Over the last weekend, I received as my guest house, a couple from Singapore whom I had befriended many years ago, and of whom I had been in constant touch. The husband, Yahya is a retired officer of the Singpore Police Force, and had served in Cambodia during the period of the United Nations Transitional Authority (UNTAC) in 1993. The spouse, Imah on the other hand was a staff of a Malaysian company based in Singapore.
After dinner, we talked about old times, and the subject that touched me most was when Yahya started talking about Cambodia. Both of us were in Cambodia at about the same time, but with us serving in different provinces; me, the Malaysian Army contingent commander in the province of Battambang, and Yahya, the UN Police Commander in the province of Siem Reap.
Yahya then started recalling the massacre of innocent ethnic Vietnamese in the great Tonle Sap, perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge in March 1993. Coincidently, I had also recorded this heinous crime in a book that I wrote in 2004.
I would like to touch a bit regarding this incident for the benefit of my readers, many of whom may not have been aware that the brutalities perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge on the Cambodian people in the 70’s, was still prevalent up till the time, the UN peacekeeping forces was in Cambodia beginning November 1991 until early 1994.
The massacre which occurred in March 1993 in a floating village in the Tonle Sap, in the province of Siem Reap was a scene of brutal savagery that killed 34 innocent ethnic Vietnamese, at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Shooting at the heads of the victims, chopping part of the bodies, and leaving it to rot, was a typical trademark of the Khmer Rouge.
The perpetrators knew no mercy. Babies after being shot were thrown into the lake. Women and old folks were shot at close range and butchered.
The floating village which had a population of approximately 1,200 ethnic Vietnamese were mainly fisherman. The Khmer Rouge had a long standing hatred for the Vietnamese, whom they accused of having aided Heng Samrin, to oust them from power in the 1979 Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia.
Yahya related to me his ordeal in carrying out the investigation on the massacre. It wasn’t a sight that one would like to witness, and to be counting dead bodies, had a traumatic effect on him. The incident shook the UN fraternity in Cambodia, and arresting the perpetrators wasn’t an easy feat. In fact, I knew of no one who had been arrested for the crime committed by the Khmer Rouge. The reason is simply that there were no willing witnesses, for if there were any, they will be dead themselves.
I revisited Cambodia last in 2005. It is back to normalcy, and the sights of ill discipline soldiers roaming the streets are no more. Business is thriving. The roads in the city are once again crowded with cars, lorries, bicycles, and motorcycles, but the road discipline of its riders/drivers remains the same.