Publication of stories from survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia have been on the increase in recent years, as the worldwide focus on genocide survivors around the globe has risen to a level where its important for everyone to understand what took place, so it can never be allowed to happen again. Despite their often horrific nature, book publishers are now much more willing to publish these accounts of life and loss under a genocidal regime, and two such books arrived on my doormat this week. My thanks to Heaven Lake Press who've sent me Sam Sotha's memoir, In The Shade of A Quiet Killing Place, published in March this year; and to Kim Chou Oeng and his self-published story, Climbing Back Up: The Killing Fields of Cambodia and Phnom Dangrek The Untold Story, as told to Marchelle Hammack, and published in 2003.
In the spring of 1970, all the farmers in his village stood around the only radio and listened to the voice of Prince Sihanouk, speaking to them from distant Beijing. US vassal General Lon Nol had staged a putsch against him, said Sihanouk, and he urged the youth to liberate their homeland. Cambodia had become enmeshed in the Vietnam War. American B-52 bombers had dropped 500,000 tons of explosives on the country in the late 1960s, to destroy lines of communication with the Vietnamese communists that ran through Cambodia -- more bombs than were dropped on Japan during World War II. After Nhem Sal and his friends heard the prince on the radio, they took off for the jungle and joined the Khmer Rouge. Five years later, they had won, taken over the capital and driven the population into the countryside, where they were to live out true communism. It was the start of a ruthless campaign of genocide against Cambodia's own people.