Haunting Souls







Kosal Phat


At mid-night of July 24, 2000, Patriarch Keo Kosal and two other monks at Ka Koh temple “saw” a shocking phenomenon of hundreds of Khmer Rouge victims walking out of the grave site towards the nearby main temple, the former Khmer Rouge prison. Reverend Kosal believed, by digging accidentally into one of hundreds of mass graves, that he has opened the home of the Khmer Rouge victims whose souls were wandering and were asking him to do something for them.


The Khmer Rouge converted Ka Koh temple into a Security Office 08 and a prison in 1973 and operated this prison up to the fall of the DK regime in 1979. This prison was in District 56, Region 33, Southwest Zone. Over 5000 people were estimated to have been killed at this prison. Reverend Kosal, whose father was also killed at Ka Koh prison, said, “I saw hundreds of the dead walking, groaning in pain toward the temple... looking like they are seeking their vengeance....” He explained, while looking at some emerging bones in the pit, that “The souls of the dead from diseases are at rest, but the souls of those who were tortured and chopped to death without knowing their mistakes are restless, thus becoming the angry souls wondering around....” It is merely superstitious to many of us, but one of the few survivors from this prison has similarly lived in an annoying puzzle as raised by the Reverend Kosal when referring to the haunting souls. He is always wondering why he was tortured unjustly and thousands of those pitiful and innocent people were cruelly hacked to death.


Mr. Choch, aged 68, one of the six Base People arrested and sent from the village to Ka Koh prison said, “I was intentionally accused by the village chief of being New People serving the Lon Nol regime. During the first seven-day interrogation at Ka Koh prison, he was severely beaten several times a day.” After his real class status was revealed, I gained trust from the Khmer Rouge security group led by Comrade Puth and his deputy Comrade Sruoy. Choch did whatever he was told to do in the prison up to 1979 for his survival. At present, Choch himself lived life as a handicapped person as a consequence of the Khmer Rouge beating. The worst thing he saw at Ka Koh prison was a large-scale killing in 1978.


He said, “I saw Comrade Chim, District Chief (of District 56, Region 33, Northwest Zone) rode her red CL-brand motorbike to the prison on the day he saw the mass execution. She asked to see the prisoner lists on a small desk about 20 meters away from the pits, where Comrade Puth, Security Chief, and his deputy were sitting. Then without examining, she kept drawing red lines across names in the list as thick as a book and marked a “x” sign at the end of each name, page after page, and all red. Then she whisked away and Comrade Puth ordered his ten men to begin to bring about 30 people each time and asked their victims’ names before they were blindfolded, their arms tied to the back, and walked to the gravesites. The victims were then made kneel around the pits, bending their head over the pit just waiting for the full-force blows from the Khmer Rouge killers. I saw people in convulsion before death. Not only their parents, but also very young children were killed. I watched the event with my body shaking. The Khmer Rouge security men just kicked the dead bodies into the pits.”


To anyone like Choch, it is clear that village chiefs made their lists of their perceived Angkar enemies and send them up to Comrade Chim, District chief, who later gave the red marks “x” as “order-to-kill” to Comrade Puth, Security Chief to slay thousands of people.


Reverend Keo Kosal said, “He will give a proper religious ceremony for the remains after washing to appease the souls of the victims....” But that does not seem an acceptable answer to Choch and Cambodian people. Choch said, “...I really want to know who else above Comrade Chim were behind the killing.” Had Ta Mok, then Secretary of Southwest Zone, ordered Comrade Chim to kill thousands of people at Ka Koh prison during the DK regime?








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