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Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors

Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors
Author: Dith Pran
ISBN 13: 9780300078732
ISBN 10: 300078730
Edition: New edition
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: 1999-04-10
Format: Paperback
Pages: 224
List Price: $28.00

This extraordinary book contains eyewitness accounts of life in Cambodia during Pol Pot's genocidal Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, accounts written by survivors who were children at the time. The memoirs were gathered by Dith Pran, whose own experiences in Cambodia were so graphically portrayed in the film The Killing Fields. These testimonies bear shattering witness to the slaughter committed by the Khmer Rouge. The contributors - most of them now living in the United States and pictured in photographs that accompany their stories - report on life in Democratic Kampuchea as seen through children's eyes. They speak of their bewilderment and pain as Khmer Rouge cadres tore their families apart, subjected them to brainwashing, drove them from their homes to work in forced-labor camps, and executed captives in front of them. Their stories tell of suffering, the loss of innocence, the struggle to survive against all odds, and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

Kirkus Reviews

Horrific childhood testimonies by survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia.

These 30 brief narratives were collected by Pran from now- adult survivors of Pol Pot's killing fields. Most of those included here currently reside in the US. Pran, a photojournalist whose story was featured in the movie The Killing Fields, is the founder of the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project; his wife (and co- editor of the volume) DePaul is its executive director. Comparisons to Hitler's genocide are inevitable: Here, too, a government systematically exterminated millions of innocent men, women, and children through a program of relocation, starvation, forced labor, and outright massacres. The narrators, who were only children when the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975, cannot, of course, explain why the regime ruthlessly murdered nearly two million of their compatriots, but perhaps criminal chaos is much of the point here. Uneducated (thus "untainted") village children were less likely to be worked, starved, or walked to death, and were indoctrinated to disavow family ties and show loyalty to all-powerful Angka (the Khmer Rouge regime). Many children were forced to watch executions of their relatives without flinching. A few became monsters, like the six-year-old recollected by one witness here, who attacked a pregnant woman with an ax. With too little room to present a picture of the narrators' lives before and after the hellish years of 197579, the recorded memories are saved from a tedious repetitiveness by a few remarkable descriptions, such as that of an emaciated malaria victim with a swollen belly looking "like a frog," and a scavenging child finding duck eggs in a human skull.

This compelling material might be even more powerfully disturbing had it been accompanied by additional explanatory and background material.