My Memories of the 17 April







Soknourn Chea


            17 April 1975 is one tragic day that has stirred and disturbed the entire world, raising the sky and shaking the ground.  I was not yet born or even conceived at this time.  On the day that I was able to see the light of the sun, this terrible period had already passed and I could not know what had happened before.  When I was six years old, my father and mother brought me to school so I could study like the other children.  As I studied harder, I grew older and more knowledgeable, my stomach expanded and developed accordingly, and my appetite grew.   I kept asking for more food.  My mother told me gently and sweetly with love and pity for her child, “Daughter, don’t eat too much.  Your stomach will get bloated.  Do you know, if you were born during the Pol Pot regime, you would already be dead.”  In the beginning, I did not really take notice of what she said.  After a while, I began to wonder, because whenever I asked for something to eat my mother always spoke these words.  I decided to ask her, “Mother, why do you always tell me this?  You have told me many times:  ‘Daughter do you know, on this terrible day on the 17th of April, the Pol Pot people evacuated our family like other families out of our homes and our native villages and forced us to abandon our belongings. We separated from our families, our husbands and wives, our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, and our children.  Not only this, but they forced us to work day and night. We did not have enough to eat or enough time to sleep.  They punished us, placed us in a prison, tied our hands behind our backs, slashed our necks with a palm leaf, plucked our nails, and starved us. There are many other punishments, too many to count and too difficult to recount, because the acts these people have committed are brutal beyond anything imaginable.’”


As my mother spoke, tears flowed because she felt so much pain.  Whenever she had time, my mother always talked about her history and the history of her friends to her children.   During that time, my grandfather, aunts, and other members of my mother’s family died.  Up to the third grade, when I studied history, I also learned about this period. After a while, I became increasingly curious.  I wondered why these people did this and how they benefitted if their acts were contrary to the previous regime and the people they despised. 


The one opportunity, one time, one moment, one second, and one day I have achieved the greatest fortune was when I was given the chance to work at the Documentation Center of Cambodia. I have come to understand even more deeply about the acts of the Khmer Rouge leaders.  I am only a volunteer, but I am very satisfied with my work.  My responsibility is to prepare and organize photocopies of different documents that are relevant to the acts committed by the Khmer Rouge leaders.  This work has especially helped me to understand even more about Cambodia and international law. 








Documentation Center of Cambodia

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


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