Cambodia voices: Kao Samreth
- 23 July 2010
- From the section Asia-Pacific
Kao Samreth, 51, is a tour guide at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.
"I was at high school when the Khmer Rouge came to town in April 1975. Phnom Penh residents were forced to leave the city almost straight away. We, residents of Siem Reap, were given two weeks.
During that time we had to stay at home: we weren't allowed to visit each other or go anywhere. Small groups of Khmer Rouge soldiers moved from house to house to interrogate people.
When they found out that someone had worked for the Lon Nol government (the government overthrown by the Khmer Rouge) they would ask them to leave the city. They told them which way to go - it was either east or north.
When they reached 15km (9 miles) to the east, they'd be stopped and killed. People who worked for the military, police or administration were particularly at risk.
My family was among the last ones to leave. We left on 3 May. I was 16. They didn't tell us where to go. My home village is on the east of Siem Reap, so we wanted to go there. But we learned from other people that if they knew that we wanted to go east, they'd tell us to go north. So we said we wanted to go north. They sent us to the east.
We also learnt that we had to wear as many clothes as possible, because they would take away everything we carried. We all wore more than three sets of clothes. We also put rice in our trousers. And then we went to our home village.
We walked for three days and three nights sleeping only for two hours a day before we reached our village. We were seven children with our parents. We were walking together with many other people. We only knew that we were going to the countryside. They told us that there'd be plenty of food.
They let us stay in our village for about two days. Then they sent us to the jungle 2km away. We had to cut trees and build a shelter. They gave us one week to do that. After that they sent the children to the camp. I was working on an irrigation system there together with my older brother.
One year later my brother committed suicide. He was not healthy. He got malaria and as he couldn't work the Khmer Rouge accused him of being lazy. They cut down his food and let him work on the toilet - he had to collect human waste to make fertiliser.
Another year later, the Khmer Rouge killed my father. He was a teacher and they killed anyone who was educated, even students from high school.
I continued working in the camp until 1979 when the Vietnamese came.
I don't care much about the verdict because Duch deserves what he'll get. I support the trial but I am not satisfied with the process - it took too long. What I want to get out of it is the real history.
Cambodian society is broken. It's very difficult to get the real history.
We, survivors know about the Khmer Rouge, but those who were born after 1975 - they find some of the stories hard to believe. Some of them still think Pol Pot killed some, but the Vietnamese killed more.
History is told in different way, depending on who's telling it. After the trial I expect a better history.
Right now I am at the memorial in Angkor Wat where the bones of the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime are kept. As a tour guide here, I tell my story almost every day to whoever wants to hear it."