Today we walked at a good pace, though a festering blister on my foot got the best of me. Today, we were in a newly paved section of road with no shoulder. The entire walk today was in sand and gravel. It was like walking on a beach or in a sand box. My feet are hurting terribly now. Just yesterday I felt confident my son and I would be able to complete the Freedom Walk, but now it seems impossible. I am praying for God’s grace and strength. Here in a small village called Ansa Chombok we were greeted by a women who offered to make us lunch and let us rest in her home. She even allowed us to take a shower in her bathroom and gave us a bar of soap to use. She is not a wealthy woman, but full of compassion. Today, word of our walking in honor of Noit and the victims of the Khmer Rouge had preceded us. As we ate a wonderful meal prepared for us, two women shared their hearts with us. In a way, they vented their pain. Many tears were shed as I shared about my wife’s struggle and they shared their own as well.
They shared with us a few stories, in front of my 13 year old son, but I almost wanted him to hear them. If you are young and sensitive, you might just stop reading now.
They women described how they were ripped away from their families. Both, after surviving the Khmer Rouge lost four or five children to sickness and starvation. Both of them were divorced by their husbands who had multiple wives. They feel no love in their life. They just wanted to talk.
Again, like I have heard to so many times they said, “the young people don’t care what happened to us.” One lady said, “When I walked, near Pursat province I came into an open field which became known as ‘Kabal Tahien’ or ‘soldier’s heads’. Here I could not believe what I saw. Thousands, no tens of thousands, of heads were stuck onto bamboo poles around large pits which were full of bodies. The bodies were shriveled up, not swollen, because they were in the heat of the sun. The Khmer Rouge had called for a meeting of all able bodied men, who they wanted to recruit to be Khmer Rouge soldiers. As they gathered them, in a large field, suddenly explosions started ripping bodies apart. The Khmer Rouge had intentionally lured them in just to massacre them. After they blew them up, many still living, but wounded, they walked around and decapitated each one, putting their head on a stake surrounding the bodies.” She paused.
These were my people who did this, Khmer. Not foreigners. These were my people. These were my people. How could they do that?
Another lady added to her story. “Bodies were everywhere in those days. No one was honored. Even when my mother died hours after I last saw her I had begged the Khmer Rouge to let me go to her body. The Khmer Rouge leader screamed and cursed at me saying, ‘what do you want with a corpse? You want to join her? If you cry, you can join her right now.’”
She continued, “You know during that time, many people also died, not from starvation but from parties. Once a year during harvest they would give us a lot of food to eat; as much as we wanted. This was only for a few weeks a year. Yet, in this time more people died than those who starved. The Khmer Rouge knew eating too much would kill us as we were literally living on only a few grains of rice each day. They just laughed and let us have a party. After the party they would dump the bodies of thousands in the nearby fields. We were nothing to them, we had no value. These were our people.”
I know those images are horrible. These women were venting the pain that they have witnessed in their lives. I write them here, not to give you nightmares, but so that these women can know someone cares about them. That someone will pray for them. Unlike our custom in Cambodia of using terms of respect rather than names, I asked for their names so that you could pray for them by name: Om Heng (age 47) and Om Sarun (age 57). I pray that somehow a great and merciful God can give them healing in their heart, healing in their lives, healing in their families and healing in their minds.