The Truth that I Remember







Aun Long


Around 7:30 on the morning of 17 April 1975, I was standing at the side of the road on the southeast side of Beoung Keng Kang School in Phnom Penh.


            I and many others bore faces of happiness intermingled with fear and trepidation.  Hundreds of thousands of eyes stared towards the western direction as if waiting for something to happen.  The sound of bullets could sometimes be heard firing loudly and sometimes only faintly from the distance.  On the street above Mao Tse Tung, I could sometimes hear the sound of bullets fired near and sometimes fired from the distance.  Once in a while a shelling fell on the roof of the school which was not very far from where I was.  This made my body tremble. A little while later I heard the sound of crowds of people cheering mixed with the sound of bullets.  Guarding both sides of the road, the people of Phnom Penh mixed with the Lon Nol soldiers that broke from their armies, wore colored clothing.  In each of their hands were white cloths waving in the air welcoming the new Liberation Army that was walking in rows with solid and angry expressions on their faces.  All of their people dressed in black, rubber tire shoes, red checkered scarves wrapped around their necks, and some had one pant leg rolled up.  Their bodies were covered with dirt and on their heads they wore a Chinese cap.  Some wiped their heads with their scarves.  On their chests and around their waists were ammunitions and bullets.  They pointed their guns up and down prepared to fire at any time.  They marched towards the crowds of people that were standing along the road.  Their bodies demonstrated they were soldiers who endured incredible pain and sacrifice for their work.  I heard them chanting:  “Bravo to the revolution!  Bravo to the Liberation Army that gained victory over the U.S. imperialists!  The war is over!”


            At that time I was only ten years old.  I don’t really remember very much.  My father and I walked near six men dressed in black with a gun belt wrapped around their waists.  In their hands they held a piece of paper or a booklet.  They yelled out an announcement into the microphone: Angkar will not punish the people or the people who worked under the Lon Nol regime!  Angkar will only punish the traitors!”


            I traveled towards Beoung Keng Kang Market with my father and walked all around the market.  At that time, I saw a crowd of people with cyclos, carts, and Peta cars parked outside and inside the market fence.  They clogged up the entire street.  Many people, old and young, men and women knocked against each other in front of the rice granaries and in the market.  At that time, eight or nine liberation soldiers carrying Chinese AK-47s were trying to prevent people from entering the market. Since they could not prevent them and people would not listen, the army dressed in black raised their Chinese AK-47s and shot it in the air above everyone’s heads and ordered them to move back, but still without success.  The crowds of people continued to swarm towards the front in search of the rice granary.  After they shot the gun in the air, the army of soldiers dressed in black shot their guns at the walls of the rice granary.  Afterwards, they also shot their guns at the ground and toward the crowd of people at the front.  The sound of guns brought about utter chaos and confusion.  There was so much disorder it was like a dam had broke.  When the guns had silenced, in front of me, many people were killed and injured.  I still remember my father saying, “This is from hunger.  In a country that was just at war, prices are rising and the desires of people are trembling because of their stomachs and the screams of hunger.”  My father continued and said, “War within our country is still not yet over if the people are still hungry like this.” Afterwards he breathed a long sigh and said, “The misery and suffering of Cambodia is still not yet over.”


            At 6:00 in the evening my family finished our dinner.  A little later my grandmother told my father, “Soldiers from the Liberation Army told us that our family and everyone living in Beoung Keng Kang must leave the city immediately, because inside the city there are still enemies and the Americans will bomb the city at any time.  If any families or person remain stubborn, the soldiers dressed in black will shoot and kill them immediately.  They must accept their own responsibilities. 


            After we talked and discussed the situation, my family agreed that we needed to travel along National Road #1 so that we could return to my father’s native village.  Around 8:00 in the evening, because of the immediate orders from the Liberation Army, my family had to travel towards the eastern direction along Preah Norodom Street, past the intersection at the head of the street, and we had to cross the Monivong Bridge.  Along the streets of Phnom Penh there were crowds of people who were making their journey.  One sight that made me tremble with fear was when I saw many Lon Nol soldiers bloated and scattered along the national road.  Some of the soldiers were run over flat by Khmer Rouge tanks while some were bloated and were floating along the Mekong River.  Many people had packed enough food for at least three days.  But some families had filled their pillowcases and rice sacks with money.  When they discovered that the Khmer Rouge had abolished money and no longer allowed it to be spent and they had realized their money had lost all value, they became disappointed and even crazy. 


Four days later when we did not hear the bombings of the Americans, my father knew that we were cheated and tricked into evacuating and leaving our homes for a period of two weeks.  My father said, “I knew they would be like this.  I began to forget everything and then everyone encountered an unfortunate destiny.  In front of us there is one question: Will we live or will we die?”


            Ten days later I arrived in my father’s native village and they called us the “new people” or the “17 April people.” 








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


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