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Reflections on the Khmer Rouge

main - Khmer RougePin Yathay IconLost Exocutioner iconThe Elimination iconSacred Vows Icon

The EliminationThe Elimination: A survivor confronts the chief of the Khmer Rouge Death Camps
by Rithy Panh, Christophe Bataille, John Cullen
Published by Other Press, 2013

From the internationally acclaimed director of S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine, a survivor’s autobiography that confronts the evils of the Khmer Rouge dictatorship. Rithy Panh was only eleven years old when the Khmer Rouge expelled his family from Phnom Penh in 1975. In the months and years that followed, his entire family was executed, starved, or worked to death. Thirty years later, after having become a respected filmmaker, Rithy Panh decides to question one of the men principally responsible for the genocide, Comrade Duch, who’s neither an ordinary person nor a demon—he’s an educated organizer, a slaughterer who talks, forgets, lies, explains, and works on his legacy. This confrontation unfolds into an exceptional narrative of human history and an examination of the nature of evil.

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Sacred VowsSacred Vows
by U Sam Oeur and Ken McCullough
Published by Coffee House Press, 1998

In 1975, U Sam Oeur and his family, along with 2.8 million others, were driven out of Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge. During the next four years, the family survived life in six different concentration camps. Written in both Khmer and English, “Sacred Vows” recalls the terror of this time in Cambodia. Sacred Vows retells the recent terror of Cambodia and the beauty of its culture. A survivor of the Pol Pot regime, Oeur hopes to inspire young Cambodians to reacquaint themselves with their heritage and make it once again vibrant. Using myths, stories, prophecies, history, and tradition as ironic counterpoint to Cambodia’s present-day situation, Oeur foretells freedom’s imminent return.

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Pin YathayStay Alive, My Son: The Gripping True Story of One Man’s Courageous Escape from the Terror of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge
by Pin Yathay, John Man, and David Chandler (Foreword)
Published by Cornell University Press, 2000 (reprint)

On April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge guerrillas filed into Phnom Penh, signaling the start of a reign of terror which would devastate an ancient culture and cause the deaths of over two million Cambodians in just three years. Moving from camp to camp, Pin Yathay and his family became the “New People” — displaced city dwellers forced to live and work as peasants. Astonishingly, Pin Yathay, a successful, highly educated professional, survived that terrible time. But he and his wife were faced with a decision that no couple should ever have to make: whether to abandon their six-year-old child. In the end, Pin Yathay escaped the “killing fields,” but in his heart is etched the memory of the seventeen members of his family who lost their lives. A harrowing account of life in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and particularly the evacuations of Phnom Penh, written by an engineer for the Ministry of Public Works.

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Lost ExocutionerThe Lost Executioner: A Story of the Khmer Rouge
by Nic Dunlop
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2006

In Cambodia, between 1975 and 1979, nearly two million people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. As head of the Khmer Rouge secret police, Comrade Duch was responsible for the murder of more than 20,000 people considered enemies of the revolution. Twenty years later, not one member of the Khmer Rouge had been held accountable for what happened. Like so many others, Comrade Duch had disappeared. Over a decade of working in Cambodia, photographer Nic Dunlop became obsessed with the idea of finding Duch. As the commandant of “S-21” prison, Duch could shed light on a secret and brutal world that had been sealed off to outsiders. Then, by chance, he came face to face with him. The Lost Executioner describes a personal journey to the heart of the Khmer Rouge. It is an attempt to find out what actually happened in Pol Pot’s Cambodia and why; to understand how a seemingly peaceful nation could give birth to one of the most bloodthirsty revolutions in modern history.

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Alive in the Killing FieldsAlive in the Killing Fields: The True Story of Nawuth Keat, a Khmer Rouge Survivor
by Nawuth Keat, Martha Kendall
Published by National Geographic Children’s Books, 2009

Alive in the Killing Fields is the real-life memoir of Nawuth Keat, a man who survived the horrors of war-torn Cambodia. He has now broken a longtime silence in the hope that telling the truth about what happened to his people and his country will spare future generations from similar tragedy. In this captivating memoir, a young Nawuth defies the odds and survives the invasion of his homeland by the Khmer Rouge. Under the brutal reign of the dictator Pol Pot, he loses his parents, young sister, and other members of his family. After his hometown of Salatrave was overrun, Nawuth and his remaining relatives are eventually captured and enslaved by Khmer Rouge fighters. They endure physical abuse, hunger, and inhumane living conditions. But through it all, their sense of family holds them together, giving them the strength to persevere through a time when any assertion of identity is punishable by death. Nawuth’s story of survival and escape from the Killing Fields of Cambodia is also a message of hope; an inspiration to children whose worlds have been darkened by hardship and separation from loved ones. This story provides a timeless lesson in the value of human dignity and freedom for readers of all ages.

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