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A Look at the Day the Khmer Rouge Took Power

  • Kong Sothanarith
  • VOA Khmer

A Khmer Rouge rebel frisks a civilian in downtown Phnom Penh hours after the rebel forces led by Pol Pot took control of the Cambodian capital April 17, 1975.

A Khmer Rouge rebel frisks a civilian in downtown Phnom Penh hours after the rebel forces led by Pol Pot took control of the Cambodian capital April 17, 1975.

The Documentation Center of Cambodia is preparing a permanent exhibition of photographs marking the day the Khmer Rouge took over Phnom Penh and began their devastating four-year rule 36 years ago.

Chhang Youk, director of the center, said the exhibition, which opens next Monday, is to remind people of the beginning of the Khmer Rouge atrocities.

The exhibition showcases 17 rare photographs taken by American photographer Al Rockoff and French photographer Roland Neveu.

The center receives between 600 and 800 visitors each month, Chhang Youk said, and the exhibit is meant to be a discussion point that provides a look back at Phnom Penh.

In the exhibition, one can see victorious Khmer Rouge soldiers, Lon Nol troops protecting the evacuation of the US Embassy, Phnom Penh residents leaving the city, and a woman who weeps near her dead husband on the side of the road, among other images of the day.

April 17, 1975, is annually marked as the day the Khmer Rouge took over, instituting ultra-communist policies that lead to the deaths of up to 2.2 million people.

This year, a survivor of the Tuol Sleng prison commemorated the day with a ceremony there, while members of the opposition visited the mass graves of the Choeung Ek execution site outside the city.

“Any activity to remember this day is necessary,” said Dim Sovannarom, a spokesman for the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal. “And that’s why the [tribunal] is operational under its mission here to bring those responsible to trial.”

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