Cambodia voices: Pheap Mono
- 23 July 2010
- From the section Asia-Pacific
Pheap Mono, 42, is an NGO worker from Phnom Penh.
"I was eight years old when the Khmer Rouge came. We used to live in a village in Battambang province. Everyone was forced to leave the village. My father was sent away. I was sent to a big camp with my mum.
My mum had to work in the field during the day so we could only be together at night time. While she was away I had to collect cow dung together with other kids. They used it to make fertiliser.
My grandfather was a soldier during the Lon Nol government. He knew that the Khmer Rouge would kill him if they knew who he was, so he kept telling them he was a labourer. The Khmer Rouge soldiers were always suspicious because he was a big, tall, strong guy. But they didn't kill him - he worked very hard and was useful to them.
At one point I got taken away from my mum. I was sent, together with my grandmother and grandfather, to a different place. That was only a couple of weeks before the Vietnamese came and drove away the Khmer Rouge.
I can't remember the circumstances clearly. We were dropped off to a place with a hut. My grandfather later told me that he was fully aware of their intention to kill us.
He didn't sleep, he was holding a knife, ready to fight. In the middle of the night I left the hut as I had to go to the toilet. I went to the bush and I noticed a really bad smell - there was a big open well and there were dead bodies in it. That's when I realised that they were planning to kill us.
The next day my grandmother talked to the Khmer Rouge soldiers. She was trying to convince them that her skills as a midwife could be useful to their commanders. My grandfather gave them some tobacco - that's how I think they let us be.
Then the Vietnamese army came. We started hearing the fighting getting closer and closer. The Khmer Rouge soldiers started retreating. They told us that we needed to run because if the Vietnamese caught us, they'd chop our heads off.
We were all running together - civilians and Khmer Rouge soldiers. Because I was very sick with diarrhoea, my grandparents were forced to stop.
The Vietnamese soldiers caught up with us. We couldn't understand each other other, but they were very nice to us. They took us to a safe area and gave us food.
I saw my mum a few months later after the Khmer Rouge surrendered. We returned to our village first and then came my mum.
My father never came back. To this day I don't know how he was killed. My mum said he was killed because he was a teacher and he had military training in Vietnam.
I am following every piece of news about this trial. I am happy that it is happening, but I am not too impressed with a verdict for Duch alone. He wasn't that senior. I want to see the other top commanders convicted. I want to see Nuon Chea convicted.
They killed our nation, they starved us, they deprived us of medication and education, they separated our families. Our life wasn't life for humans.
I want to know why. I want to hear the top commanders answer that question. I want to hear the real word: what was the reason behind what they did."