In the four years between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge killed almost one-fourth of Cambodia’s population, an estimated 2 million people. Its utopian goal was to establish a radical Communist agrarian society. Accordingly, the Khmer Rouge and its sympathizers declared Cambodia’s educated citizens the Capitalist enemy of the people. This was tantamount to the persecution of the middle class: even persons who wore glasses or colorful clothes were subject to arrest. At the end of the Communists’ rule, nearly all of the country’s professional population had been exterminated.
In her autobiography, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, Loung Ung recounts the terror, violence and mass hysteria that gripped Cambodia during that time. In 1975, when the Khmer Rouge advanced on her hometown of Phnom Penh to overthrow the government, Loung Ung was a boisterous five-year-old girl. From a child’s perspective, she describes how her family had to flee from the Communists, and how her parents desperately tried to conceal their urban middle-class background by living among the rural population.
After a few months on the run, Ung and her family were found out, beaten, robbed of their few possessions, and deported to a forced-labor camp. The Khmer Rouge murdered her father and dispersed the remaining family members. Ung was sent to a training camp where she was indoctrinated to become a child soldier. Over time, her mother was also murdered, and two sisters died of hunger and disease. When the Khmer Rouge was finally driven back by invading Vietnamese forces, Ung was able to reunite with her surviving siblings.
Ung, her older brother, and his family eventually emigrated to the United States. As national spokesperson for the “Campaign for a Landmine Free World,” a program of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF), Ung now appears regularly in the media and lectures extensively on human rights issues.
First They Killed My Father includes a map and numerous photographs.
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|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|ix Author’s Note|
|1 Phnom Penh||April 1975|
|7 The Ung Family||April 1975|
|17 Takeover||April 1975|
|23 Evacuation||April 1975|
|28 Seven-Day Walk||April 1975|
|38 Krang Truop||April 1975|
|44 Waiting Station||July 1975|
|50 Anglungthmor||July 1975|
|56 Ro Leap||November 1975|
|69 Labor Camps||January 1976|
|79 New Year’s||April 1976|
|93 Keav||August 1976|
|101 Pa||December 1976|
|113 Ma’s Little Monkey||April 1977|
|120 Leaving Home||May 1977|
|129 Child Soldiers||August 1977|
|144 Gold for Chicken||November 1977|
|151 The Last Gathering||May 1978|
|158 The Walls Crumble||November 1978|
|165 The Youn Invasion||January 1979|
|175 The First Foster Family||January 1979|
|184 Flying Bullets||February 1979|
|195 Khmer Rouge Attack||February 1979|
|203 The Execution||March 1979|
|209 Back to Bat Deng||April 1979|
|218 From Cambodia to Vietnam||October 1979|
|228 Lam Sing Refugee Camp||February 1979|