My Memories on 17 April 1975







Nean Yin


I remember that around 5:00am on 17 April 1975, my family of seven had prepared our belongings from our house near Beoung Tompon, because we were scared of the shelling of the Liberation Army.  We went to rest at the house of my sister’s older brother near O Russey Market.  Along the road I saw many families making the journey from their villages to enter the city.  Near Beoung Salang I saw many homes catch on fire from the shelling.  Probably around 10:00am, the people who lived in my uncle’s house were like neighbors.  Everyone was happy.  Only my uncle’s face bore a sorrowful expression, as if he was thinking of something.  At this time I asked my father, “Why are people so happy today, Father?”  He answered, “My son!  The war in our country has ended and the large and small guns will no longer sound as they did before.”


After lunch ended around 12:00, my cousin, named Yee Sovanna, and I pulled our bicycles out of the house and rode them in front of Monivong Street.  Along the street and homes, I saw many people bear expressions of happiness and merriment.  The people stood on both sides of the road in order to congratulate the Liberation Army.  I continued my journey and crossed in front of the Vimean Tep Theater.  On top of each tank there were people dressed in black, wearing a Mao-styled cap, a red and white checkered scarf wrapped around their necks and rubber tire shoes.  Some had their pants rolled up, their bodies covered with mud and dirt.  Some wrapped their scarves around their caps.  They had bullet magazines wrapped around their waists.  Their hands held rifles aimed at the crowds of people lined on either side of the street, preparing to shoot at any moment.  The people atop the tanks were mostly youths probably about my age. 


At that time I was about 15 years old.  I turned my bicycle to follow the tanks.  Many other children also taggiing behind, exhilarated and cheerful.  Later, I heard the Khmer Liberation Army shout the following proverb:  “Bravo!  The Revolutionary Army has liberated [the country]!  Bravo!  The war is over!  Down with the Lon Nol traitors!”  My voice and the voices of the people along the streets and houses screamed in congratulations, almost everywhere along Sisowath Street.  I continued to ride my bicycle until I reached Wat Mahamontrey.  I saw the Lon Nol soldiers fleeing from the temples and from the Olympic Stadium.  Some were shirtless, waving guns with white cloth tied to their barrels.  They took the guns and placed them in the middle of the road near the stoplights.  On my bicycle, I overtook the tank, creeping along the wall of the Olympic Stadium and toward the Olympic water tank.  At that time I saw about ten people dressed in black standing at the side of the road.  One stood out as the leader of the group because on the left side of his waist was a short pistol.   I turned around to face the circle intersection.  There were four or five civilians standing there facing the Liberation Army.  I walked closer and heard a civilian ask the people in black, “Sir, do you give me permission to see my wife and children near the Old Market?”  The people replied, “It is not possible.  It is not possible because we have not yet cleaned out the traitors inside.”  At that time, I had the urge to return and meet my mother and father again.  I escorted my bicycle and turned to find the road to the temple.  Suddenly, the Liberation Army raised their AK-47s, shot them above my head and screamed, “Go back!  You cannot go forward!  The only road you must take is the road to Stung Meanchey.” 


After we heard the shot of the gun and the people in black declare that all civilians had to evacuate from their homes for three days, because the Americans had a plan to drop bombs on the city, everyone began to rush from the streets and enter their homes.  Only the people who were separated from their wives and children and parents were left.  My cousin and I traveled along with the others.  When we reached the Mekong Theater and I saw that there were no Khmer Liberation soldiers, I turned my bicycle along the theater and toward the Olympic Market.  Suddenly I heard the sound of three gunshots above my ahead again.  I then returned to the same street.  At that time, the situation was even more stirred and mixed up then before.  Along the street, the Liberation Army screamed again and again for the people to flee from the city.  When I reached the circle intersection in Daem Kor Market in front of the Chenla Theater, I turned left and led my bicycle along the side of Mao Tse Tung Street, creeping along the walls of Banteay Seh.  Afterwards, I crossed the Cao Dai Market.  Along the street I saw the activities of the armies in black carrying guns in each of their hands.  Each of them stood along the corner of the streets.  I reached the front of the Chinese Embassy.  There was one street that could reach my Aunt’s house, which was on the eastern side of the Tuoltampong Market.  As I turned my bicycle and walked along this street, one man with a large stature yelled to me, “Where are you going?”  I answered, “I am going to my Aunt’s house in the front.” Once again he yelled, “That is not possible.  Go back.”  It was not just me and it was not just everyone else, they commanded everyone to continue the journey forward.


 Around 4:00 in the afternoon, I reached the stoplight near Tuoltampong.  I saw many people dressed in civilian clothing begging the people clothed in black for permission to first return and meet their wives before they leave the city.  Suddenly a soldier came out and screamed, “You are only leaving the city for three days and then you will return to meet your family and children again.”  I reached the Tuoltampong Temple and I saw the gate of the temple still ajar. Everyone gathered and entered the temple.  After they entered for three or four meters the Khmer Rumdos people shot from the distance as a signal for them to move forward.  At this time, they made the young people and my younger cousin and I cry because we did not know where we were going.   In addition, we had nothing to eat and the sun was already beginning to set. 


I continued to travel along Mao Tse Tung Street along with the others until I reached the Bo Kor stoplight.  The Liberation people then signaled for us to turn at Preah Monivong toward the head of the road.  I also turned along with others.  There was one street that turned into Tuoltampong Market.  I saw one cyclo driving along the street to the market.  I was able to regain enough energy to lead my bicycle and turn along this street.  Along this quiet road, there was only one cyclo driver and my cousin and I.  I thought that the 17th of April would be the day in which I would be separated from my mother and father.  But with my good luck, we did not meet any soldier’s dressed in black along this road.  At 5:00 in the evening, I reached my Aunt’s house.  As soon as I got there, she asked me, “Where did you come from?”  I answered, “I just returned from congratulating the Liberation Army.  Now, they will not allow us to turn back.” She then said, “Nephew, don’t go anywhere else.  Stay here.  Tomorrow we will all journey back to our home village.” Afterwards she prepared food for the two of us to eat.  After we ate, my Aunt told me, “You must take all your belongings.” At that time I remember I only took with me rice, a set of plates and cooking pots, a mosquito net, and a rug for the journey along the road, in case I would be separated from her again.








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