Refugee Narratives: Ten Stories of Cambodian Refugees

Entry 5 (Edited Transcription)

During the Pol Pot’s Regime (The K.R).
By [K.K.]

On the 11th April, 1975, a long queue of people moved slowly step-by-step from Phnom Penh city to the countryside. Their pale faces showed us that they were afraid for their lives in the future. 

We spent our long journey for a couple of weeks until we reached my father’s native village at Prey Veng. When we got out of the ship, we saw many soldiers standing on the beach. They ordered us to give them information about our works. But our faithfulness didn’t save them from death. The "Khmer Rouge" took notes down in the death roll and sent my father and uncle, who were both well-educated, to learn about revolutionary doctrine.

The period of the Communist Regime led by Pol Pot caused the people to live in poverty. We worked too hard, like slaves, and earned 200g of rice per day. We had no supplementary food for reward. Then we had to find a new solution for to continue living: we had to pretend that we were ignorant. It seemed that we were animals in the jungle, and life did not seem very hopeful. “It is a prison without walls.”

I was separated from my family, and I was sent to do hard work at a big farm which was located  a hundred kilometres from my village. 

I had a new surname. They called us the “New People.”

[Page 23] I had a hard time with too much work and too little food. 

I worked in the interest of my life, because the Khmer Rouge had control over me from time to time. 

One day, there was an event. They pointed accusingly at me because, in 1974, my father had been a Director of the Fisheries Office, and I had been a student for eight years. So the Khmer Rouge now began to notice my family’s situation. 

The guerrillas always held a meeting every week filled with long speeches filled with menace. They had many special slaughter-houses located not far from my home. 

During the night, I heard a sound coming from a horse galloping. This sound must be coming as news to people that some of them will be sent back to heaven. 

The Khmer Rouge had several ways to kill the honest people. They used cold-steel for slaughter and to cut the bile out. Some were massacred by being buried alive; sometimes [they were killed] by the hammer or the bamboo.

It is the truth! Pol Pot’s soldiers wanted to kill the women, children, old men, well-educated persons, and soldiers in cold blood. 

The criminals used the pagodas where people used to worship the Buddha to replace hospitals, warehouses, or prisons. 

In regards to the people’s health service system, the chemists [Page 24] cured and used traditional home-made remedies for the tablets and injections.

There were some primary schools in each village that learned only about the revolutionary doctrine of Communist Regime. Their studies focused on how to work hard honestly and how to gain experience through practice. The Khmer Rouge took many teachers who were unknowledgeable. When we talked about the situation in the Communist period, we were so sad. We were reminded of the day that the silly Khmer Rouge took revenge on people by gathering ornaments set with jewelries and [so that people] starved rather than beg for food. The Khmer Rouge always forced the young boys and girls’ hands in marriage. 

During the past four years, my mother had to spend a lot of gold in exchange for rice and nutrients. We had no social security. We always felt “hopelessness in life and smiled with pale faces.” 

Our nation's situation dramatically changed. From 1975 until today, I am uncertain as to why these men, who are of the same nation, would like to slaughter their own people just like barbarians. 

One day, I had a bad emotion because of my hopelessness and low, low standard of living. I am a bony man. My life got into hot water. I became a foolish man and wanted to commit suicide. 

But on the 7th January, 1979, the Vietnamese forces  [Page 25] met with the Khmer Revolutionary troops and arrived in Phnom Penh. They destroyed and overthrew the Pol Pot’s regime from the power…

I’ll finish my adventure here, so I can’t tell you “sisters,” all of my whole life under the Communist Regime. But I hope that you know [about the Communist Regime] clearly from my close friends' history, too. 

I would pray that God to bless you all the time and not to let you, “Paula & Madeleine,” fall into such a cruel event.

Have a happy life forever!!
I hope that you will have a nice trip to USA!!

From your poor student,

P.S. Sending to you my favorite proverbs:
“While there is life, there is hope.”
“Life is a struggle.”

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