Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - KRT witness claims existence of Cham eradication plan

KRT witness claims existence of Cham eradication plan

Witness Sos Kamri testifies at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh yesterday. ECCC
Witness Sos Kamri testifies at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh yesterday. ECCC

KRT witness claims existence of Cham eradication plan

Oknha Sos Kamri testified on his knowledge of a plan to exterminate the predominantly Muslim Cham ethnic minority yesterday as a witness before the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Kamri, who is president of the Highest Council for Islamic Religious Affairs and director of the Cambodia Islamic Institute, testified following months-long efforts by the trial chamber to compel him to come, including threatening the use of force.

Kamri resided in the village of Speu, in Kampong Cham province’s Chamkar Leu district, during the Khmer Rouge takeover of the country in 1975, and yesterday testified on the changes to the Cham way of life.

Kamri recounted forced communal dining, banning of religious practice, prohibition of traditional dress as well as the destruction of mosques and religious texts.

The alleged genocide of the Cham is a key charge in the ongoing Case 002/02 against defendants Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

Chea defender Victor Koppe, interjecting about a half-hour into Kamri’s testimony, questioned the judges as to why the Islamic leader had not taken an oath, an issue that was raised repeatedly throughout the day in a seeming attempt to challenge the witness’s credibility.

In addition to his status as a religious leader, Kamri later stated in his testimony that his refusal was also – in part – due to the fact that his Cham population figures were estimates, and he could not remember precise dates.

Under further questioning by prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian, Kamri recalled that he “encountered the pits where the dead bodies were buried” while collecting firewood.

Cross-examined by Koppe, Kamri was questioned on The Plan for Progressive Cooperatives, a 16-page booklet with a yellow cover, which the witness had claimed contained a plan to kill off the Cham by 1980 in prior testimony.

Tasked to measure land, Kamri said that while he waited for a district official he “asked the messenger if he had any book or document to read while I pass the time”.

Koppe pressed Kamri on the details of the book’s content.

“I was not sure about the year [1980] that you quoted, but I was sure about the plans to kill the Cham people but I can only tell you what I am certain of,” he said. “I do not know whether the author of that book exaggerated or not, but that is what I recall.”

Later, Kamri failed to answer questions by Samphan defender Anta Guisse as to why he did not warn his fellow Cham villagers about what he read.

MOST VIEWED

  • All Covid restrictions for inbound travellers lifted

    Cambodia has apparently taken the final step towards full reopening of the country without Covid-19 restrictions by removing all requirements for inbound travellers, who until now had to show health certificates indicating that they have tested Covid-19 negative in the past 72 hours as well as

  • Typhoon Noru brings flash floods – 16 dead

    An official warned that that the 16th typhoon of the season, Noru, had brought heavy rains to areas the Mekong River and flooded thousands of homes in the provinces bordering Thailand. As of September 27, the death toll from the flooding had risen to 16. National Committee

  • Cambodia stands firm on 5PC: No invite for Myanmar to ASEAN Summit this year

    Cambodia has not invited Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, chairman of Myanmar’s ruling State Administration Council (SAC), to the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summit and related meetings scheduled for next month in Phnom Penh. The government will instead invite a non-political representative from Myanmar

  • Mushrooming borey projects and home financing – a cause for concern?

    A spurt in housing developments is typically a sign of a growing economy but underneath all that might lay some anxiety of credit growth as developers offer financing to buyers at higher rates, an activity the central bank identifies as ‘shadow banking’ Earlier this year,

  • Thai Senate delegates in Cambodia to discuss anti-graft co-op

    A delegation from Thailand's Senate was in Phnom Penh on September 28 to meet their Cambodian counterparts to discuss strategies for fighting corruption and enhancing cooperation. The Thai delegates were from its Senate’s Committee on Studying and Inspecting Corruption, Misconduct and Strengthening Good Governance. They

  • Scholarship winner tells secrets to success

    Chhim Chaknineath was awarded the Chevening Scholarship for one year of postgraduate study in the UK for the academic year 2022-2023 along with a group of 10 other outstanding students who applied. She spent more than a year researching and studying – as well as consulting with