Watching an Execution
Told By Leung K. Roeun
Written by Chansoda Roeun
They called our commune to gather for a meeting, they said they wanted to teach us a lesson.
Do not betray Angkar.
Having lived under the Khmer Rouge for a year or so, we just do what they say. We’ve seen the horrors they’re capable of, and we have no strength to fight them since all of our energy is used for the work they make us do. A sea of black uniforms gather around and sit together quietly on the floor, no one questions, everyone is afraid.
What are they going to talk to us about?
We hear some orders being shouted out, in comes the khmer rouge cadres, pushing a man through to the front, wearing only filthy black pants, baring his almost skeletal torso, his gangly arms tied to the back by his elbows, with a short rope attached that is being pulled by another cadre, leashed like a dog.
Are they putting on a play? Then I realized it was our friend Jun who was tied up.
The cadres kick him down, and tell the audience, this is the enemy. Let this be a lesson for us all.
I look over at my husband, and my son, who is only 6 at this time, we don’t say anything. Jun’s parents were sitting a row in front of us, they watch silently. The khmer rouge cadres start their brainwashing rant, how great Angkar is, and how enemies of Angkar must be squashed.
Jun, defiantly, tied up in front of everyone, had no more fear in him, just anger. He yells at the soldiers, “You bastards, you crazy stupid bastards, why talk so much, just kill me!”
They beat him more and tell him to shut his mouth. Still standing, he spits at their face, angering the cadres even more. One of the cadres takes a club, and swings it from behind towards the back of Jun’s head. Jun sees the shadow come his way and ducks his head down quickly, causing the cadre holding his rope to fall forward, also embarrassing the soldier who missed with his swing. The scuffle turned in to a debacle when another young cadre quickly pulls out his knife to end it. With his knife in hand, the cadre leaps in the midst of the fight and thrusts the sharp blade into Jun’s chest, slides the blade down his belly, slicing him completely open.
In such a short amount of time, we were in disbelief this was happening. Jun grasped for his life, he tried to bring his arm forward to reach for his open wound, but the cadre behind him pulled his rope back. He stood there, arched back, belly up with blood pouring out, and slowly fell to his knees. The cadre then did something even more horrifying, he reached in to Jun’s open wound, and pulls out his insides and laughs victoriously. No mercy was shown to our friend.
I couldn’t watch, I wanted to reach out to my son and cover him from this gruesome act, but displays of affection in the open were not allowed, I shook my head towards him and gestured him not to watch. I wanted to cry out, in shock that this just happened in front of hundreds of people, and we were all helpless.
I see Jun’s parents, they sat there, frozen, as they watched their young son being brutally murdered in front of an audience, this is the regime we’re living under, and this wasn’t the worst thing we have seen or will see. No tears could be shed for him out in the open, no plea for his life would have stopped this; they would have killed us for having sympathy for the “enemy.” His body, losing life in a pool of blood, ferociously mutilated, and his family had to witness that, but could not go up and comfort their son in his last moments.
The cadres cry out viciously, “Let it be a lesson,” they say, “this is what happens to enemies of Angkar.”
The khmer rouge slogan: to spare you is no profit, to destroy you is no loss.
What was Jun’s crime? Like all of us, he didn’t want to be a slave to Angkar, and was planning an escape from this tyranny.