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Sum Sras, Army Medic

I was ordained as a monk when I was 12 years old. But after a year, I resigned because I had very little knowledge of Buddhist teachings.

At the time of the coup d’etat against King Sihanouk, I was a village chief. I supervised more than 50 houses, although I was not allowed to collect taxes directly anymore. I also had control over 12 militiamen and led the patrols around the village.

In 1973, there was much chaos in our village. First, the house I had built in 1968 was destroyed by bombs, so I built a shed in front of the pagoda for us to live in. Then the Khmer Rouge soldiers moved in and destroyed much of the village. Many battles followed and the villagers began moving out.

I had to exchange much of my good-quality rice for rice of lesser quality in order to feed my eight children and did other things to earn a living. I was a farmer and I cooked for weddings, I also joined the Lon Nol army as a medic.

The Khmer Rouge soldiers evacuated all of my siblings to Battambang Province in 1975, but my family went to Kandal Stung District. I did not bring my soldier’s uniform with me; I buried it along with my gun on the grounds near the pagoda.

The Khmer Rouge asked about my biography every month. At first, I told them I was a farmer, a rice sack carrier, and a water carrier. But in 1977, I changed my answer and told them I had been a soldier.

My wife and children could not live with me; they were far away in mobile work brigades. I worked in the tree-sawing sector, and once a heavy log fell on my back. In the hospital, they gave me many injections. I stayed there for almost 24 days. During my stay, many of the patients disappeared. I asked a medical cadre about this, who told me that they had gone back to work. But later, my unit chief whispered to me that I should leave the hospital as soon as possible, or I would disappear like other patients. I think all of the were sent to be killed.

This is my nephew’s photo; it was taken in Lon Nol regime. He used to be a soldier; he and his wife, as well as many of his relatives, were killed by the Khmer Rouge. I felt very sorry for him because his mother died when he was just a year old, and his father had a hard time finding someone to nurse him. Two of my siblings died during the Khmer Rouge time, but all of my children survived.