Tuesday, 13 September 2011
The first day
N.B. #1: My father speaks relatively good English, but I have edited some parts of the interview for easy readability. I want to retain the charm and authenticity of my father's words.
N.B. #2: I will be editing following stories in the same manner.
C: Tell me about your personal experience. What is the earliest thing you remember?
B: After the Vietnam war going on from 1970 to 1975 . . . the gun and the bombs came to an end on April 17, 1975. The city became quiet. Everybody believed that peace finally came to the country. In the evening, the nightmare began.
C: What happened?
B: The Khmer Rouge don't have any idea about running the country. They just believed in turning everybody - about 7 million people in Cambodia - into farmers. I don't know where they got that dumb idea from. No one was allowed to live in the city. Everyone had to leave their house in the city. They chased everyone out of the city and made them walk. Can you imagine Phnom Penh's population of about 1 million or 2 million people walking? They walked in all directions. Some families had old and sick people, some families had babies. From my experience, me and my brother had to carry my grandfather who was seriously ill and couldn't walk. We had to carry him and walk. We didn't know where we were going. We just followed the people. We didn't know what will happen. We didn't know where we will end up. We just walked.
C: How old were you?
B: About 20. No, no, no. 25 years old.
C: How about your parents?
B: Grandpa was 55. Grandma was about 49.
C: You are one of the eldest of your brothers in your family. How did the younger brothers react?
B: When the soldiers came to our house, we had to leave the house immediately. We didn't have a chance to bring food or clothes. So we just left. It happened so unexpectedly. We didn't have time to think. Some people hesitated or they wasted too much time. So many people didn't want to leave the house and they were shot to death. We left the house without bringing enough things, without bringing anything. We just ran for life and left everything behind.
C: So that was the first day of the regime?
C: How long did you walk for?
B: The city seemed like a dead city. No traffic, nothing. Just people walking on the road. Some were yelling, some were crying, some were looking for family members that were lost in the big crowd. We just walked without knowing where we were going.
C: When did you rest?
B: We walked slowly for a day. At night, we just simply used anything possible to make shelter. We used some blankets, some towels, anything. And then some people slept on the road without any shelter. The heat on the road, because the road was still hot, we had to sleep on it. And it felt like we were living in hell.