Monday, June 28, 2010

Cambodian Genocide

A War Revisited / "A Killing Fields Survivor"
By Robert Stokes
Westport News, June 25, 2010
"[...] Mr. Rith was 7 years old when Pol Pot came to power in April 1975, following the overthrow of the U.S.-supported government of Gen. Lon Nol. He was born in the countryside far from the capitol of Phnom Penh. 'We survived,' said Mr. Rith, 'because my family were farmers and the government needed us to produce the rice needed to feed the population. We also lived because we were not from the professional or intellectual classes.' Despite their lives being spared, Rith and his family remained under a death sentence based on how much rice they were required to produce from each harvest. 'We had to deliver three tons of rice from every harvest,' said Rith. 'If not, we would be killed. There wasn't much left for us to eat. We learned to value the nourishment of insects, frogs and rats. In those days, crickets and grasshoppers were considered delicacies. Many people died from starvation and disease caused by malnutrition.' From age 7 to 11, Rith worked in the rice paddies with his parents from dawn to after dark seven days a week.
With boys his age from the local village, Rith pushed a large, ox-drawn cart through the wet paddies without help from oxen or water buffalo. 'We weren't allowed to have animals to help plow the fields,' said Rith. 'We did it the hard way -- with our hands. Two of us in the front to pull the wagon and four in the back to push.' Rith still bears scars on both legs from cutting himself with a scythe as he harvested the rice. During those four years of terror enforced by the Khmer Rouge, schools were outlawed. Rith's life consisted of work, sleep and little food. His only enjoyment, he remembered, was gazing at the spectacular sunrises and sunsets over his rice paddies and dreaming of 'living up there in those beautiful clouds.' The normal life of a child as we know it was non-existent for him. 'We lived from day to day, simply thankful to be alive,' he recalled. [...]"

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