Memories of the Historical Event







Chhayrann Ra


            17 April 1975 is a day in which millions of Cambodian people had reason to celebrate and congratulate the victory of the Liberation Army over the Lon Nol government and the failure of the U.S. imperialists.  But this celebration and time of joy for the victory of the Liberation Army, transformed into a day that brought much pain and suffering for the Cambodian people throughout the country.  Even though I was not yet born at this time, this terrible day did happen and I am able to understand some of the events that happened through the memories of my parents, my grandmother, my uncles and aunts, my brothers and sisters, and the recorded documents of writers. 


            Of the memories of everyone above, I am most impressed by the stories of my aunt.  During that time, she was only twelve years old.  At that time, when the Liberation Army entered Phnom Penh, she and her older brother joined together and went to help welcome and congratulate the soldiers.  They were elated, believing the country had achieved peace and they would no longer hear the explosion of bullets and shrapnel.  But while they stood there staring at the soldiers among the crowds of people, one soldier dressed in black jumped from the tank and the other soldiers took their guns and pointed them at everyone standing there.  They yelled at the people standing, watching them:  “Everyone, leave the city immediately, because the Americans have a plan to drop bombs on the city!  Therefore, brothers and sisters leave the city! You don’t have to take many things with you because you are only leaving for three days.” 


Her older brother, who is my father, grabbed her hand and they ran back home again to hide.  A moment later, two soldiers dressed in black, with weapons in their hands, arrived at their house and screamed at them to quickly get out of the house.   Afterwards, they forced them to leave the house immediately without taking many things with them.  My father had already prepared a bag of things.  In this bag, were clothes and a few valuables.  My aunt said that while they were travelling along the road, she saw many people, each person carrying a bag of clothes on their shoulders.  Some placed their goods on bicycles, others placed them in carts, and others put their things in the car.  Along this same road, she saw many soldiers dressed in black dragging any Lon Nol soldier they could pick out of the crowd.  These soldiers were shirtless and had only their pants on.  The three or four soldiers dressed in black carried guns pointed at the backs of the Lon Nol soldiers.  Later on, she saw many people who died along National Road #2, but she didn’t know how these people died.  She felt extremely terrified, because she had never encountered anything like this before.


While they were walking, a group of soldiers dressed in black, walked next to her.  They yelled and asked her, “Do you have any relatives serving as officials in the Lon Nol government?  If you do, we will allow them to return home.”  When my aunt heard this, she saw a group of people come forward looking for these soldiers, declaring they had served as officials during the Lon Nol government.  After they had gathered many people, they led them away and disappeared towards the west.  But it was not certain where they were taking them.  At this time, when they saw the soldiers leading the people away, my aunt and my father was very scared.  They had a feeling that they were taking these people away to be killed somewhere.  On the other hand, she was afraid they would find out about her family, because her father and grandfather were soldiers during the Lon Nol period. 


            My aunt told me that while she is still alive, the events that passed will always remain close to her heart.  She tells her stories to all the young children so that they will know and understand what happened, the way she has also told her stories to me. 


            This is all that my aunt can tell me from her memories of 17 April 1975, because at that time she was still very young.  Over twenty years have passed since then so she has forgotten certain things. Therefore I, Ra Chhayrann would like to end my story at this time. I belong to the younger generation.  My stories are only gathered from the stories I have heard.  Therefore, I do not dare to cut or add very much because I am afraid to wander from the truth. I also believe that my writing must have many errors and mistakes.  Therefore, I have hope that there will be much constructive criticism and suggestions from my family and friends who read my article. 


            In conclusion, although millions of other Cambodian children and I in the last generation, have never crossed, experienced or seen what has happened, we have heard that these events did actually happen. And we are still hurt when we hear about the terrible events that passed on the 17th of April. This was the day in which all the people of Cambodian people fell into a society that was dark and oppressive.  Millions of gentle and honest Cambodians were killed within this regime.  Not only this, they have brought world attention and fame to what has happened and they have, since then, abandoned our reputation.  Therefore, we ask to support the establishment of an independent tribunal in order to put the Khmer Rouge leaders, whose hands are stained with the blood of millions of Cambodians, on trial.  We also have hope that such events will never happen again on the soil of Cambodia, because the people of Cambodia are fed up with the suffering.  Therefore, we must make certain that such crimes against humanity will never happen again and the Cambodian people will no longer kill their own people.








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