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Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors (Southeast Asia Studies) Hardcover – April 24, 1997


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Dith Pran, the Cambodian photojournalist portrayed by Haing S. Ngor in The Killing Fields, compiled this collection of eyewitness accounts to the genocide perpetrated by Pol Pot's regime from 1975 to 1979. All of the survivors who recount their stories here were children when the Khmer Rouge took power, and the horrific images from a time when an estimated third of the Cambodian population died of disease, starvation, and execution remain fixed in their minds to this day.

The bleakness of evil made commonplace permeates these testaments. "There was a man who was friends with a woman, and they had a friendly chat under a tree," one woman writes. "Pol Pot saw them and accused them of having an affair... Pol Pot tied them up on a cross and then told everyone to watch the couple being questioned and hit. The lady was pregnant and was hit until she lost the baby and died. The man was also beaten to death." As Cambodians struggle to rebuild their lives and nation, books such as this make sure that they--and we--will never forget the depths from which they have been forced to rise.

From Library Journal

In this collection of 29 reminiscences by Cambodian refugees and assembled by a photojournalist for the New York Times, the brutality of the Khmer Rouge supports the theme that the forces of holocaust have emerged as a dominant aspect of civilization. The authors were children ranging from ages five through 17 during Cambodia's dominance by the Communist Khmer Rouge. Most of them came from middle-class urban families and suffered a series of horrifying experiences until the invasion by the Vietnamese and their subsequent escape through Thailand to the United States. Their stories coalesce into a common account of being driven from their home, often witnessing the murders of their family, and enduring disease, starvation, and beatings. In the main, their writings are simple, straightforward narratives. Despite the absence of historical or sociological method, the work bears a sense of painful credibility. Recommended for public libraries?John F. Riddick, Central Michigan Univ. Lib., Mt. Pleasant
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Southeast Asia Studies
  • Hardcover: 199 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (April 24, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300068395
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300068399
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,581,083 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Richard Arant on June 5, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Twenty-nine essays compiled by Dith Pran, each written by a Cambodian who was still in childhood when Cambodia fell into Pol Pot's hands. Ben Kiernan ties the collection together so well in his introduction: "Children had to work like adults. Adults, given instructions like children, were treated like animals." As Kiernan notes, Pol Pot's efforts to build his twisted revolution on the backs of these children certainly backfired! The accompanying photos of the contributing authors and the details of their successful new lives in America will make any American recognize what a 'promised land' our country still remains. In so many many ways America has failed the Cambodian people, but most of those fortunate few who reached our shores have made successful lives for themselves and their families. The difficulties confronting those who remain in Cambodia today are seemingly insurmountable. As has been said so many times, every Cambodian has a story to tell, and a river of ink could not describe their nation's suffering. Dith Pran has once again served his people proudly with this touching collection.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By E. B Rush on January 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read a lot of books Cambodia. This is yet another collection of stories about people who survived the holocaust. My heart is always touched by such stories. These types of books are always similar even though the stories are specific to individuals there are common themes. If you are interested in more personal accounts there are 2 others which I would recommend. "When Broken Glass Floats," and "First They Killed My Father."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 30, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Many texts review the adult experience in the uniquely heinous Pol Pot epoch. The perspective of children as they witness the brutality of what are essentially other children lends a horrific quality to an otherwise corroborative work
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Steve Pochadt on March 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a good introduction for anyone who wants to learn about life under the Khmer Rouge. The stories may be different, but they all provide a vivid detail of children struggling to survive Pol Pot's regime.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Davis on April 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most powerful books I have read. The writing may not be the greatest. After all it is not a novel; it is a composition of the stories of Cambodians that have survived horrendous atrocities. Before we blame the U.S. we must realize that The U.N. and the rest of the world failed to take action as well. Would the public have supported sending troops into a situation similar to Vietnam? Is Burma the next killing field? We still ignore similar circumstances that are occurring as I type this review.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By alainviet on January 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
These are the collected accounts of children who suffered untold atrocities under the Pol Pot regime such as torture, rape, starvation, beating, and killing. People were buried alive or thrown into a pot and cooked like fish or poultry. Others had their gallbladders and liver removed to serve as meals for the Khmer Rouge.
This is the story of a revolution going haywire and of ruthless men who, in the name of distorted and senseless ideologies, inflicted pain, fear, terror, and death on their countrymen.
Power not backed by strong moral values could only lead to barbarism.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book really moved me. Sometimes the writing was not great, but most of the time I was intrigued by what had happened to these people. The best acount in my mind is the last one, "The Tonle Sap lake massacre. If you are interested in Cambodia, or in tales of survivors, get this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT on August 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
These children's memoirs give a human face to the unacceptable genocide committed by the Red Khmer in Cambodia in the name of a Western totalitarian ideology (Marxism - Leninism), which the top cadres `learned' in western universities (Paris).

As Dith Pran explains in his introduction, children were at the heart of the Red Khmer's fanatical ideological policies. The Red Khmer mounted an all out attack on family life. Children didn't belong anymore to their parents, but to the Red Khmer's ruling organization. Children were deprived of real knowledge of their natural parents.
The aim of the ideologues was to indoctrinate completely all `clean' newborn members of the population in order to build a `Brave New World'.
But the top of the Party themselves contradicted these unnatural and inhuman policies. Ieng Sary (Pol Pot's brother-in-law) put his sons at the helm of the province he controlled, while Ta Mok put all his siblings in high positions in his province. Nepotism at the top was rampant!

As one of the children remarks, the victory of the Red Khmer was positively greeted by the majority of the population, because people wanted `peace at any price'. But afterwards, of course not at any price.
The Red Khmer regime turned into a butchery, an endless slaughtering (clubbing to death, not shooting, because gunshots would have sown panic among the victims in waiting), a genocide through outright executions, overwork, exhaustion, starvation and illnesses. Whole families (women, children and babies) were killed because the rulers feared `revenge'.

But ultimately, the most cynical aspect of this atrocious story is the fact that this regime was supported by the West, because the Red Khmer were an enemy of Vietnam, which was an ally of the USSR.
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