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Photos of the fall

Photos of the fall

F RENCH photographer Roland Neveu remembers an eerie silence that suddenly

descended over Phnom Penh at daybreak, around 7am, on April 17,

1975.

Heavy fighting around the outskirts of Phnom Penh in the early

evening before had died down only to start even more violently around

3am.

"Creeping" out that morning with his camera, not yet used to the

strange absence of noise, he saw the first shadowy figures of Khmer Rouge

soldiers, and slowly, carefully began taking pictures.

"I didn't know if

they would arrest us, or kill us. Now that the fighting was over, I thought

there might be no problem... on the other hand, maybe there would be." In front

of the French Embassy, he took his most important and treasured photo - shown on

the right - of a happy crowd boldly gathering around the first group of grim,

unsmiling KR militia. The celebration of "peace" can be clearly read among the

civilian faces; and though fanciful, one might wonder of the fate that was to

visit each one.

This was one of the first images taken of the fall...

"the one, the most important, the first encounter."

Neveu worked for a

month or longer for the Gamma picture agency up till the fall, going each day to

the front lines which were static - between 10 and 15kms surrounding the capital

- though fiercely active.

Neveu remembers that once the roads into Phnom

Penh and the river access closed, it became obvious that the fall of the city

was imminent, it was just a question of time.

The Phnom Penh Post is

grateful to Neveu to allow the publication of these photographs: a small

sampling of images fearful, tragic and historic. And a reminder on film that as

of April 17, 1975, the inconceivable had just begun.

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