Oukoubah Justice for the Cham Muslims under the Democratic Kampuchea Regime by Ysa Osman (Cambodia: Documentation Center of Cambodia, 2002. 154 pages.)

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Jay Willoughby

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Abstract

Imagine that a struggling revolutionary movement is promising paradise
after your defenseless country is unwillingly sucked into the maelstrom of
total war; that the revolutionary leaders are highly respected men and
women, many of whom were educated in the former colonial master’s
homeland; and that the ruler, who is credited with single-handedly achieving
your nation’s independence and enjoys near-divine status among the masses, joins the revolutionaries after being overthrown and calls upon you
to do likewise. And then, full of post-victory idealism, imagine that you live
for three years, eight months, and twenty days in the horror that introduced
a new word into the English language: auto-genocide. Welcome to Democratic
Kampuchea, whose ruling elite, the Khmer Rouge, targeted the
author’s people, the Cham Muslims, for extermination: “The enemies of
Angkar [the “Organization”] come in many categories, but the biggest enemies
are the Cham. The plan is to destroy them all before 1980” (p. 6).
This book is divided into five parts: “Introduction,” “S-21 Prisoner
Cases,” “Analysis,” “References,” and “Appendix.” The “Introduction” deals
with the controversial questions of how many Cham died under the Khmer
Rouge (from 77,000 to 400,000-500,000) and how many lived in Cambodia
before the Khmer Rouge took over (from about 250,000 to 700,000, the latter
number being accepted by the Cham). Osman then moves on to how the
Khmer Rouge sought to destroy community solidarity: turning Cham against
Cham and children against parents, forbidding Islamic and Cham customs in
toto, destroying the Qur’an and the keitab (a book explaining the Qur’an),
making local leaders “disappear,” splitting up families during forced evacuations,
and resettling the Cham among ethnic Khmer and Chinese. He also
explains why he chose the thirteen case studies that make up the next part:
“…there is sufficient documentation for study and research” (p. 8) ...

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