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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Legacy of the three years, eight months, 20 days

Legacy of the three years, eight months, 20 days

Cambodians have traditionally had a prosperous culture and lived in a land full of

natural resources, but Cambodians are also the most unfortunate and poorest people

in Asia because of war and the stupid killing of each other for more than two decades.

During this period, the cruelest regime was the Khmer Rouge. What did the Khmer Rouge

do during the three years, eight months and twenty days they were in power?

April 17, 1975, is the day that Cambodians cannot forget. At first, people thought

the day would bring development and progress, but on the contrary, it turned out

to be the day that Cambodians descended into hell.

On April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge took over the city of Phnom Penh and the whole

country. It was the day that the "black shirts" expelled all innocent people

from the city without allowing them to bring their property, only the necessities

they could fit into a small pack.

People had to walk barefoot to remote areas that took several weeks and months to

reach, and some people died along the way - slowly and pitifully - without a physician

or medicine for treatment.

Most people who were civil servants or soldiers with the Lon Nol regime were collected

and killed en route without investigation, proper judgment, or knowledge about their

murders reaching their families and friends.

The new villages and new land where people were resettled had nothing at all for

the new arrivals, nothing to build shelters or make a living, not even a knife, an

ax or a spade. In the new life, in the new land, there were no deep wells or paths,

let alone schools, hospitals or roads. Nothing. At that time, Cambodian people felt

hopeless as they lived in hunger and fear, forced to work hard and die slowly.

For instance, in a case of collecting people to kill them, I still remember T'beng

village, Trapaing Preah commune, Prei Chhor district, Kampong Cham, in July 1977

(I cannot remember the exact day). In the afternoon, the village chief sent the militia

to collect people who were planting rice. They said there was a meeting at the village

office. They selected more than 100 families, mostly newcomers, and made them prepare

their clothes and move immediately to another area without delay. At that time, they

were forced to wait for a truck to Mean village, Prei Chhor district, Kampong Cham,

in order to wait for another truck to depart. A few days later, they finally took

the truck and were executed at Phnom Bros and Phnom Srey, located in Ampil commune,

Kampong Siem district, Kampong Cham.

Besides the killings, what did Pol Pot do?

Pol Pot's group starved people who were living on Cambodian territory and made them

suffer most miserably by forcing groups of 40 to 50 people to share just one small

bowl of banana leaves and one bowl of porridge which contained just a few cans of

rice, or else green water soup without fish.

In that regime, people were forced to work hard from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a break

only at lunchtime. The important job in that regime was cultivation, as well as digging

canals and building dams using human labor instead of using cattle and machines.

In the dictatorial regime, the bonds between parents and children, older and younger

brothers and neighbors were cut off. Family members were separated. Love between

men and women became a capital offense. Those nasty people did not allow people to

respect religion and did not allow education. They used pagodas and schools as places

for killing people and housing cattle and pigs.

After the cruel regime was toppled in 1979, all Cambodian people remained empty-handed.

Cambodia was a nation with nothing, where only the poor and sick remained. Overworked,

their brains almost became stupid and ignorant.

What do we have to do at this time to prevent the evil regime from returning? What

do we have to do to rebuild this unfortunate country?

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