.- Thirty three years after his murder by the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, Catholics in Cambodia have commemorated the anniversary of the death of Bishop Paul Tep-im Soth for the first time.
According to UCA News, Bishop Sotha was killed at the beginning of Pol Pot’s reign of terror (1975-1979), during which more than a million people were exterminated in forced labor camps. He died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge in Kbeal Spean, where today a school stands and a monument that tells his story.
Nearly 300 people participated in a special Mass, including 56 year-old Hnem Yard, who tried to help Bishop Sotha escape. "I offered to take him across the Thai border another way, but he refused because it was illegal. He decided to go on National Road No. 5 to Poipet, where he was killed by a soldier for no reason," Yard said.
Bishop Sotha was ordained a priest in 1959, serving at St. Mary's Parish in Phnom Penh. He was appointed Apostolic Prefect of Battambang when the Vatican established the prefecture on Sept. 26, 1968.
Church records say Cambodia had 65,000 Catholics in 1970, but only 1,000 or so Cambodian Catholics were alive when Vietnamese troops forced the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979. Foreign missionaries were deported, and no Cambodian priests or nuns in the country survived.