THE KHMER ROUGE: AN OLD STORY TO MOST, BUT A
NEW ONE TO ME
I was not born
when the historical events of 17 April 1975 occurred. Because I was not to be
born for another five years, I could have had very little knowledge - almost
nothing, in fact - about what really happened at that time. However, through my
work at the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) as computer graphics
designer for DC-Cam’s Searching for the Truth magazine, and also through my
parents telling me about the events of that day, I have been able to understand
that 17 April 1975 was the day on which the Khmer Rouge liberated and took
control of the city of Phnom Penh.
My parents told me
that all the people of Cambodia were very happy that day, smiling and
celebrating the victory. Unfortunately, 17 April was also a threshold, marking
the point where their gladness became the greatest sadness of their lives. As I
was told, at about eleven o’clock on that day, Khmer Rouge soldiers ordered
people to pack up their things and leave the city within the next three days so
they could build a new city. Because no one knew the real intent of the
evacuation plan, they followed the Khmer Rouge’s orders with doubt and fear in
their minds. Some managed to take clothes and jewelry along with them, while
others had almost no time to pack. They took only clothes because the Khmer
Rouge soldiers told them that there was no need for them to take more
belongings, as Angkar would allow them to return home in the next three days.
The streets were filled with crowds of people, many trekking, some pedaling, and
others traveling by ox cart, depending on what they could afford. Sounds of
sporadic gunfire were heard as people left the city.
My parents and my
siblings traveled on foot through the huge mobs of people. My family members
walked hand in hand so that no one would become lost or separated. To their
shock, they saw the bodies of people who had died on the streets for no apparent
reason. My parents said they saw three to four Khmer Rouge soldiers, all in
black pajamas, with guns in hand, walk some five or six shirtless Lon Nol
soldiers to an unknown destination. As my parents walked, they also saw patients
who were forced out of a hospital and onto the streets.
On that day, the
Khmer Rouge sought to evacuate city dwellers from the cities to the provinces
and provincial residents from the provinces to far-off places in the
countryside. All that happened during the Khmer Rouge period was an old story,
but it is a brand new one to me. At school, almost all of my classmates were not
taught the history of the Khmer Rouge at all. It would be the saddest thing, and
a source of great risk, if such a regime were ever allowed to take power again.
I have found no satisfying reasons as to why the Khmer Rouge - who like me are
of Khmer blood-inflicted such acts of cruelty and inhumanity on their own race.
I just want to know who the masterminds of the killing field regime really