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Elizabeth Becker traveled to Cambodia during the civil war in 1975-1979. She was able to witness all the changes as they slowly occurred. She stated that in Democratic Kampuchea, there were fences all along the routes. While she was in a boat heading back to Phnom Penh, she noted that there were no signs of “ordinary life.” There were no women by the shore doing their laundry, no fishermen throwing their nets in the water, nor any children playing near the seaside. As they walked onto land, they saw the streets abandoned and the roads without traffic.
Becker and her crew also encountered a man named Hout, who was a thirty year old activist of the socialist revolution. The socialist revolution was the genocide in Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge killed the prince and annihilated all those who were against them. People like Hout were taught that “everyone is equal. Everyone must work. There is not a lot of rice. The revolution is in solidarity with the Chinese.” Once that was explained, the “intellectuals” set off to work, planting rice or cauliflower all year long, something unexpected from the men who were raised above the rest of the population. These intellectuals included doctors, military and political personas, monks, teachers, and those who wore glasses. Hout explained that the members of the Khmer Rouge were living so much better, eating well while the workers had food that wasn’t even “fit for pigs.”
In 1977, the Khmer Rouge began annihilating many of the intellectuals and other people who were a risk to the revolution. Those who were suspected to be members of the CIA or KGB by three people were immediately arrested. The CIA and KGB were a threat because they were there to protect national security, and thus would ruin the reconstructing.
Source: Becker, Elizabeth. When the war was over. NY: New York, 1986
Dith Pran is one of the most famous survivors of the civil war in Cambodia. His life was even portrayed in the award-winning movie, the killing field. Pran and Sydney Schanberg, a previous staff of the New York Times, witnessed the war from 1972 to 1975. After the Khmer Rouge took over the capital, Phnom Penh, Sydney, Pran and two other journalist were arrested and going to be executed. However, Pran convinced the Khmer Rouge that the three westerners were merely neutral French Journalists. After they were released, they went to the French embassy for refuge but Pran was immediately asked to leave because he was Cambodian. Once he returned to the “killing field,” he endured four years of starvation and brutal torture. In 1979, Pran escaped to Thailand and began as a tourist guide, later he became and war correspondent. Over the years, Pran had lost more than 50 relatives including his father, three brothers, one sister and their relatives. His mother died of malnutrition and only one of his sisters survived the holocaust.
“Part of my life is saving life. I don’t consider myself a politician or a hero. I’m a messenger. If Cambodia is to survive, she needs many voices.” – Dith Pran
Source: "Cambodian Holocaust Survivor." Dith Pran. 17 May 2001. Cambodia.com. 20 Jul 2006 <http://www.cambodian.com/dithpran/>.