LEARNS OF HER COUSIN’S FATE THROUGH ‘SEARCHING FOR THE TRUTH
Kosal Phat and Sophearith Choung
In Issue Number
One we published the “confession” of Tiv Mei, a younger brother of Tiv Ol, who
was arrested, tortured and killed by the Khmer Rouge on the grounds of having
been a “Free Khmer, CIA, and a traitorous element in the party rank” in the
Eastern Zone (Document File D00049, entitled “Biography of comrade Tiv Ol known
as Penh”). The confession document is 103 pages long, and was written from July
14 to September 3, 1977 at Office S-21, now known as “Toul Sleng”. Tiv Mei met
the same fate as his brother Tiv Ol. Tiv Mei stated in his “confession”
(Document File J00642): “On the evening of May 11, 1977, I asked for permission
from a unit chief to bring soaked stitched-palm leaves to cover my house. At
about 4 PM, while I was preparing the leaves to put in a cart, a cooperative
chief accompanied by several unknown people told me that Angkar was planning to
get me.” Thereafter Tiv Mei was sent to Office S-21 and tortured into confessing
on September 18, 1977. He was interrogated by comrade Oeun and subsequently
received one of the many copies of “The Truth” distributed in all districts,
populated areas, and cities of the country, and was very moved after reading the
confession of Tiv Mei, who was her cousin. She then called the Documentation
Center of Cambodia confirming her relationship with Tiv Mei, and briefly
recounting the story of Tiv Mei, who had been a worker in a cooperative at Kor
Village, Ta Keo Sub-district, Kor District, Kampong Cham Province. Although the
day of our interview was Women’s Day, a national holiday, Meas Sarin
enthusiastically recounted the following story.
Answer: I am known
as Ken. My real name is Meas Sarin.
Question: How old
are you ?
Answer: I will be
sixty next month.
did you live in the Pol Pot time?
Answer: In Phnom
precinct number, and from what year?
Answer: In 1958 I
lived in Sangkat Phsa Depo. Then I sold that house and bought another one in
Russei Keo, next-door to a gas station. I lived there up until 1975.
Question: What is
the relationship between you and Tiv Mei?
His mother and my mother are siblings. During the evacuation, we were separated
one after another. We didn’t stay together. Later we met each other. But, Tiv
Mei’s mother hated me so much.
Answer: Tiv Ol’s
family hated me because she (Tiv Ol’s mother, who is Tiv Mei’s elder sister)
always spoke in the revolutionary style “comrade”.
Question: Did the
Khmer Rouge know that you and Tiv Mei were relatives of Tiv Ol, who worked in
Answer: They new,
but didn’t pay much attention, even though Tiv Mei’s mother-in-laws, and other
relatives had also been taken away. Tiv Mei, his elder sister and
brother-in-law, along with a house servant, had also been taken away. During
meetings it was always said, “Dig out grass, dig all its roots”. Once a “new
person’s” son was killed. Later, his elder brother, aged 8, was also killed and
thrown away into a bamboo thicket, where no one dared go in to retrieve the
corpse for burial. Their mother dared not cry out openly for fear of being
the letter that Tiv Ol sent to you in 1975, were there any other letters sent to
Answer: No, I
received only one letter asking me to steel myself and informing me that he had
no time to meet me, as he was working in Phnom Penh. During the time of
evacuation, I seemed to become crazy when I lost my husband. I was with my
children. My husband told me that he was going to look after our house. He took
this way, I took that way, and so we were separated from each other. I was
always asking people to help me find my husband.
Question: Did they
arrest Tiv Mei’s wife and children?
Answer: Tiv Mei
was taken first. Then in late 1977 or 1978, his wife was sent away. Tive Mei and
his wife were not arrested outright but tricked. People were happy with music via loud speakers, but didn’t know
they were about to be killed. All songs were revolutionary songs. Then we were
gathered on the premises of Modom School surrounded by guards. We had enough to
eat, but my family members were alerted to the executions as people were
slaughtered one by one.
Question: When you
received the magazine “Searching for the truth”, did it reflect the truth as you
have just related it?
Answer: After I
finished reading it, I passed it around for others to read, including my younger
brothers, who live with my mother in the house over there. Afterwards, the whole
family sat down and sobbed. I want to know who were the leaders of the country.
They must have been foreigners, understand? If they were Khmer, how could they
kill their own people? For whom would the land be reserved? I don’t understand.
It is common to kill politicians, but why were those who were not involved in
politics also killed? The Khmer Rouge assigned ignorant people to control us.
Some didn’t know how to write Khmer, but they were very familiar with the
expression, keu tha daembei. Then they took people away to be killed. Doesn’t
the world require educated people? Why did they slaughter people?
Question: Do you
want Khmer Rouge to answer these questions?
Answer: Who are
they? Why did they kill people. For whom did they intend to reserve the land?
They were all Khmer. They should not kill their own people. A few days ago I
went to Kampong Cham Province in search of bones of my younger siblings and
aunts who were believed to have been killed in the Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei
Mountains. I asked local villagers where people had been taken to be killed in
the Pol Pot time. They told me that the killings pits were in two lines around a
pond. Each of the pits was fifty square meters and five or ten meters wide. The
local villagers told me that at one time there had been children crying and
laughing under the trees, but in the evening, those sounds were not heard
anymore. I was told there was a deep well full of corpses.
Question: What is
it called? In which part of the mountains is the well located?
Pros, Phnom Srei. I just returned from the site last week. Along the way, there
was a path leading to Phnom Srei. At the execution site, there is a stupa in
which skulls are displayed. The skulls on display had not been taken from the
pits, but had been collected from places where dogs had unearthed them. The rest
remain buried. It will be not be so hard to show the international community. We
need only bring a tractor to excavate the killing pits, then the evidence will
be uncovered. Bones will be piled up like a mountain. The villagers told me that
when the corpses were swelling, they were riddled with worms.
Question: How many
of your relatives were killed?
Answer: Three of
four of my siblings were killed, to say nothing about my other relatives.
Question: Do you
remember the names of some Khmer Rouge leaders?
Answer: I can only
remember...comrade Nem, the district chief.
superiors of higher rank?
Question: At that
time, did you ever hear of Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea or Ke Pauk?
Answer: I only
heard. I never saw their faces. I dared not look at the contemptible Sangkat
chief, village chief, and other chiefs. I just speeded up our work, carrying
earth. One day, I was out replanting rice seedlings in the rice fields close to
their detention center. Some teachers, both male and female, were tied up and
walking. When they saw crabs or frogs, they put them into their mouths like
witches. They had not enough to eat. People were forced to work until they were
sick. When they were sick, they hung onto other people’s shoulders in order to
continue working. I witnessed this with my own eyes. When there was a bell at
the end of the working hour, they [the Khmer Rouge] took long-handled knives to
beat the heads of victims like coconuts. No one dared cry out, but smiled.
“Don’t cry, or you will be killed,” the Khmer Rouge warned. The victims were
heavily beaten until they bled, and were asked whether they hurt or not. It
didn’t matter what the answer was, the Khmer Rouge would add more and more
blows. When I was replanting rice seedlings, I saw two security guards carrying
a body without clothes. The corpse was emaciated and was folded in rubber
and zinc sheets. The guards buried
the corpse on a hill called Tuol Krasaing, where many other bodies were buried.
When the rains came, we watched the worms appear, and the water turned blue and
shiny with human grease. During transplantation, I always trembled for fear of
the worms. I would only glance at the site, where about six or seven people were
killed every day.
for interrupting you. I just want to turn back to the Tiv Mei case. What time
was he taken away?
Answer: It might
have been after lunch. It was in the dry season, when people usually dry their
palm leaves. After lunch we prepared the leaves and put them into a cart. We had
just finished half of our work.
Question: Did you
know the reason for his arrest?
Answer: It was
normal to take people away under the pretext of ‘training policy’. To train
meant to kill. He never returned. I had assumed that he was detained in that
place. But upon learning this news from you, I realize that Tiv Ol died a long
time before the events on the hill.
Question: What do
you think the word ‘justice’ means?
Answer: I don’t
know. I don’t understand. I don’t know why they committed such crimes.
Question: Have you
ever recorded the details of your experience for your children?
Answer: Yes, I
Question: In your
view, do you think the stories should be preserved for the younger generations,
or be forgotten?
Answer: No. It is
impossible to forget the past. The current regime is acceptable to us as we have
enough food to eat and enough medicine to treat illnesses. At that time, when I was
sick, I was given the kind of medicine called Thnam Ach Tun Say (rabbit
excrement tablets) to cure a variety of illnesses, such as diarrhea, fever,
Question: As a
victim, what do you think of the establishment of a Khmer Rouge tribunal?
Answer: I really
want to have a tribunal established and want to see them sentenced to death like
Preap In, whose punishment was shown in all cinemas [editor’s note: an incident
under the Sihanouk regime].
kind of a tribunal will best achieve justice, national or international?
Answer: I want to
have an international tribunal, as it will be comprised of foreigners, who may
find a better justice than the existing Cambodian courts, which always release
robbers. This is just my prediction.
present, many Cambodian families are talking about their lost relatives, while
others are searching for their relatives who disappeared under the Pol Pot
regime. What are your feelings about what happened to your family under that
Answer: It hurt
me. I was very angry when I saw people, including my younger siblings and
nephew, being taken to be killed. I hadn’t known how they were killed. My
younger siblings cried at the edge of the killing pits, and it was very painful.
During Phchum Ben festival, we feel the pain most and pray for our lost
relatives. But we don’t know what to do, and must wait for a settlement on the
basis of law. It’s up to the international legal authorities to make judgment
(Meas Sarin, now speaking in tears).
interview was conducted on March 8, 2000.