Reactions to the Khmer Rouge Trial Vary by Generation

Oun Yan (left), Hen Sophal (center) and Sopheaktra Saman (right) (KT Photo: Chor Sokunthea and Cecelia Marshall).

By Cecelia Marshall for the Khmer Times

PHNOM PENH, (Khmer Times) – A tray of scattered papaya and a mound of ripe oranges sit in front of Oun Yan, 76, at Boueng Keng Kak market.

Oun Yan, 76, sells fruit in one corner of the maze-like BKK Market, Thursday Aug. 7th. (KT Photo: Chor Sokunthea)

“The verdict may be guilty but my family is still gone,” Mrs. Yan said shifting her gaze. Mrs. Yan lived in the Kratie province jungle with her family during the Khmer Rouge reign.  Under rough conditions, she farmed in the wet season and dug canals in the dry season. She watched her children gradually starve to death.

Painter Hen Sophal, 57 is surrounded by his artwork in his gallery. (KT Photo: Cecelia Marshall)

Hen Sophal, 57, sits in his gallery meticulously painting a commissioned portrait along a bustling touristic street near the Royal Palace.

During the Khmer Rouge rule, Mr. Hen hid out in Prey Veng province, hoping to stay alive while about 20 of his relatives and friends disappeared.There was no rice and they were being worked like animals. Mr. Hen says he is pleased and supportive of the judge’s ruling today.

“Many people died because of [them],” he said. “I am just happy that angels helped me survive,” he added.

“Of course they were found guilty because they killed people,” said Sopheaktra Saman, 25, a conservationist at the Killing Fields. She stands in a Toul Sleng cell wearing a navy shirt that reads: “I support the KR Trials.”

Killing Fields Conservationist Sopheaktra Saman, 25, visits Toul Sleng for a project on Thursday, Aug. 7th. (KT Photo: Chor Sokunthea)

“I think it is good that the ECCC is finally bringing them to justice,” she said. “But, it doesn’t really matter since the convicted are old and a life sentence won’t be long.”

Though Ms. Saman was born after the Khmer Rouge were driven from power, she feels the effects today. Four relatives, including her aunt, uncle and older brother were killed in Kandal province during this time. Her brother, suffering extreme starvation, went to a nearby farm to take food but was killed.


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