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|| Forbidden History
Nonfiction - For readers of all ages
Vibol Ouk's intimate account of the Cambodian
Holocaust, as told to Charles Martin Simon. Intense exposure of evil, this book has been used as required reading at the University
of San Francisco and is currently being used at York High School, a school
for gifted children, in a class on Modern Asian History. Recommended for everyone who reads.
"Sometimes too painful to read...." Carolyn Leal, Santa Cruz County Sentinel
Sample - from Chapter 19
We came to Rosi Moy Roy Koum camp at 5 p.m. It was a lonely place between a river and a lake. No trees, no huts, just bamboo everywhere.
Our leader told us we had to go to a meeting on the island in the river. A thousand of us swam out, gathered and waited. Twenty minutes later, the leaders came in a boat. They told us to sit in straight lines with our groups, so they could count us.
The meeting was started by the county leader. He said, "Now I would like to tell all of you that you must make another new revolution! But this new revolution will not be fought on the battlefield as our brave and victorious men and women fighters before! This is a new agricultural revolution! And I would like you to start this new revolution at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning!
"In this new revolution, all of you must work very hard in order to meet our Angka Leu's needs! And our Angka provides you with machetes, because you are not using hoes or baskets or digging in this revolution! In this revolution you are working inside the lake and not on the ground as before!
"You must clear the bushes and tall weeds inside the water! And after you cut them, you must put them on piles on the bank for burn them! And nobody must run away at all! And you must finish this job before summer!
"So right now I would like to tell you that the people who live in County 21 do their job the best! Some village grow seven tons rice per one acre land! And this is called a most glorious revolution!"
He continued talking, but I don't know what he said. A half hour later the meeting was over. We all went back to our places, which were wherever we happened to be when they called us to the meeting. It was dark and cold, and we were wet and had not had a chance to prepare places for sleeping.
They told us to bring our bowls. We went and held them out to them, and they scooped tiny portions of food into them. I fell to sleep on the ground right where I was sitting as soon as I finished eating.
At 3 a.m. they woke us to go to work. About five hundred of us from all the groups assembled on the bank of the lake. It was very dark and cold. They told us to go into the water. Everybody was weak and sick, nobody wanted to go in, but we all did as we were told.
It was freezing in the water, and it would be another hour before the sun would rise above the bamboo and there would be any hint of warmth at all.
And I was worried about snakes too, especially the "tree snake". That one would stand straight up in the water with its head just above the surface, motionless like a stick, hard enough to spot in the light let alone in the dark. If one of those bit you, you were dead right now.
Working in the lake was much harder than working on land at its hardest. Swinging the machete under the water was nearly impossible, but we had to do it anyway, and saw with it, and dig with it.
The sun finally came up, and then I did feel a little bit better, and not so worried about snakes, but still very cold and feeling really bad. I was almost blind and so hungry my body was shaking, but I could not ask a leader to let me rest. I kept cutting and clearing, giving everything I had to keep up with the others so I wouldn't die.
Then the sun was directly overhead. I kept looking up at it, anxious to stop work and eat. It moved a little bit to the west. We had to be stopping soon; another group was going back already. Then they told us it was time, and I dragged myself out of the water. I felt a whole lot better as soon as I got on the bank.
We went back to our place. It had been arranged into a camp by some of our group that morning, while the rest of us were working in the lake. We lay down to wait for the food.
They gave us half a bowl of rice apiece, no fish, no vegetables. After we ate, we lay down again and waited to go back to work. They called us twenty minutes later.
We worked in the lake through the rest of the day and returned to our place at sunset. It was full dark before they called us for food. The cooking fire was the only light in the camp.
I fell asleep on the ground and slept deep until they woke us at 3 a.m.
Wake up to go to work every day every day. Work hard and harder and hungry and hungrier and sick and sicker all the time. A few spoons of stinking food, and sleep to wake up to go to work to be able to eat to sleep to get up to go to work.
And this is called a new revolution!
They were using us to accomplish their goals, meaning they needed us. Misusing us was working against their own ends, actually guaranteeing that what they wanted to do would not be accomplished. By destroying us, they were destroying themselves. But they were too stupid to understand that, that it all tied together.
Two and a half months at the lake, and it was almost cleared of bushes and tall weeds, and 65% of the people who had come to work at this place had gotten sick and died or starved to death or been murdered by their leaders.
They called a meeting one night. We swam out to the island.
A leader stood up and spoke: "Today we catch two enemies of our nation! One girl and one boy who make love today!"
Soldiers moved suddenly and caught a young man and a young lady around my age, tied their hands behind their backs, dragged them to the front, and positioned them on their knees at the feet of the leader.
"Now," the leader said, "all of you will learn what happens when you break the law of our Angka Leu! Revolution is no time for make love! Revolution is time for work for revolution only! Revolution is time for sacrifice for nation only!"
A soldier chopped the boy's and girl's heads off with an axe, quickly, one after the other, and left their heads and bodies right there where they fell. Then the leaders walked away without saying anything. The meeting was over apparently, even though they didn't tell us. We got up tentatively, and when no one told us to sit back down, we went back to our places.
The rainy season was over. It was winter, and I was in worse shape than ever. Then I got cholera -- excruciating cramps and extreme diarrhea. I was so weak I could barely move at all, but they made me work anyway. And when I would get back to the camp, I would stagger around searching for something to eat, a leaf, an insect...anything. And when I would find something, I would often vomit it back up as soon as I got it down. But somehow I got better.
One evening after work my friend Sart asked me to go sneaking with him to look for food. The sun was almost down, and everyone was resting. Sometimes someone cried out. My friend said we would be able to find something around the A-Kmout's place. So we went there but found nothing. Not even around their place! There was nothing left! We looked all around. No bugs, no leaves on the trees, no grass on the ground. Everybody had already eaten everything.
So we went back. My stomach was rumbling and grinding; there was only water in it. But I drank more, and then dozed through the night and worked through the day.
It was always dark when we got back. But one evening my friend and I saw fish bones and skulls on the ground. Someone had been in the camp eating fish while we were working. We collected them up and brought them to our place and roasted them in our fire. They were hard and painful to chew, but they were something, and with enough chewing, they would get soft. We had to eat anything we could get down that might make our stomachs even a little bit less unhappy, even if only for a little while.
I put some in my scarf for later. Then I went to sleep, but not as usual this time. This time I had a few fish bones and skulls, so this was my lucky night....
© Charles Martin Simon