Pursat: Ek Sophal, 73, is the 6th of 7 brothers and sisters from Kampong Tralach district, Kampong Chhnang province. Sophal is married to Sokren, 50, and has five children.
Sophal is currently living in Anlong Vea commune, Veal Veng district, Pursat province. Sophal shared his personal experiences since the Khmer Rouge took control of the country and to the countryside.
“As a child, I was in grade 6 at Peam School in Kampong Chhnang. Then I came to the idea of becoming a monk to learn about the way of Buddha and his path. So I decided to become a monk for three years at Wat Tep Odom, near Odong. At the same time, I always dreamed that I would try to finish school, but this dream was gone after I was drawn by friends to the political struggle. Not only that, I also heard King Norodom Sihanouk tell all of his compatriots to flee to the jungle in 1970. These were my motivations.
Later, I ran into the jungle with Khmer Rouge forces in the mountains, such Aural in Kampong Chhnang province, home to the Khmer Rouge movement’s fighters. At that time, Hu Nim, Hou Yuon and Khieu Samphan came to educate people in my own village. Until 1972, I was the security detail for Hou Yuon.
During this time, I and my battalion and other Khmer Rouge forces began to attack every Lon Nol guard post in the province of Kampong Chhnang. But before embarking on these activities, I and other forces were trained in a top-down warfare strategy, such as how to use a special assault rifle.
Not only that, I was also politically trained, as the term refers to the courage to dare to face enemies. As for the particular mantra of the Khmer Rouge movement, it said “if we want to fight an enemy in any place, we must look directly at the enemy action; how many enemies are active including inside and outside the fort. When we receive any specific information, we’re going to start acting right away. Example: If an enemy had 100 forces, we would only use 10 forces to hit them. How can 10 forces attack 100 enemies? That is why it is required that we investigate the enemy’s activities in preparation for action.
For the actions that the Special Forces undertook, we have prepared 80 or 81 mm weapons. After preparing the weapons, the Special Forces began to crawl to reach the enemy stronghold and investigate the enemy’s activities in preparation for action.
After that, the Khmer Rouge movement began to organize various divisions within each region. After the division was organized, the Khmer Rouge forces began a large-scale attack. I was tasked with missions in Kompong Chhnang, Kampong Speu and heading to Phnom Penh. Khmer Rouge forces vigorously attacked Lon Nol soldiers without rest. For the Khmer Rouge military tactics and Lon Nol soldiers, each had its own strategy, but the war was based on a cooperative or political spirit. Basics and mental stance were important factors. These factors were well-trained in Khmer Rouge soldiers. I always worked with the lower level Khmer Rouge military to develop a strategy.
It was not until March 1975 that I joined another battalion of Khmer Rouge military in the nearby provinces. Then the Khmer Rouge military began to form a new division, the Air Force, with Ta Meth as commander. I was the 37th Regional Committee in the Western Division. Then I moved to Koh Kong. Meanwhile, 164th Brigade of the Western Regiment, stationed in Kompong Som, stormed the island (*Viet controlled islands?), but the fighting was unsuccessful, with the Khmer Rouge forces of the 164th Division being suppressed and surrounded by Vietnamese soldiers.
For me, I think this is because Vietnam was already planning to surround the 164th Division of the Khmer Rouge.
In April 1975, the Khmer Rouge military won a complete victory over the Lon Nol regime. The Khmer Rouge began to evacuate the city and deprived them of liberty, threatened and forced them to do arduous agricultural work in rural areas.
The Khmer Rouge organized the country into an independent nation, with an emphasis on agricultural cultivation. Even the Khmer Rouge military engaged in the same activities as other people. At that time, I often met Ta Mok (secretary of the Southwest), mostly at the Regional Office, located in Chbar Mon (*Kampong Speu).
He inspected the various divisions, with little time in place, Ta Mok always worked with the farmers. Ta Mok advised farmers to have an irrigation system to supply rice. When we have enough irrigation, that’s when we can farm two to three times a year.
Even though I was in the army, I was in charge of watching the people because some cadres were being held back by distrust. Shortly thereafter, I was accused of being a foreign spy. I had been under surveillance for a while and I thought about killing myself, but changed my mind. (*Somehow he was allowed to return to his position).
Thousands came to Kompong Chhnang to fight with the Vietnamese army. My troops were attacking areas such as Muk Kampul, Prey Kul, Prey and Phnom Dil. However, the Khmer Rouge troops were not deterred by the onslaught of the Vietnamese army movement.
In 1982, Ta Mok appointed me and other forces to gather in Anlong Veng district, Oddar Meanchey. At that time, I worked in many areas such as Phnom Peach, Kampong Thom, Pouk and Krolanh. That same year, I met a woman in Anlong Veng, and I asked the organization to get us married.
After we got married, neither of us had time to live together, as I was assigned to work in a number of locations. It was six months to a year before the two of us met again. However, it is normal for an army life like mine.
By 1985, I and 100 other troops were stationed in Kampong Chhnang, traveling along the Tonle Sap. A number of troops swam the Tonle Sap, while others traveled by boat for about three miles. These things I have been through in my entire life. On this trip, we were looking to seize a Vietnamese army boat.
I was stationed in Kompong Chhnang until 1996. After Khmer Rouge forces integrated the Royal Government of Cambodia, a number of units were also formed and from former Khmer Rouge cadres, while I was appointed head of the division.
Shortly thereafter, I decided to resign and work in the Environmental Conservation Department in Pursat province. In 2000, I was promoted to become deputy governor of Veal Veng district.
Taken from Rasmei Kampuchea