.
It was very difficult to hold back my tears; no matter how hard I tried.
Emotions often run high whenever I am in Siem Reap. This time there was no
My old home site
was the last place where good memories still exist in my cluttered mind during
New Year in April 1975. It was a time when all my family members and my youth
were still in tack. I wanted to again relive the good memories before the Khmer
Rouge guerrilas, clad in their black pajama uniforms and Ho Chi Minh sandals,
walked into Siem Reap with their AK-47s and B-40 rocket-propelled grenades in
1975. I had to dig deep into my shattered memory bank to be able to go back in
time for just a moment. Soon I was back to the old world I left far, far behind for a new
life in America. I am still very much of a lost Khmer generation during the day,
as I learned, and the Khmer Rouge nightmare still haunts in my dreams during the
nightmare came once again in my deep sleep during the night of April 17, 2000. I
clearly saw Pol Pot and a few others, clad in their infamous black pajama
uniform, walked toward me. Pol Pot has an American made Colt-45 in his right
hand. He was the leader of the pack. He was waving, showing his gun around, but
somehow he did not make an attempt to fire a shot as I expected. I instinctively
ducked behind a tree for cover, hoping to avoid being seen. Unfortunately, my
eyes and his met and locked in. I was absolutely terrified. Pol Pot came closer
and closer, showing his agressiveness and anger. He continued to wave his
Colt-45, but for some reason he did not fire.
“Come on, get it
over with!” Pol Pot clearly yelled to me, while he lowered his weapon.
“What do you want
from me?”I wasn’t sure what to do and hesitated for a moment.
“Go ahead, finish
me off. Get your revenge. Kill me!”
He leaned his head forward toward me.
I grabbed Pol
Pot’s head and did my best to choke his neck with my right arm with all my
strength. I was ready to kill Pol Pot who appeared very much alive, if not well.
I could hear the man was choking and dying, but the smile on his face was
wicked. So evil was the smile for a dying man that I was wondering why Pol Pot
was so eager for me to kill him. The more I choked and tried to kill Pol Pot the
more he smiled at me with a sense of satisfaction. He was mocking me. It was
like he was saying “Oh yeah, that is good. Do it! Do it! Do it now!”
I ended up
releasing Pol Pot from my death grip. I do not want to be a killer of this old
man-even if he was Pol Pot, the murderer of my family members and millions
others. I do not want to be like Pol Pot, a cold-blooded murderer. Killing
another human being was not in my nature. I am not a killer like Pol Pot was, no
matter how much I hate and fear the evil Khmer Rouge leader.
“Please, you have
to kill me! You have to do it. You must kill me so that I may be released, “Pol
Pot was pleading with me now. I suddenly realized clearly what Pol Pot was
really after. He wanted me, one of his victims, to kill him so that he may be
released from burning hell. Pol Pot has to allow the more than 3 millions of his
victims to take revenge on himself so that he can escape burning hell where he
is currently residing.
“No! I do not want
to go to hell with you by killing you. I refuse to take revenge on you,” I told
Pol Pot bluntly.
“Please, you have
to do it. You can help save me from more suffering. Please help me, I beg of
you! Just kill me! Pol Pot was so pathetic as he handed me his Colt-45 pistol.
I just ignored the
old man’s sorrowful plea for mercy and turned my face away from the sorrowful
old man. When I looked back at Pol Pot’s agonizing scream, his pistol was
melting in his hand. His image faded away, but his agony continued. I was no
longer fearful of the Khmer Rouge leader who was no more than a paper tiger at
that moment. I felt a sense of relief knowing the fact that Pol Pot, my
boogieman and my nightmare, was still burning in hell where he belongs for the
next three million lifetimes or more.
I woke up from the
realistic dream shaking and sweating profusely. My back was flat against the
wall. I was still scared. It was so very real. I can still remember every detail
as though the nightmare was actually happening in real life. It was 2 AM in the
morning and sleep would not return to me until the following night.
This much I know:
Pol Pot and the other dead Khmer Rouge are now suffering severely in burning
hell for every single Khmer life they had destroyed during their regin of
terror. They will be there for millions of lifetimes yet to come, one lifetime
for every life they took.I felt avenged knowing this simple fact. Other Khmer
Rouge, such as Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ta Mok, Duch, Ke Pauk, and a
few hundreds other Khmer Rouge leaders and commanders, can still redeem
themselves before they cross over from this world to the next. They can still
beg for mercy and forgiveness from their victims, while they are still alive in
this world. They must do it now. Once they have crossed over to the other world
(as Pol Pot, Son Sen, and Yun Yat did), it will be very difficult, if not
impossible, for them to redeem themselves. Now is the time for the aging Khmer
Rouge to make the wrong that they did into right. Come out with the truth and
beg the Khmer people for forgiveness now so that these Khmer Rouge don’t have to
burn in hell as long as Pol Pot, Son Sen, Yun Yat, and a few others. All of them
are now suffering in burning hell for their past evil deeds. They all have to
pay sooner or later.
Personally, I am
not even sure how these surviving Khmer Rouge, whose hands are still stained
with innocent people’s blood, can live with themselves after knowing full well
that what they did was pure evil, very wrong, and inhumane. This bunch of
cowards shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind the “national reconciliation” any
longer. They must come out with the truth now before it is too late for them.
Pol Pot found out about this the hard way and his victims cannot release him
from the millions of lifetimes in burning hell. Only the surviving Khmer Rouge
can save their own souls, if not their lives in this world. Come out with the
truth and beg for forgiveness from the Khmer people now! The Khmer people cannot
forgive them until they admit that what they did to their own kind was very