Cham Rebellion Survivor Tells Tribunal of Mental Health Issues

A survivor of the 1975 Cham rebellion in Svay Khleang village told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday that after the Pol Pot regime fell, there were times when she wanted to kill herself due to the losses she endured.

Testifying for a second day, civil party No Satas, 57, explained how Cham Muslims in Svay Khleang—which sits on the bank of the Mekong in what is now Tbong Khmum province—decided to rise up against the Khmer Rouge because 20 to 30 people were disappearing every night as the communists intensified their campaign against the group.

“People were arrested and put on horse carts and that usually happened at around 7 to 8 o’clock at night, and those who were arrested never returned,” Ms. Satas said.

“That was the root cause of the rebellion that took place in Svay Khleang. They were afraid that the arrests would continue and for that, they had no choice but to rebel…. They actually sharpened their knives and swords to counter attacks of the Khmer Rouge group,” she said.

Ms. Satas said the men in the village attacked the Khmer Rouge while the women looked after the children. The rebellion was swiftly crushed by heavily armed cadre, resulting in extensive casualties and arrests of Cham people, including Ms. Satas’ father, who she never saw again.

After her testimony, the civil party gave an extended “statement of suffering,” explaining the mental health problems she suffered upon returning to Svay Khleang, which she attributed to the loss of her parents and other relatives.

“I almost died during the regime but I made my determination to live on. If I were to die naturally, then that would be the happy ending for me. I didn’t want to be tied away and taken and killed,” Ms. Satas said.

“When I had looked at other families who had their relatives survive, I felt such pity on myself. Sometimes I had to sit down quietly and I wept—I looked like a crazy person at that time,” she said. “Sometimes I wanted to kill myself.”

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