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My memories through my family

I was not born when the Khmer Rouge were in power, but I am aware of some of the events that passed during that time through members of my family. April 17, 1975, was a day filled with hope for all the people of Cambodia. But it was also the first day of the Khmer Rouge rule, which meant a life of difficulty, hardship, separation and horrible suffering for the people of Cambodia, as well as incredible destruction to the country. I still remember the stories my parents told about what they encountered and experienced.

According to my mother, in Pailin, on April 17, 18 and 19 no Khmer Rouge fighters had entered the city. People only saw Lon Nol’s soldiers stationed in Pailin town. When Lon Nol’s soldiers left Pailin on April 20, the Khmer Rouge entered. After people saw the Khmer Rouge marching in, both men and women, young and old, went out to welcome them. The people were happy and full of congratulations. They yelled “bravo, to the Father King! Bravo to the Father King! Bravo to Peace! Bravo to the Liberation Army!” Along the streets there were men and women traveling with white cloth tied to their wrists. On their motorcycles and cars they tied banners pleading for peace and surrender. 

After a few moments of joy and merriment, the Khmer Rouge, dressed in black, spoke over their microphones, commanding all the people to abandon their homes, villages and districts and to relocate in regions far away. Tears once again began to fall because they were forced to abandon their property, their homes and their villages. Some cried because they had to be separated from their families, their children, their parents, their grandparents and husbands and wives.

April 17, 1975, was the day the Khmer Rouge started to kill people – publicly. My parents could hardly forget that day as they walked along the road. Now, they walk with joy on New Year, but more than three decades ago, they walked in tears.

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