My Memories of 17 April 1975 through My Family







Oeun Sam Ouch


            17 April 1975 is a day of deepest hope for the country of Cambodia and for millions of the Cambodian people. 17 April 1975 is the day the Kampuchean Revolutionary Army stood up against the invading U.S. imperialists and their lackeys and pushed them out of Cambodia.  They were able to liberate the entire country and remove them from the yoke of colonial oppression.  But, one should feel remorse, because the state of happiness and hope of the people transformed into suffering and brought with it the separation of many families.  Chaos and confusion reigned throughout the entire country.  The soldiers dressed in black evacuated the people from one region to the next and from one place to another.  The hundreds of thousands of people in Phnom Penh were threatened and driven out of their homes and ordered to live in the rural areas far away.


            I continue to remember the events on 17 April 1975.  There is no day in which I can forget.  At that time I, Oeun Sam Ouch, was only three years old.  In 1979, on the day of liberation, the people of Cambodia escaped the genocidal policies of Pol Pot and a regime that was brutal, barbaric, and inhumane, and killed without reason. This is one history that other people in Cambodia and I have never before encountered.  Therefore, I usually listen to the events that have passed on 17 April 1975.  My older brother and my parents have told me much about this bitter event. 


            Before 17 April 1975, my family lived near Kleng Rumsev.  My parents and older brother told me that the Khmer Rouge dressed in black when they entered the city.  They had one leg of their pants rolled up while the other hung down and they wiped their heads with a red scarf.  They swung their rifles back and forth on the street.  They ordered everyone living in Phnom Penh to leave, saying, “Angkar has ordered all brothers and sisters to leave Phnom Penh for three or four days so that it will be easier for Angkar to clear out the enemies that remain.  You don’t have to take many things with you, because Angkar will take care of you.”  The Khmer Rouge soldiers had expressions that ought to be greatly feared.  My family saw the soldiers drinking liquor and walking drunkenly. They drank and laughed noisily.  Sometimes they drove motorcycles or cars even though they did not know how to drive.  Some of them drank until they became so drunk, their bodies stained with blood and dirt. On one hand they carried a bottle of liquor and on the other they carried a gun they waved in the air.  Not only this, the Khmer Rouge ordered the people to leave their homes with the following threats, “If anyone is unwilling to leave their homes, we will kill them.” With such threats from the Khmer Rouge, the people living in Phnom Penh decided to leave their homes and go in the direction that Angkar had assigned them to go.   At that time my family helped each other carry a few things we divided among ourselves.  Some carried rice, clothes, dishes and pots, and other things.  We traveled towards the east along National Road #1.  Along the road, my family slowly began our journey, crowding and pushing against each other.  Some who had many members in their family tied ropes to each other so the journey would be easier and they would not separate.  All the while, the soldiers dressed in black yelled out their orders. 


In the afternoon, my family reached on temple called Wat Champa Mony.  At that time, all the people rested in order to prepare their afternoon meal.  We did not even finish eating our meal when the soldiers ordered us to continue our journey.  My family reached Kampong Chalong at four in the afternoon.  When we finished crossing on our boat, my family and all the people continued our journey forward.  We traveled until we reached Koh Rah Village, Koh Rah Sub-District, Lvea Em District, Kandal Province.  The sky was so dark we could barely see anything.  At that time, my family looked for a place to rest.  We could no longer continue travelling, because we were so exhausted from travelling since morning.  The sky was also too dark.  Forced to travel crowded against each other, thousands of people were separated from their families, especially the young children who lost their parents and were turned into orphans.  


            17 April 1975 is the beginning of the genocidal regime of Pol Pot, who killed the people of Cambodia without meaning.  Therefore millions of people in Cambodia and I cannot forget the 17 April 1975.  We will always remember and will never be able to forget.  Even though I was not able to experience personally the liberation in 1979, today I work at the Documentation Center of Cambodia in order to search for a truth for over 3 million people who died under acts of injustice. I am very proud that I am able to serve society, history and Cambodia in this way and that I am able to preserve documents to help children in the future generation understand the events that passed on 17 April 1975. 








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


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