MEMORIES OF 17 APRIL 1975 I CANNOT FORGET
Every citizen in
Cambodia cannot forget 17 April 1975 and the acts of the genocidists
who shot and killed innocent people and forced people at gunpoint to flee from
Phnom Penh out of their homes, destroyed their personal belongings, and made
them live in the countryside far away.
My name is Huy
Sophorn and I was born in 1980. I
have never witnessed with my own eyes the events that passed during the Khmer
Rouge regime and the evil acts committed against my own family as well as other
families that lived in the city of Phnom Penh. My mother and father has told me many
stories about the unjust events that remain tied to their hearts after over
twenty years and that they cannot forget.
My father continues to tell me these true stories.
My father’s house
was located behind the Chinese Hospital in Sangkat #6, Phnom Penh. In the early morning of 17
April 1975, my father woke up from his bed as usual. Suddenly, he saw something very unusual
and out of the ordinary that he had never seen before. At that time, he saw a group of people
dressed in black shirts and pants, with a scarf wrapped around their necks,
wearing rubber tire shoes, carrying all kinds of guns close to their bodies, and
wearing a Chinese cap on their heads, walking along the street in large
groups. Many of them were not yet
fully-grown. They had solid and
brutal faces that one ought to fear.
These people were Khmer Rouge soldiers. My father began to panic. He could not believe the Khmer Rouge had
entered Phnom Penh. All the people
were shocked and terrified. They peeked outside of their doors and windows in
At 7:00 in the
morning on the same day, the Cambodian people along each house thought that the
Lon Nol army had lost the war to the Khmer Rouge, therefore they felt they
needed to raise the white flag, in order to admit defeat, afraid their people
would harm them. With the soldiers who were standing guard far away, the Khmer
Rouge communicated with them through a radio transmitter, so they could take
control and oversee the activities of each citizen. At 8:00 in the morning the
Khmer Rouge army pointed their guns at my father’s family and ordered them to
leave the house immediately. They
said, “Go! Leave quickly! Everyone
has already left!” They walked and
told other neighboring houses to leave and not take many things with them. Approximately fifteen minutes later
there was another group of soldiers that came and said, “Brothers and sisters,
Angkar has ordered you to leave
quickly!” My father’s family
prepared their belongings such as mosquito nets, blankets, pillows, and two or
three outfits for each person. They also brought with them foodstuffs like 15
kilograms of rice, 1 five liter bottle of water, and some dried foods that they
had in the house like fermented fish, dried turnip, fish sauce, salt, etc. They prepared these things
according to what the Khmer Rouge told them: “You don’t have to bring many
things with you, because you are only leaving the city for three days and then
you will return again. We are
[evacuating this city] in order to clean out the Lon Nol soldiers and because we
are afraid the American soldiers will bomb and kill everyone in the city.”
My father pleaded
with a Khmer Rouge soldier to grant him more time so that he could wait for his
younger brother who had gone to pick up their father who was having eye surgery
performed at Ang Duong Hospital.
But he said, “You don’t have to wait. You will soon meet them
again.” My mother and father had
not yet left the house. They were
still waiting for his father to leave the hospital, so they could all be
together and avoid being separated.
My father saw their neighbors preparing their things and leaving. Some carried their belongings on their
heads, some held them in their hands, some placed their goods on the bicycle,
while others carried their possessions on their back.
grandfather returned from the hospital, we gathered together and finished our
breakfast. A Khmer Rouge soldier
drove up with a Honda CL-90 motorcycle that kept going on and off, as if he did
not yet know how to drive a motorcycle.
He yelled out to his fellow soldiers: “Order them all out of the
house! Don’t let a single person
stay behind!” Later on, my father’s family took the rice, a package of mosquito
nets and blankets and placed a suitcase of clothes on the motorcycle. The things that were light were placed
on the bicycle. They kept looking
back at the house as if to say that they were not yet willing to abandon their
homes. After they saw that everyone
in the area had already left, then they were willing to leave their homes. When they left for about a hundred
meters, my father saw a Khmer Rouge soldier tell his fellow soldiers: “After they leave, they will not be
allowed to enter again.” When they
reached Monivong Street, there were crowds of people along the streets. My father saw a tank M-113 and many cars
carrying Khmer Rouge soldiers yelling, “Long live! Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!” They drove into the city. The Khmer Rouge soldiers then ordered
the people to travel towards the north.
My father was also among them.
He saw many sick patients being ordered out of the hospital. Some had no arms and no legs. Some were pushing their ill husbands who
were lying on hospital beds with serum attached to their bodies. Husbands were pushing their wives who
had just given birth, their faces dry and bitter. Others awkwardly carried their large
belongings, while some pushed carts with their old or handicapped mothers and
their possessions placed on top.
Cars filled with supplies and things hanging from the roof, tagged
behind. Many people sat on top of
the car with dry and bitter expressions.
Many people walked to and fro, separated from their spouses or family
asking others if they knew where they were. Some children who lost their parents,
filled the streets with their cries and screams. Those who were separated from their
husband or wife waited for them along the road. Hundreds of bullets were being
shot. On both sides of the
road, people were running back and forth fanatically searching for rice along
the granaries, salt, fish sauce, sugar, firewood, and water for cooking. Both sides of the road were filled with
human feces and dirty trash thrown all over the place, making it easy for
disease to spread.
Trabek, about 100 meters inward from the main road, my father saw many dead
corpses. The houses smelled rotten
and putrid. About 50 meters nearby,
there were corpses dressed in bloody, military outfits. The journey along the road was crowded
and bustling with people pushing and shoving each other so they could cross the
bridge at the head of the road. At
one time they would order people to move forward and at another time they would
order people to move back. They
threatened and forced people who were making their journey across the bridge or
along the road to Ta Khmao. This
was an important inspection point for the Khmer Rouge. They seized anyone they suspected and
accused them of being a Lon Nol soldier.
During that time, the Khmer Rouge walked around and inspected the faces,
the legs and arms of the men who were standing and preparing to leave the
inspection point and they questioned each person, “Comrade, what kind of work
did you do and where did you work?
Were you a Lon Nol soldier?”
At that time, the people were scared and extremely terrified.
My father told me
that after they had passed the inspection point, at four in the evening, his
older sister who was a schoolteacher began to miss and feel remorse for her
house and belongings. She walked
and returned to her house. At that
time, the Khmer Rouge soldiers seized and tied both of her hands back and walked
her towards a small road about 10 meters west of the main road from Chak Ang Re
Leu Village. My father heard 10
bullets explode. A moment later, my
father walked in to see if his older sister was really dead. Such real events has made my father’s
family suffer and feel great pity for his older sister who had to sacrifice her
life to an act of injustice without laws or customs. The city transformed into a silent and
quiet place without any inhabitants.
though it has been over twenty years since my father’s family had undergone
these experiences, the acts committed against my father’s family remains fresh.
My family continues to remember these inhuman acts that violated their rights
without their knowledge. After
listening to my father’s stories, I feel frightened by the brutal and ignorant
acts committed by the Khmer Rouge towards my family and the people in Phnom Penh
and throughout Cambodia. I promise
that I will join to help prevent the Khmer Rouge regime from ever returning to
Cambodian soil. I would like to propose that we establish an international
tribunal that is independent, just, proper, and true in order to successfully
bring to trial the Khmer Rouge.
This trial will help compensate the people of Cambodia for the unjust
acts committed by the Khmer Rouge within the period of three years, three
months, and 8 days. Only through
these means can justice be brought to the people of Cambodia.