THREE DAYS OR THREE YEARS?
Meng Try Ear
during the rice season and during the New Year’s celebration, it is usually
scorching hot. However during the
rice season this year, the weather has transformed from one that is scorching
hot to one that has brought continuous heavy rain. Even though the weather has changed, my
memories about the events that passed during this rice season in the decade of
1970, has not altered with the weather.
The rice season continues to clearly remind me of the events that
developed on 17 April 1975, because they are the most horrible and
dark events. This was also the day of birth for the Democratic Kampuchea
17 April 1975 is
the day the Khmer Rouge regime began and gained victory over nearly 2 million
people. More than this, it was the
day the Khmer Rouge began to deceive the people of Cambodia, like my family, and
told them to leave their homes and go to the rural areas for three days in order
to avoid the bombing of the Americans.
After they achieved victory over the republic that was led by Field
Marshal Lon Nol on 17 April 1975, the Khmer Rouge announced on the
microphone for the people who lived in the city to leave Phnom Penh within 24
hours. The announcement they made
along the houses intermingled with the blasting sound of gunshots. On this day,
my family gathered our clothes, our belongings, and many bags of rice so that we
could leave the house and head for Koh Thom District in Kandal Province, which
is my father’s native district.
There were many members in my family. I was the youngest child. I was only about ten months old. In the family there were my
grandparents, my uncles and aunts, and my parents. We gathered and prepared all kinds of
things so that we could quickly evacuate and avoid any terrible events that
could occur. We were afraid of
them-- the “Khmer Rouge.” However,
we could not escape. Problems still
arose because we had to take longer in our evacuation.
My grandfather was
not willing to leave the house. He
said that he was already too old.
He wanted to stay home because he was afraid he would lose all of his
belongings in the house. We all sat
down so we could explain and convince him to follow us. But my grandfather continued to retain
his position. The time we took in
leaving forced us to encounter events that ought to make one shudder. At that time, three young Khmer Rouge
soldiers entered our house and asked us why we had not yet left our house. We were all so terrified our faces
became pale. The young soldiers
looked like they had never entered the city before. Their skin was black and they had
bullets and guns wrapped around their bodies. Because of continuous threats from the
Khmer Rouge, my grandfather finally agreed to leave the house and journey to Koh
Thom District, Kandal Province.
It was only about
60 kilometers from Phnom Penh to Koh Thom District, but it took us a long time
to get there, because the roads were crowded with people, young and old, men and
women. The sound of old people
crying was like the sound of young children crying. No matter what, we had to continue our
journey according to the command of the Party. Along the journey, my family encountered
many difficulties because there were many of us. It was also hard because my grandparents
were very old. But more than this,
my parents had to take turns holding me among the throng of people and amidst
the scorching heat. My parents were
afraid because my body was beginning to heat up. They were so scared they decided to
speed up the journey and asked others to help us reach Koh Thom District first,
so they could find a way to care and find medicine for me. My parents told their brothers and
sisters and grandparents they had to travel to Koh Thom District first and that
they should meet us there. We would
arrive their first and wait for them.
As my parents waited for their family to arrive after they reached Koh
Thom District, they became hopeless and were filled with worry and concern. The
separation of my family began at this time. After that day, my grandparents and
uncles and aunts decided not to continue their journey to Koh Thom District,
because the journey was too difficult.
There were too many people, my grandparents were too old, and they had
too many things to carry. They also
thought that they only needed to leave for three days. Therefore, they didn’t need to travel
very far. It would make it too
difficult to return to Phnom Penh.
Because they thought this way, they decided to stay in another village
around Tuk Vil in Svay Choor Village for a short while, so they could relieve
their exhaustion and make it easier for them to return to Phnom Penh. This temporary rest of my aunts and
uncles and grandparents in Koh Kael, Tuk Vil slowly turned into more than three
Within this period
the members of my family were also separated from each other. This separation filled us with worry and
continuous doubt whether our relatives were unaware of what had developed. We wondered what kind of problems they
encountered. What kind of peace or
suffering did they have to endure?
No one could answer the above questions. For three years, my mother and father
lived under a state of desperation and apprehension. It is fortunate that the answers were
provided while we were separated.
The long period of
waiting and hopelessness ended after the victory on 7 January 1979 and as my
grandparents began their journey from Tuk Vil to Koh Thom District. The expected arrival of my aunts and
uncles and grandparents ended when they and my parents met each other as they
were destined and as planned. But
this anxious and worrisome wait covered a period of more than three years. More than this, two of my uncles died
and were unable to return and reunite with us in the way we had parted from each
other. No matter what, this time of
reunification was the answer each one of us had been waiting for. All of us were happy and filled with
great joy when we met each other once more. But we did not laugh with pleasure. Instead we cried like children who had
lost many hours of life. We talked
and asked each other about many different reasons. Sometimes tears flowed. Sometimes we could hardly believe this
day had arrived and that we would have a day in which we could meet and sit and
eat and talk in this way. Honestly,
the separation that my family and the family of others had to endure that lasted
for over three years, developed through the trick of the Khmer Rouge who
promised we would only have to leave for three days.