Meas Sarin 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 killed.

Meas Sarin 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.

Question: What’s your name?

Answer: I am known as Ken. My real name is Meas Sarin.

Question: How old are you ?

Answer: I will be sixty next month.

Question: Where did you live in the Pol Pot time?

Answer: In Phnom Penh.

Question: What 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?

Answer: Cousin. 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.

Question: Why?

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 Phnom Penh?

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 identified.

Question: Besides the letter that Tiv Ol sent to you in 1975, were there any other letters sent to you?

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?

Answer: Phnom 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.

Question: Any superiors of higher rank?

Answer: No.

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.

Question: Sorry 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 have.

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, etc.

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].

Question: What 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.

Question: At 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 regime?

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).

Question: Thank you.

This interview was conducted on March 8, 2000.





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Ten Years of Independently Searching for the Truth: 1997-2007


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