A civil party told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday that she saw 270 Cham women led away by Khmer Rouge cadre wielding AK-47s and knives after the women admitted they were Muslim.
No Satas, 67, said she was evacuated from her home village of Svay Khleang—which at the time was in Kompong Cham province—when an armed rebellion by local Cham was suppressed by the Khmer Rouge in 1975 as religious persecution intensified. After the crackdown, she was detained in a tobacco kiln, then moved to nearby Khsach Prachheh Leu and on to a dam worksite before being transferred to Trea village in 1977 as Southwest Zone cadre arrived in the area, she said.
Upon their arrival, 300 Cham women were lined up and questioned on their background, Ms. Satas said.
“Actually the questioning process happened at nighttime. They lit a torch above my face and said that I was a Vietnamese girl…but I insisted and protested I was a Khmer girl,” Ms. Satas said.
Despite continued scrutiny and surveillance—which included visits by the Khmer Rouge to her native village to ask locals about her background—the civil party said she managed to convince cadre that she was ethnically Khmer. However, she said the roughly 270 women who admitted that they were Cham Muslims were never seen again.
“They were asked if they were Cham and if their answer was yes, they were taken out of the house, and I saw people who carried…AK-47s and some were carrying knives. These armed people took the Cham people away and they disappeared,” she said.
While living in Trea village, Ms. Satas said she was ordered to work along the banks of the Mekong River, where she started spotting bodies—including those of East Zone cadre and children—in the water.
“I saw dead bodies floating in the river, and because the corpses got swollen the sacks [they were in] had broken and I could see the body parts and corpses,” Ms. Satas said.
“I actually recognized a man whose throat was slashed and floating in the river. Actually, the corpses did not flow with the current. It was flowing in a circle. It seemed like the souls of the dead did not want to go away,” the civil party said.
The morning session in Monday’s hearings of Case 002/02—in which Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are on trial for genocide—concluded the testimony of Him Man, who spoke of the ongoing psychological damage he suffers from his experiences during Democratic Kampuchea, including hearing family members crying out to Allah in the moments before cadre executed them.
“I have lost all my relatives, and sometimes I think it’s better for me to die rather than to live,” he said.