I Met My Uncle Through His Confession







Sokha Irene


During my second year at Phnom Penh University, I worked as a volunteer at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, later becoming a part-time staff member there.  Through this work, I learned a great deal about the truth of this terrible period. Once I asked a researcher who was making a catalogue of confession documents whether I might find any clue about my missing uncle through the documents. I partly regretted having asked, because if the documents revealed that he had been killed by the regime, what would the news do to my aunt?  While she herself knows that it is unlikely that her husband survived the regime, I can see that every time she is told that her husband might still be alive, there are two things fighting against each other in her mind. One is the extremely small chance that those Khmer Rouge monsters left her beloved husband alive. The other is the love for her husband that still has a place in her heart, and gives her hope that he is still alive.  It is not easy to understand how Cambodian widows like my aunt must feel. Not only her husband’s life, but their entire world together was taken away. The year 1979 was a starting point of a new life, but unlike the new-born baby starting life surrounded by a loving and caring family, every Cambodian was born a second time into sorrow, with the loss of beloved people that left a big hole in their hearts. Many women came back as widows, left alone to bear the responsibilities of bringing up children.

I found the document written by him, my aunt’s husband. It is an 89-page confession that was written between December 13, 1978 and December 20, 1978. On the front page of the document there is a message addressed to the so-called “Angkar”, probably written by the Khmer Rouge cadre who was in charge of verifying the confession. At the end of the message there appears the signature of “Von”, who was an interrogator at Toul Sleng prison. According to the documents at DC-CAM, this person was responsible for interrogating the prisoners of Pourk Ti 3 of Krom Kdao  (“Team 3” of “Hot Group”).

The confession reminded me of the Toul Sleng brochure that shows how the prisoners were tortured until they said what Angkar wanted to hear. This memory shook my heart, to think of how the confession I was holding came to exist. It took me a long time to finish reading the confession. It was written by the uncle that I never met an in-law that the family is so proud to have as a part of us. I always wanted to meet him, but I never thought that I would. Finally, I met his “confession”, talking indirectly and unknowingly. The terrifying picture that I saw in the brochure kept coming into my mind as I was reading the confession. I then thought of the feelings of my aunt. The picture would be clearer and more horrible in her memory because she suffered under that regime herself. Her young and  innocent daughter was also killed by the Khmer Rouge regime, simply because the child wore glasses and was therefore accused of being intellectual. It is a very painful memory that my aunt has had to bear ever since.

Now it is time for justice. It is time to prove that Cambodians and the world value Cambodian lives as highly as the lives of others in other nations around the globe.

Even though the Khmer Rouge nightmare happened twenty years ago, the memories are still fresh in our hearts. My uncle’s innocent soul is still wandering, asking for justice.








Documentation Center of Cambodia

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


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