Bitter Memories







Try Nin


All events and unique stories that pass before our eyes and give us reason to remember, even if these events have passed for a long time, when this day returns again, this day brings feelings of anxiousness and forces us to remember.  The events that passed on 17 April 1975 are bitter historical events for the Cambodian people throughout the country.  They were evacuated from their native districts and forced to live in other areas. People were driven from the city of Phnom Penh and relocated in neighboring provinces throughout the country.  And the people who lived in the provinces were forced by the Khmer Rouge to live in other provinces not their own.


My father said that on 17 April 1975, probably around 8:00 in the morning, he was evaluating the land and he told the workers to prepare their equipment so they could dig for gems.  A month before 17 April 1975, my father was planning to buy a plot of land called Orchard Rae Soen Peouv that was 10 cubic meters large and was 2 km north of Pailin, Battambang Province.  Around 8:30, a Khmer Rouge soldier dressed in black with a green Chinese cap, a red and white checkered scarf wrapped around his neck, carrying an AK-47 and belts of bullets wrapped around his body, walked towards my father.  At that time my father was not really paying attention.  Suddenly this Khmer Rouge soldier walked behind my father and tapped him on the shoulder and told him, “Uncle, you have to leave Pailin for three days first.  You don’t have to take any belongings with you because three days afterwards, Angkar will give your parents and uncles and aunts permission to return to their native villages.”  After the Khmer Rouge soldier finished speaking, a large group of Khmer Rouge soldiers jumped from a GMC car.  They made an announcement on their microphone throughout the orchard Rae Soen Peouv.  At this time my father was not able to ask those people why [they had to leave], because everything seemed so formidable.  My father told the ten workers, “We will rest from digging for a period. Now we will return home.” When my father rode his motorcycle along the road he saw the cars of the Khmer Rouge and tanks crowding the entire national road.  On 17 April 1975, the Khmer Rouge announced, “If brothers and sisters are able to buy land in the city of Pailin, you can remain for now.” At this time, my parents were able to buy a field of corn.  The corn stalks were about 30 or 40 meters tall and the field had a width of more than two hectares south of Pailin.   The field cost 300,000 riels.  In the days that followed, the Khmer Rouge walked and asked for rice and food from the people almost everyday.  My father gave them rice once or twice a day, each time 20-30 bags of rice and food from the 18th to the 28th of April 1975. 


On the 29th of April around 9:00 the Khmer Rouge evacuated all the people in Pailin.  According to my father my family also left on this day. 


Personally, I remember that when we were on the road my family had a Honda motorcycle and we used a wagon that was used for carrying dirt, to carry our belongings.  My fourth older sister, my second youngest sister, my youngest sister, and I rode on top of the wagon.  My father led the motorcycle that was dragging the wagon and my mother and my four older sisters pushed the wagon from behind.  While we were making the journey along the road, I saw many people in a state of disorder.  Some carried their belongings on their heads and some carried their child on one arm and their things on the other.  Some children, their parents carried on their backs or cradled in their arms.  I remembered my mother saying, “Children, do not go anywhere far away.  Beware, you might get lost. It will be too difficult to find you because there are too many people.”  I saw soldiers dressed in black, wearing green hats, and carrying rifles, walking past people who were making their unplanned journey.  At that time I remember most vividly when my uncle fought with my mother.  I didn’t know what they were fighting each other about. Last year I asked my mother about this.  My mother said my uncle was angry with her. He asked for the car to put his belongings.  At that time my mother was so angry she removed all the things from my uncle’s car.  She threw away some of the things then after we continued the journey for half a kilometer she realized that the old pillow that she had thrown away had gold in it.  She told my grandfather to go find it and when he gave it to my mother, she was extremely happy. 


While we made the journey, many people died from sickness.  Some who were pregnant gave birth along the road. Others were shot and killed by the Khmer Rouge soldiers, because these people complained that they had not brought anything with them and wanted to return to get their things and then follow later.  In one blink of an eye the Khmer Rouge shot these people and they all fell dead.  According to my father, along both sides of the road, probably about ten to twenty meters, there were at least three to five people dead.  From night until morning there were more than one hundred people dead.  At that time I was seven years old.  Of all the things that happened, I only remember this much about 17 April 1975.  But of the activities that followed 17 April 1975, I have many memories.







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