Witness recounts Khmer Rouge cannibalism
An ethnic Muslim former prisoner of the Khmer Rouge regime today told a court that he was forced to witness the execution of a woman whose liver was then removed and cooked in front of him.
Meu Peou gave the harrowing testimony at the genocide hearing of “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, 89, and the former head of state Khieu Samphan, 84.
The trial of the top regime leaders focuses on the genocide of ethnic Vietnamese and Muslim minorities including the Cham.
Meu Peou openly wept as he described how he was just a boy when he was detained in western Pursat province accused of betraying the hardline communist cadres by stealing rice.
At the detention camp he witnessed a woman being killed, he said, giving the court graphic details of her brutal murder.
“She was asked to take off her clothes and her body was cut open. There was blood everywhere… her liver was taken out and was cooked for a meal,” he recounted, through a court translator.
Up to two million Cambodians died under Khmer Rouge rule from 1975-1979, including an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 Cham Muslims and 20,000 Vietnamese.
Until this trial, the treatment of the two minority groups has rarely been discussed.
Meu Peou said he lost 17 relatives during the murderous rule of the hardline regime, including his father who starved to death after he refused to eat pork.
“I had to force myself to eat pork so I could survive,” Meu Peou said, adding Muslims were often forcibly dispersed from their villages.
Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan have already been handed life sentences in a previous trial that focused on the regime’s forced evacuation of Phnom Penh into rural labor camps and murders at an execution site.
Cannibalism by Khmer Rouge soldiers has previously been described by other witnesses who testified at the court, including of cadres eating the gall bladders of executed prisoners after drying them in the sun.
While cannibalism was not widespread, the regime’s leadership encouraged a searing hatred among its foot soldiers of those seen to be class enemies that led at times to particularly sadistic violence.
Historians have offered different reasons for cannibalism, from the general climate of excessive regime violence, to superstitious beliefs about acquiring an enemy’s power through the consumption of their organs to hunger and desperation within the Khmer Rouge’s ranks.
The Khmer Rouge regime dismantled modern society in Cambodia in their quest for an agrarian Marxist utopia.
Many key leaders have died without facing justice, including “Brother Number One” Pol Pot who died in 1998.