The Memories of the 17th of April







Dara Peou Vanthan


17 April 1975 is the day that almost everyone in the world recognized that Pol Pot rose to power in Kampuchea and had installed the most extreme regime.  I was only born two years before the 17 April 1975 and I was still not aware.  I did not know anything about the problems that arose on 17 of April 1975.  My parents have also never told me stories about this time.  Only my older sister has told me that, “You didn’t know anything.  When we were evacuated from Stung Treng Province, when you were hungry you always begged for food.”  This is not something that forces me to want to remember every 17th of April that comes.  This means that only if I inquire about this day, then this day of remembrance can be possible.  Therefore, I usually have the feeling that whenever it is the 17th of April, this is the day I can break from school and rest.   I am speaking with the utmost honesty.


The event that has helped me to remember is the fact that I was able to grow up in a regime that considers 17 April 1975 as a day of importance.  The regime considered this day a day in which they gained victory over imperialism.  The day I became aware, was on the day I entered school in 1980.  As long as it was the 17th of April, I usually had a break from school.  Sometimes on this day I joined others in throwing flowers at the prestigious guests on this holiday.  At this time, I was considered a model child.  The model children usually participated in the distinguished events to help throw flowers or beat drums to escort prestigious guests during important events.  At that time, these events were considered a government activity. 


If I think about it, twenty years have already passed since then, but the holiday on the 17th of April is still a day I continue to remember.  This is a holiday that seems not to bear any purpose if we do not think deeply about it.  I think that different political influences encourage many people to remember.   They make people remember so that they will not forget.   But if people create a wrong political regime, they can lead people to terrible destruction that can also affect neighboring countries.  Similarly, it is like the political regime of the Communist Party of Kampuchea during Democratic Kampuchea in 1975-1979.  This regime implemented the most extreme policies.  Within this regime there was an economic policy that stated that each person must depend on him/herself.  This policy forced millions of innocent people in Cambodia to lose their lives.  These countless deaths are the result of the 17th of April, which the Khmer Rouge people dressed in black, considered the day of victory for their people.  This is not a remembrance. This is an understanding I have gained through my work at the Documentation Center of Cambodia through a period of time. 


Now, I don’t know how many more years into the future before I will no longer regard this crazy day of remembrance, the 17th of April, as a day of rest.  But this day is already ingrained in my mind. 








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