Friday 6 July 2012

Book spotlights life for children under Khmer Rouge rule

Friday, 06 July 2012
Chhay Channyda

“One day, two boys caught a cat and banged its head to a tree trunk. They then set it on fire and tore the meat to eat by sharing with me, but this was to be a secret, otherwise we would be accused of being thieves . . . We looked like vampires eating such things,” journalist Chhay Sophal recounts in his book Mom & Angkar’s Kid, which was launched yesterday.

Sophal was 12 when Phnom Penh was was evacuated and he was sent to live in the Khmer Rouge’s child mobile unit.

His book intertwines his memoirs with interviews and research of the regime.

“I made the book’s title Mom & Angkar’s Kid because in that period, they trained us to hate our parents,” the former Reuters reporter said.

He describes an enduring guilt for “being so crazy to scorn [my parents] lives during the Khmer Rouge regime and saying that ‘I will smash them if they do something wrong for the revolutionary Angkar’”.

“I want to show the next generation about the children’s rights violations and abuse during Democratic Kampuchea,” Sophal, who is not participating in the Khmer Rouge tribunal, said.

“If there had been no January 7 [overthrow of the Khmer Rouge], I would have had an idea to smash my mom, because I was absorbed into Angkar’s ideology,” he said.

The book is fully financed by Minister for Information Khieu Kanharith.

Adhoc’s KRT Justice Program co-ordinator Latt Ky said that the Khmer Rouge’s treatment of children was akin to complete indoctrination.

“Kids were pulled out of school and all their education was political education,” Ky said. “They don’t really understand their actions and even when Angkar asks the child to kill his father and mother, the child sees no choice.”

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