Refugee Narratives: Ten Stories of Cambodian Refugees

Entry 3 (Edited Transcription)

My Family’s Life in Pol Pot’s Regime

On the morning April 17th 1975, the Khmer’s Communist Regime conquered Phnom Penh, a city of the Khmer Republic. Along the road in front of my house, I saw Pol Pot’s army walking and shouting very loudly about the victory that they were winning over the Republic’s Regime. They said to the citizens, “you ought to escape from the U.S.’s bombing and go away, outside the city. Don’t take a lot with you from your homes; you’ll be back home soon in a few days.”

My family left Phnom Penh to live in Takeo province. One day, in July of 1975, my father wrote a letter to ask Mr. Khieu Sam Phan, Head of State of the Khmer Communist’s Regime. He sent it by the Section Leader. Why did he write the letter to Mr. Khieu Samphan? Because he wanted to be a Member of the Communist Party but the result was a reply letter back from Khieu Samphan, “For a long time you were my friend! Now you’re my enemy!” After this my family were still and quiet, like the deaf, and were working as hard as slaves, as ordered by the section leader.

In November of 1975, the section leader transported the people that lived in Takeo province to Battambang province by train. My family arrived in a village close to the forest, which was near the [Page 15] Khmer-Thai border, in the Battambang province. My house was made from seedlings.  Small pieces of wood were used to make the bed and leaves were used to cover the roof.Fierce animals lived in the jungle next to my house. One day my father died after being overworked and having no food to eat.

After my father died we were poor; my two sisters and I were hated and looked down upon by the leaders because they had heard about my father’s job - that he had been  a member of parliament and an advisor of Mr. Marshal Lon Nol, the President of Khmer Republic in 1975. They accused my family of wanting to escape from Khmer to Thailand. Their accusations were not true.

The leaders ordered us to work hard. They didn’t allow us to live together and ordered me to leave home and live in another place, which was a very difficult place to live in. “Now goodbye my poor sisters. Don’t worry about me. You must try to work hard, and you must obey the leader’s orders to in order to keep your life”. 

In January of 1976, I left for the youth group. The youths were students, but around 1,050 to 1,120 of the youths were killed by the leaders of the youth group every night. The remainder of the youths who were still alive were thin and full of diseases. The chief of the group asked me several times about my father and my former professions. I replied and told him a lie, saying: “My family were poor, not wealthy. My father never had  any official work, and I hadn’t got any education. We were farmers”. [Page 16] I was kicked, hit, and knocked out all the time by the chief of the group because I was full of diseases and didn't have the strength to work.

One day in July of 1978, I asked the chief of the group to visit my sisters in the village.  He agreed with my request and allowed me to go home. Along the narrow road, I walked very slowly to the village to visit my poor sisters whom I had not seen in three years, I thought to myself like a foolish boy, "As soon as I meet my sisters again, I'll be happy. Oh, dears, will you remember me or not?"

When I got to the entrance of my sisters’ house, "I suddenly heard a pained voice from an old woman who was a neighbor. She told me about my sisters' story." She said: “Why were your sisters killed? They were killed by the Pol Pot’s troup when they heard about your father’s job - that he had been a member of parliament - and they got a lot of jewels for themselves.  After that they tried to find you to kill you.  Oh dear, now you must escape.”

I left the village, and, walking through the forest, I thought that dying would be better than living. I was disappointed in living. I decided to garrote myself, and I began to try to hang myself. Then I remembered the English proverb that says: “While there’s life there’s hope.” I then stopped trying to kill myself and walked alone, very slowly along the road to the youth group. [Page 17]

Oh dears, my sisters Paula and Madeleine, I can’t write and tell you any more about my sad story.  When I begin to write, my tears fall down to the ground from my eyes like waterfalls, and my hands are shaky and can’t hold the pen to write.

Finally, I pray to God to bless my soul and forgive me of all my sins.  I wish peace to the world. I want to be proud all of my sorrows, and I wish to live together with my parents and my poor sisters in another life!

Tuesday January 29, 1980

Personal history & future intentions:
My name is, [P.C.] age 23, and I was born on Friday, November 17th, 1957. I was educated at secondary school for 12 years in three languages: Khmer, English, and a little French.

My future intention is to be in the service of foreign affairs. To do this I must try to study hard, or I’ll forget some things and be useless!

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