First They Killed My Father
It has been a quarter of a century since the Khmer Rouge marched into the Cambodian capital of Phnom Phenh and embarked on a killing frenzy that decimated nearly half of the country’s population, destroyed its infrastructure, and laid waste to a magnificent cultural heritage. Given humankind’s predilection for devouring itself and conveniently forgetting monumental acts of genocide, the world can never have too many survivors to testify to both the murderers’ actions and their victims’ lives, so that others may know and remember the truth. Loung Ung’s story, therefore, is a welcome and necessary, though heartrending, addition to the growing number of voices bearing witness to Cambodia’s Holocaust.
Loung Ung’s descent into hell begins when she is a mere five years old. Born into a picture- perfect, middle-class family, Loung (whose name auspiciously means “dragon”) is the fifth of seven children. Loung’s innocent and sheltered childhood, filled with typical sibling rivalry, trips to market for tasty treats, and play time with school chums, suddenly—and incredibly—evaporates when the Khmer Rouge evacuates Phnom Phenh on April 17, 1975. The Ungs, like other city dwellers deemed bourgeois and therefore “unclean” by Angka, Pol Pot’s ruling party, are forcibly transported in overcrowded trucks to the countryside where they are made to live under inhumane conditions with the unsympathetic Cambodian peasantry.
(The entire section is 439 words.)
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