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?