Twenty-Five Years Later, The Haunting Continues
Oregon, USA — During Khmer New Year in April 1975, I was a young 13 years old. It was an age too old to forget and too young to deal with what I have witnessed and experienced in Cambodia?s recent bitter history. Exactly twenty-five years later, during Khmer New Year 2000, I found myself sitting on the top floor of the Popular Guesthouse in my old neighborhood and reliving the old memories once again. From the top of this popular backpacker?s establishment, which sat just across from Siem Reap River and my old home site, I reflected on what had happened to my beloved birthplace, my people, my family, and myself.
I suppose I was attempting to understand and make some sense of tragic events that had occurred here in the past 25 years. Twenty-five years may seem to be a long, long time, but it was just “yesterday” for me personally. The memories of the days gone by are still fresh in my mind. The world, in general, now knows what had happened to Cambodia since April 17, 1975. Most notably, the world now knows about the Khmer Rouge reign of terrors and the Killing Fields that followed. It was a nightmare that I would rather forget completely. Unfortunately, it was not possible for me to forget this tragic past in Cambodia?s history and my own. It is part of me, the nightmare, like it or not. The Khmer Rouge was back in the news again after 25 years. Perhaps justice (not revenge) for my murdered family members and for my own suffering is near as the United Nations and the Royal Government of Cambodia were negotiating for a tribunal of the last surviving Khmer Rouge leadership, the mass murderers of more than three millions. I am still hopeful for justice because vengeance can be very bitter, I know.
I am not certain why I wanted to be in Siem Reap again at this specific time. Perhaps it was the 25th anniversary of the falls of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge that drove me here. Perhaps it was the great ancient city, which was a good home to me once during my early childhood. Perhaps it was the “stoic” smile of the simple people of Siem Reap that drove me back here again. Perhaps I was in Siem Reap to reflect on the good and bad memories from my youth, to heal and to reconcile. Whatever the reason, I knew that I needed to be back at my birthplace.
New Year 2000 came and went with great fanfares and festivities. People from big and small villages in Cambodia (and around the world) came to take part in the year biggest celebration. Traditional games were played and crowds of people were celebrating all three days and nights to welcome the New Year?s Angels. It was absolutely wonderful, just as I had remembered as it was during the old days. It was a tradition that the Khmer Rouge have tried (and failed miserably) to take away from these spirited Khmer people during their mad reign. The Khmer still know how to celebrate and live, both in good time and bad time, regardless.
April 17th, the 25th anniversary of the Khmer Rouge victory, came right after Khmer New Year without any noticeable fanfare. The Khmer people have had enough and they would rather forget about the Khmer Rouge-even if it continued to haunt them. I sat alone on a concrete bench, holding on to my cold drink and reflecting about my past. I took a long look at my old home site across the Siem Reap River, which is now occupied by distance relatives, and two drops of tear rolled down my cheeks. It was very difficult to hold back my tear; no matter how hard I tried. Emotion often ran high whenever I am in Siem Reap. This time there was no exception.
My old home site was the last place where good memories still exist in my cluttered mind during New Year in April 1975. It was a time when all my family members and my youth were still in tack. I wanted to again relive the good memories before the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, clad in their black pajama uniform and Ho Chi Minh sandals, walked into Siem Reap with their AK-47s and B-40 rocket propelled grenades in 1975. I had to dig deep into my shattered memory bank to be able to go back in time for just a moment. Soon I was back to the old world I left far, far behind for a new life in America. I am still very much a lost Khmer generation during the day, as I learned, and the Khmer Rouge nightmare still haunted in my dream during the night.
The terrifying nightmare came once again in my deep sleep during the night of April 17, 2000. I clearly saw Pol Pot and a few others, clad in their infamous black pajama uniform, walked toward me. Pol Pot has an American made Colt-45 in his right hand. He was the leader of the pack. He was waving, showing his gun around, but somehow he did not make an attempt to fire a shot as expected. I instinctively ducked behind a tree for cover, hoping to avoid being seen. Unfortunately, my eyes and his met and locked in. I was absolutely terrified. Pol Pot came closer and closer, showing his aggressiveness and anger. He continued to wave his Cult-45, but for some reason he did not fire.
“Come on, get it over with!” Pol Pot clearly yelled to me, while he lowered his weapon.
“What do you want from me?” I wasn?t sure what to do and hesitated for a moment.
“Go ahead, finish me off. Get your revenge. Kill me!” He leaned his head forward out to me.
I grabbed Pol Pot?s head and did my best to choke his neck with my right arm with all my strength. I was ready to kill Pol Pot who appeared very much alive, if not well. I could hear the man was choking and dying, but the smile on his face was wicked. So evil was the smile for a dying man that I was wondering why Pol Pot was so eager for me to kill him. The more I choked and tried to kill Pol Pot the more he smiled at me with a sense of satisfaction. He was mocking me. It was like he was saying “Oh yeah, that is good. Do it! Do it! Do it now!”
I ended up release Pol Pot from my death grip. I do not want to be a killer of this old man–even if he was Pol Pot, the murder of my family members and millions others. I do not want to be like Pol Pot, a cold-blooded murderer. Killing another human being was not in my nature. I am not a killer like Pol Pot was, no matter how much I hate and fear the evil Khmer Rouge leader.
“Please, you have to kill me! You have to do it. You must kill me so that I may be released,” Pol Pot was pleading with me now.
I suddenly realized clearly what Pol Pot was really after. He wanted me, one of his victims, to kill him so that he may be released from burning hell. Pol Pot has to allow the more than 3 millions of his victims take revenge on himself so that he can escape burning hell where he is currently residing.
“No! I do not want to go to hell with you by killing you. I refuse to take revenge on you,” I told Pol Pot bluntly.
“Please, you have to do it. You can help saved me from more suffering. Please help me, I beg of you! Just kill me!” Pol Pot was so pathetic as he handed me his Colt-45 pistol.
I just ignored the old man sorrowful plea for mercy and turned my face away from the sorrowful old man. When I looked back at Pol Pot?s agonizing scream, his pistol was melting in his hand. His image faded away, but his agony continued. I was no longer fearful of the Khmer Rouge leader who was no more than a paper tiger at that moment. I felt a sense of relief knowing the fact that Pol Pot, my boogieman and my nightmare, was still burning in hell where he belongs for the next 3 millions lifetime or more.
I woke up from the realistic dream shaking and sweating profusely. My back was flat against the wall. I was still scared. It was so very real. I can still remember every detail as though the nightmare was actually happening in real life. It was 2 AM in the morning and sleep would not return to me until the following night.
This much I know: Pol Pot and other dead Khmer Rouge are now suffering severely in burning hell for every single Khmer life they had destroyed during their reign of terrors. They will be there for millions of lifetime yet to come, one lifetime for every life they took. I felt avenged knowing this simple fact. Other Khmer Rouge, such as Ieng Sary, Noun Chea, Kiev Samphan, Ta Mok, Duch, Ke Pauk, and a few hundreds other Khmer Rouge leaders and commanders, can still redeem themselves before they cross over from this world to the next. They can still beg for mercy and forgiveness from their victims, while they are still alive in this world. They must do it now. Once they crossed over to the other world (as Pol Pot, Son Sen, and Yun Yat did), it will be very difficult-if not impossible, for them to redeem themselves. Now is the time for the aging Khmer Rouge to make the wrong that they did into right. Come out with the truth and beg the Khmer people for forgiveness now so that these Khmer Rouge don?t have to burn in hell as long as Pol Pot, Son Sen, Yun Yat, and a few others. All of them are now suffering in burning hell for their past evil deeds. They all have to pay soon or later.
Personally, I am not even sure how these surviving Khmer Rouge, whose hands are still stained with innocent people?s blood, can live with themselves after knowing full well that what they did was pure evil, very wrong, and inhumane. These bunch of cowards don?t have to hide behind the “national reconciliation” any longer. They must come out with the truth now before it is too late for them. Pol Pot found out about this the hard way and his victims cannot release him from the millions of lifetime in burning hell. Only the surviving Khmer Rouge can save their own souls, if not their lives in this world. Come out with the truth and beg for forgiveness from the Khmer people now! The Khmer people can not forgive them until they admitted that what they did to their own kind was very wrong.