The Cham Rebellion Survivors’ Stories from the Villages by Ysa Osman (Cambodia: The Documenter Center of Cambodia, 2006. 184 pages.)

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Jay Willoughby

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Abstract

This book is a study of what happened to Cambodia’s Cham Muslims living
in the Khmer Rouge-controlled Kroch Chhmar district (Kampong Cham
province) during the 1970s. Based on reconstructed events and survivors’
memories, it is an account of ordinary Muslims caught up in a utopian maelstrom
of deceit, brutality, fear, unexpected compassion, torture, and deliberate
murder on an almost unbelievable scale while the Muslim world, and the
world at large, was “occupied” with other concerns.
Chapters 1 and 2 explain how the Khmer Rouge entered the district and
found young Cham and Khmer men eager to join up. How could they resist,
when Norodom Sihanouk, who enjoyed near-divine status among the peasantry
and presented himself as the sole architect of Cambodia’s independence,
called upon them to join with the Khmer Rouge (which he had already
done) to reverse General Lon Nol’s overthrow of his government? In the “liberated”
zones, the Khmer Rouge renamed villages with numbers; selected
new Cham village heads based on their lack of education, total servility, and
unquestioning obedience; and gradually communalized life because, they
promised, that would make the people’s lives better and easier ...

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