Cambodia voices: Saing Soenthrith

Saing Soenthrith, 51, is a journalist who lives in Phnom Penh.

Saing Soenthrith Saing Soenthrith says he wants to know why the regime killed so many people

"After the Khmer Rouge came to Phnom Penh on 17 April 1975, they forced us to leave the city. My family was without any personal belongings.

Me, my three siblings and my parents were sent to Kandal province, Kandal Stung district, Siem Reap commune, Reay Dob village, about 25km (15 miles) south of Phnom Penh.

We had nothing to eat. My older sister exchanged her golden jewellery for rice and fish. My older brother had to go rat-hunting in the fields and trying to find wild potatoes in the forest.

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I saw so much evil and cruelty that can't be compared to anything else in the world”

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A year later we got separated from our parents. My sister was sent to a women's unit, my brother was sent to a young men's unit and I was sent to a mobile boys' unit.

We were living together, working together, eating together.

I had to work in rice fields and I had to make natural fertiliser using chopped leaves and cow dung. The goal was to increase rice production from three to five tons per hectare.

During our separation I only saw my sister once. She was skinny because she had been forced to work hard. She cried as she embraced and kissed me.

Later she was sent to prison in Sa'ang district, Kandal province. Twenty years later, I learnt from a fellow prisoner that she died there. She and my father were both killed.

'Indescribable'

I met my older brother twice during that period. I remember that I gave him dry eels to eat during our first meeting.

ID cards belonging to Saing Soenthrith's father and an aunt ID cards belonging to Saing Soenthrith's father and an aunt

The second time I saw him, he and a friend from his unit were walking together with a man with a black Khmer Rouge uniform holding a machete. He embraced me and whispered in my ear that we might not see each other again.

I lost all four members of my family. I was left on my own. Later, after the Khmer Rouge surrendered, I went to live and study with a monk for 13 years.

I can't describe my suffering - I was a young boy forced to work hard and kept hungry. I saw so much evil and cruelty that can't be compared with anything else in the world.

Those who survived lost loved ones - and their hope. Many were left with mental problems.

Punishment of the guilty ones is no longer important because many of the survivors have already died. Thirty years is too long to wait for justice.

I don't care about the punishment. What I care about is the truth.

I'd like to ask the top leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime why they killed so many, why they destroyed the country's administration system, who gave them orders, why they killed their own nation, why did they consider our nation as their enemy.

I want the answers to these questions."

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Khmer Rouge Trials

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