tribunal

Four Quesitons for Sophoan Rath

Sophoan Rath. Photo by Dawn Araujo.

Bio: Tour guide in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime

1. Tell me about the day the Khmer Rouge came to your town.
When the Khmer Rouge came—Thursday, April 17, 1975—I was living in Wat Botum Vatdei monastery in Phnom Penh. Khmer Rouge soldiers with dirty black uniforms, guns, grenades, and shooting fire rushed to force the innocent people to move out of the city. The monk who was taking care of me was sent to his camp, and I was sent to the children’s camp. I did not have any family to live with. No mother, no father, no sisters, no brothers were with me. With a few hundred other 11-, 12-, and 13-year-olds, all boys, we lived like animals or slaves. Working in the rice field, hungry. Diarrhea, headache, malaria—I carried them with me.

The worst part was when soldiers came to the camp to investigate the background of each child. I was brought to the education center and interrogated. From that day I was frightened about what was going to happen to me. I lived in the children’s camp from 1975 to 1979. I lost four brothers during that regime and hundreds of relatives.

2. Do you think it is important for people to visit the scenes of the atrocities?
Of course, it is important for people to visit the killing fields. But today, the area becomes a political area, for a political purpose. The innocent in the country of Cambodia know and learn by life’s experiences a lot about the Khmer Rouge already—but the Khmer Rouge in power today want people to forget. Otherwise we will go to war again. How can we decide? What can we do?

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