Feelings and Memories







Vichea Sopheak Tieng


The 17 April 1975 is the day the people of Cambodia escaped from the American people. It was also the day in which the country of Cambodia fell into the tragedy of genocide, a tragedy we ought to fear and be shocked by.  From that day until 7 January 1979, the country of Cambodia was under the rule of a certain regime called the Democratic Kampuchea regime.  This regime implemented many insane policies of genocide and of execution of innocent Khmer people (including workers, farmers, traders, civil officers, policemen, and all kinds of soldiers), of immigrants and many other ethnic minorities.  In the history of the world, nearly 2 million were killed miserably, without justice, and without mercy. 


            I am one Cambodian child who was born to a mother who was a teacher and a father who was a Lon Nol soldier.  My grandmother on my mother’s side was a Khmer from Kampuchea Krom and my grandmother on my father’s side was a farmer who lives in Katang Village, Kroch Chhmar Sub-district, Kroch Chhmar District, Kampong Cham Province. 


            In 1975, my family and my grandparents on my mother’s side, lived in Tuol Kork Sangkat in Phnom Penh.  My mother had brothers and sisters, cousins and many aunts and uncles who also lived in Phnom Penh.  At that time, most of the members of my large family were living in Phnom Penh.  We were all together and it was not difficult for us to get together. 


            Some days before 17 April 1975, when my mother was preparing to leave the house to go outside, my older brother, named Pom, pleaded for her to take him along.  In the beginning, my mother would not allow him to go along, but when he cried and kept begging to go, my mother agreed to take him with her.  As my mother walked outside of the house, a moment later, shelling fell near her.  When she heard the shelling fall, my mother immediately covered my brother with her body, like a hen protecting her chicken, without yet considering her own safety.  At that time, the shelling continued to fall and my mother’s ears became deaf.  She could not hear anything at that time.  Some minutes later she said that her left cheek felt abnormally cold and numb.  She took her hand and felt her cheek.  She felt something smooth and wet.  She looked at her hand and it was covered with blood.  She was terrified and her body shook.  The glass from the shelling had shattered and wounded her cheek.  She whispered my brother’s name, who she still huddled in her embrace, “Pom. Pom. Pom,” but there was no answer.  Immediately, my mother terrified.  She began to scream his name loudly, “Pom! Pom! Pom!”  This time a voice answered, “Yes.”  After she heard his voice reply, my mother felt instantly relieved.  She was extremely happy.  After she heard my brother’s voice she did not yet tend to her injured cheek. 


            When the sound of the shelling lessened, my mother stood up and also lifted my brother up, but unfortunately, my brother could not stand.  My mother was so alarmed and frightened nothing could compare to what she was feeling at that time.  She saw a puddle of blood gather near the place where she had been huddling.  My brother was crouched near the floor in the puddle of blood stained pure red.  My brother turned into another victim of artillery shelling.   Both of his calves were torn into pieces like dried fish.  Another fragment hit his stomach and made him experience the most tremendous pain while he was so small.  At that time he was only seven years old.   My brother’s accident made my mother hundreds of times more frightened than she was before.  My mother felt so sorry for her son when she saw that her beloved son could not get up and both of his calves were torn, his face pale and livid from the shock, and blood flowed from his body.  When the shelling first dropped, my mother huddled over my brother and had hoped that my brother would not be injured.  Why was my brother injured?  She thought that only she would be injured. 


When my injured brother was staying at the hospital, both my mother and father went to look after him every day until the day the Khmer Rouge soldiers evacuated the people from the city.  Every night when my mother looked after my brother, she left all of her three children and I with my grandparents to help watch over us. Perhaps it is our luck from our previous life that on the evening of the 16th of April, my grandparents began to fuss and complain to my mother, “Sai, your children are very mischievous and naughty and they are difficult to look after.” After my mother heard this, compounded with the worries she had for my brother who was still resting in the hospital, my mother became very angry and told my grandparents, “This evening I will take the children to the hospital with me.” Afterwards, she told all four of us to eat dinner.  After we finished dinner, my mother bathed and dressed us and then she took us to say good-bye to our grandparents.  My grandparents said, “Why are you taking them?  Leave them here.  They are so naughty, we just have say it.  Who will watch them at the hospital?”  But, all four of us wanted to follow my mother to the hospital, so my grandparents could not prevent us. 


At the hospital there were thousands of injured people, both young and old.  I could only hear the sound of people crying night and day. There was not one moment of silence.  On any day, there were injured people carried into the hospital and dying.  I stayed at the hospital for one night.  In the morning, it was the 17th of April 1975, the day in which the people were being evacuated from the city of Phnom Penh.  That morning, the sound of guns could be heard throughout the city of Phnom Penh.  There was total confusion and chaos and people running all over the place and in every street.   In the hospital, the number of injured people increased, but the number of hospital staff dissipated.  In the morning, there were hardly any doctors and nurses at the hospital, who remained to take care of the injured.  When a doctor or a nurse was getting ready to leave the hospital, many families of the injured begged for them to stay and help look after their relatives.  Some people asked the medical staff to remove the serum that was hanging from the injured person, because they needed to take them out of the hospital.  That morning, my family was also lucky in one way, because we were all together at the hospital.  If my grandparents did not complain yesterday evening, perhaps, from that time on, all of us would have been separated from my parents forever.  My family wanted to return to our home in Tuol Kork so we could meet with all our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, our grandparents, and so we could gather all of our belongings.  But along the road, a soldier prevented us from continuing on and at once evacuated us from Phnom Penh.  At this time, my family only had a bag of things. 


            When the Khmer Rouge soldiers captured Phnom Penh on 17 April 1975 it was also like they captured the entire country.  This was the day the Khmer Rouge began to evacuate the people from every province and city and forced them all to live in the rural areas and countryside.  All 7 million people in Cambodia were transformed into farmers and peasants.  The cities and provincial centers became so deserted and silent, one ought to be terrified.  Hundreds of thousands of homes remained uninhabited, markets had no traders, roads had no traffic, and cars had no one drive them.  At night there were no lights and the city became so dark it became a ghost town.  Every family that lived in the cities was forced by Khmer Rouge soldiers to work in the fields in the countryside.  This was the time in which husbands and wives, mothers, fathers and their children, and brothers and sisters were all separated from each other.  Some large families were even separated from each other since the evacuation. 







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