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40 Years Later, a Reporter Remembers the Evacuation of Phnom Penh

40 Years Later, a Reporter Remembers the Evacuation of Phnom Penh
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Editor’s note: April 17 will mark the 40-year anniversary of the Khmer Rouge takeover of Phnom Penh. Among the throngs of people forced to evacuate the city was VOA Khmer’s Poch Reasey, who recently traveled back to the capital and the house where he grew up, to prepare this report.

Forty years ago this month, the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. They forced everyone to leave their homes and move to the countryside. Like millions of people, my family had to leave our house. Now 40 years later, I am back in the house I left on April 17, 1975.

There are so many memories. I felt so safe in the house my father built in 1961. The day we left, I turned around and took a long last look. Something told me we were not coming back. I try to remember everything, but all I can remember now is the last meal we had before the Khmer Rouge soldier chased us out at gunpoint. We had rice with hard-boiled eggs, because we were in a hurry.

Portrait of Reasey Poch's father. (Photo: Reasey Poch)
Portrait of Reasey Poch's father. (Photo: Reasey Poch)

During the Khmer Rouge regime, the Khmer Rouge took my father away. Before he left, he gave me a small black and white picture from his government ID card from the Lon Nol regime. It’s the only picture I have of him today.

My younger brother and sister died in front of my eyes in late 1975 and mid-1976. I helped my father and grandfather bury them, one by one. In September 1977, the Khmer Rouge took my father and grandfather away. They never came back.

Being back in the house 40 years later made me very emotional. I could hear my father’s voice as I walked around the house. I used to feel so safe and so protected in the house. My father and I used to listen to VOA Khmer, so when I started working at VOA in 1993, I was hoping that my father was still alive and could hear my voice on the air. But as time passed, my hope faded away. Like millions of people in Cambodia, I am moving on, but I can’t forget.