Eternal Memories







Sampeou Ros


The day that was filled with hope and had the deepest meaning for the millions of people in Cambodia was 17 April 1975.  17 April 1975 was the day that the patriots were able to stand up against and drive out the U.S. imperialists, the invaders, and the lackeys out of Kampuchea and were able to liberate the entire country out of the yoke of colonialism and present Kampuchea back to its people.  Yet, the things that we waited for and the things that we hoped for transformed into despair.  When the country split apart, the entire country was reduced to a state of absolute zero. 


            I continue to remember and hold close to my heart always, the events that passed on 17 April 1975.  On no day can I forget.  At that time I had another name: Rous Somanarak Videk.  I was about 11 years old.  My father’s name was Rous Somanarak and he was a government official in the Ministry of Estate in the Khmer Republic.  My mother’s name was Chim Thong and she was a gem trader.  I also had an older brother named Rous Somanarak Rong Reoung and he was a student at 18 Minear High School.  My older sister’s name was Rous Somanarak Botum Reut and she was a student at the Baccalaureate High School.  My family’s life was above average and we had a residence near De Po Market.  My father was a person who had helped with the Angkar Revolution.  He gave the movement force in the forests food and medicine.  He was a supporter of Sihanouk, because he wanted to drive out the U.S. imperialists who invaded the country.  On the morning of 17 April 1975, people throughout the country had many reasons to be indescribably happy because they understood that from this day forward the country would achieve extensive peace and the war that shed so much Cambodian blood would end.  More outstanding than this I was able to observe the unusually bright and cheerful faces of my neighbors that were more joyous than normal.  White flags were planted along the front of some houses.  And along others, people were standing and conversing about this and that in revelry, but we could not yet understand what was being said.  In my family, everything was normal, except for my father.  My father’s face was beaming with joy. 


At the time he was fixing his car in the garage on the side of the house.  My mother, my older brother, and my older sister were in front of the house.  Around 9:30 while I was sitting on the stairs in front of my house watching my father fixing his car, I heard the sound of explosion and racket and I saw smoke fluttering into the sky.  I quickly got up and ran into the house for a moment.  Afterwards I ran back outside and with fear and trepidation I walked over to find my father who was fixing his car. After my father tried to explain what was going on, I began to feel the way I felt before and I walked to the gate in front of the house.  At that time I saw three people dressed in black, with one leg of their pants rolled up, carrying guns on each hand and walking towards a villa which belonged to a military general in the Khmer Republic.  One soldier among the three removed his gun and shot three bullets at the gate of the house.  They screamed and cursed at the house owner, “Puppet of the U.S. imperialists and traitor of the country!” After hearing the words and the actions of these people I felt both cold and hot at the same time.  I could hardly speak, because I have never before seen or heard such awful and barbaric words expressed.  Afterwards, I ran inside the house, locked the doors of the gate, and walked towards my father.  Another moment later, the three soldiers dressed in black walked over to my house.  They screamed for us to open the door of our gate.  They threatened us to absolutely not lock our doors.  If anyone does not listen, they will be shot and killed.  After my father locked the doors of the gate, the three soldiers walked through the front door of the house.   Afterwards, the eldest of the three asked my father, “Have you turned on and listened to the radio?” My father answered that he had not listened to the radio.  They asked further, “Why did you not listen?  Angkar made a declaration about the victory of 17 April 1975, in which we were able to destroy the U.S. imperialists and drive them from our country.”


            Because these people made so many threats, my father yelled to my brother to bring the radio over so we could turn it on and listen.  The timing was fortunate, because as soon as we turned on the radio, this issue was raised.  We heard, “This victory is achieved from negotiations and the united efforts of the Cambodian people.” But this voice had not yet ceased and there was another voice that yelled, “This victory was not achieved from negotiations or the united efforts of the people.  It was from the struggle of guns and the sacrifice of fresh meat and the blood of our compatriots.” When he heard this, my father’s face transformed from one of joy to one that remained level.  Afterwards, the one that had previously questioned my father said,  “Were you a Lon Nol soldier?”  At this time, my father told them, “I was not a soldier.  I worked in the Ministry of Estate.”  But whatever my father told them, did not seem to bear any meaning at all, because these people did not even understand what the Ministry of Estate was.  My father also told these people that even though he served in the Khmer Republic, he also worked with efforts to liberate the country.  He acted as a hidden force in order to work on the propaganda of the revolution.  He also donated food and medicine to the movement force.  After my father finished speaking these people asked him, “Has our Angkar ever given you a certified letter?”  At this time, my father told them, “Before Angkar did give me a single letter, but afterwards I lost it and now I cannot find it.  At that time, they searched my house for food that I was giving to the Khmer Rouge and for any Khmer Rouge I may have hidden.”  After they listened to my father narrate his story, the other one who was the youngest of the three people, removed the gun he had hanging on his shoulders and he held it in his hands.  Afterwards he told my father to prepare his belongings and a lot of food, because everyone in the city of Phnom Penh must evacuate from Phnom Penh for three days.  But it could not be certain when we would be able to return.  We should also remember that whatever they say is the truth.  


No one else in the city of Phnom Penh was aware of what was going on outside of my father.  Afterwards, the three men walked out of my house.  When they walked for about forty to fifty meters the youngest out of the three soldiers removed his gun from his waist and shot four or five bullets into the air and screamed out to all the residents in the area to absolutely leave within the day.  At that time my father’s face became dark and dry and he did not utter a single word.  My mother, my older brother, and my older sister were packing clothes into a bag.  My father stuffed the bag full of clothes, pots and pans, and rice into the car.  I felt like I had no weight inside my body, because I witnessed the tears on my parent’s faces staring at one another.  Once in a while they would breathe deeply as if they had a secret they could not tell their children so they could understand how deep and extensive the love and compassion of their parents were at the time this divisive force entered the life of my family. 


My neighbors began to gradually leave their homes.  People who’s station in life was above average loaded their belongings and food in cars and those who were average loaded their things on motorcycles or on other forms of transportation. Those who were poor packed their things onto bicycles or they carried their belongings on their backs and shoulders.  Within four or five hours, the area around my house became silent and deserted.   Once in a while I saw the soldiers dressed in black holding on to soda or liquor bottles.  They drank and laughed at the same time. Some rode motorcycles or cars they did not even know how to drive themselves.  More outstanding than this, some of their people drank liquor until they were drunk, their bodies covered in dirt, one hand grabbing on to a bottle of liquor and the other hand waving a gun shooting anything they pleased. 


On the night of 17 April 1975, one part of the sky on the southwest side shone red like flames of fire.  I still remember very clearly because my father told me the light shone from the flames of fire that exploded near Stung Meanchey and Pochentong.  Once in a while I heard the sound of exploding arsenal.  The entire night my mother and father were not able to sleep at all.  They talked to each other endlessly about this and that. My older brother, my older sister, and I slept next to them.  In the morning, my family decided to leave our house along National Road #2 with one car.  Even along the crowded roads that were packed with people swarming and jamming into each other, we could still begin our journey little by little.  We could not go anywhere outside of the roads that they had designated for us to travel on, because along each road there were soldiers dressed in black pointing their guns at us.  If anyone dared to challenge them, they were certain to die, because these people did not yet have the correct discipline.  If I speak to the point, these are barbaric people.  From the outskirts to the rurul areas, there were usually corpses along the roads.  Some were dressed in the outfits of a Lon Nol soldier.  Some were dressed in civilian clothes.  Those who died sometimes looked as if they had just recently died while others were already bloated. 


            On the journey from Phnom Penh on National Road #2, my family kept traveling without any idea where we were going.  We were just following others.  If many people stopped to rest somewhere, we also stopped and rest with them.  If soldiers dressed in black came and pointed guns at us and forced us to continue our journey, we would get up and continue our journey until there was no one to prevent us from resting and we could then rest from out travels. 


            Because of the events that passed on 17 April 1975, my family and hundreds and thousands of other families were forced to separate from each other.  Husbands were separated from their wives.  Mothers were separated from their children.  Brothers separated from their sisters.  Not only that, but the entire infrastructure of the country was destroyed and reduced to zero.  Nearly 3 million people were killed without reason.  Among those killed were my parents as well as two of my older brothers and sisters.  More outstanding than this is the fact that hundreds and thousands of orphans were left without any understanding why their parents were killed and why they can not remember the true faces of their parents.  But even more remarkable than this is the fact that these orphans must abandon the love and care of their parents.  Among all these orphans, I am also one. 


            No matter what happens, as one victim and orphan among the hundreds of thousands of orphans who have suffered in misery and were separated from their parents and family on 17 April 1975 until now, I am very proud and fortunate to be able to work at the Documentation Center of Cambodia.  DC-Cam is the first and only non-governmental organization in Cambodia that has an important objective to search for the truth for 3 million people who have died under acts of injustice.  More exceptional than this, I am extremely proud to be able to contribute to seeking the truth for the country and for our history.  I have joined in documenting records so that we will be able to seek justice for those who have died.  For historical purposes, we will also seek to preserve this truth for the future generations so that they are made aware of the events that passed from 1975-1979.








Documentation Center of Cambodia

Ten Years of Independently Searching for the Truth: 1997-2007


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