Skip to content

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers – Loung Ung

September 7, 2016

ftkmfWe first encounter normal life before it was interrupted.

Told through children’s eyes, the politics still come through loudly

Here’s a graphic description of an attempted rape.

The constant fear, which is portrayed by the Ung family, is one which would push any person who experienced this to only fend for themselves, as it is the only way to survive.

Human adaptability is clearly shown in the text through Pa’s sense to become friendly with the chief and the base people, which is a source of procuring enough food for his family.
The parents of teenagers understand that if the young women are not sent away the soldiers will have their way with them, no matter what, and if the young men are not sent away they will be forcefully conscripted into the Angkar army. Therefore the parents are unselfishly helping their offspring to survive, while placing their own lives at risk.

The biggest rule that the Angkar enforce is that anything that you own, is the community’s also. To survive, this rule needs to be broken, as there is not enough food to go around between the family, let alone the community. Everyone realises this and knows to hide any extra food they may have.

The soldiers prosecuted a man who caught and ate a stray dog without giving any of it to his community. The dog had virtually no meat on it but the man was still killed for not giving any of it to the Angkar.

The human ability to change, understand and counter-act life’s challenges is an everyday reaction. Who of us has actually had to do this in a tightly regimented, unknown environment? The world, as we know it, may be ordered b but is a controlled environment. The Angkar attempted this controlled environment.


“This is a story of survival: my own and my family’s. Though these events constitute my experience, my story mirrors that of millions of Cambodians. If you had been living in Cambodia during this period, this would be your story too.”

Geak is my younger sister who is three years old. In Chinese Geak means “jade,” the most precious and loved of all gems to Asians

“The Khmer Rouge lied. They have won the war, and we cannot go back. You must stop thinking we can go-back.

Strange things are going on in the village as entire families disappear overnight. Kim says the Khmer Rouge terror has taken a new toll. The soldiers are executing the entire families of those whom they’ve taken away, including young children. The Angkar fears the survivors and children of the men they have killed will rise up one day and take their revenge. To eliminate this threat, they kill the entire family. We believe this to be the fate of another one of our neighbors, the Sarrin family.

Anyone can be viewed as a threat to the Angkar—former civil servants, monks, doctors, nurses, artists, teachers, students—even people who wear glasses, as the soldiers view this as a sign of intelligence. Anyone the Khmer Rouge believes has the power to lead a rebellion will be killed. We have to be ‘extremely careful, but if we keep moving to dif­ferent villages, we may stay safe.”

By telling my story through a child’s eyes I had also hoped to dispel the myth that children suffer less than adults in their traumatic experiences. While growing up in r Vermont I used to get so angry when I heard people say to my brother Meng, “Isn’t it lucky she was so young when she went through the war? Maybe she won’t remember at all. She’ll adapt faster and heal faster because she was so young.” Oh how I wanted to scream out: “I remembered! I saw! I hurt!”—but I did not have the words to explain what I felt. When the words came to me, I found I did not then have the courage to say them out loud. I feared once I started the tears would not stop. In First They Killed My Father I tried to channel the physical feelings and emotions of the child who had to lose her voice.

Return to the home page

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: