While we were in Cambodia, I picked up the book "First They Killed My Father", a firsthand account of a young girl's experience living through the four-year ordeal that was Pol Pot's communist and genocidal regime. She explains what life was like for her and her family living in Phnom Penh before the mass evacuation of April 1975 happened: she would go to school, ride a cyclo to the market with her mom, and play with friends in the street. Then, everything changed when Pol Pot's regime gained control and forced everyone in the country to live the life of a farmer and spend all their efforts working in the fields. When the country didn't produce enough rice, food was rationed and many, many people died of starvation or disease due to malnourishment. The author lost much of her family during these four horrific years. It's a really insightful and interesting story to understand the horror of this recent tragedy.
Stories like this are hard to learn about because they are so sad, but THEY ARE SO IMPORTANT for our society. Only if we know about the mistakes of the past will we be able to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Below are a couple insightful quotes from this book:
"Wearing colorful clothes is forbidden. You will take off the clothes you have on and burn those as well. Bright colors only serve to corrupt your mind. You are no different from anyone else here and from now on will dress in black pants and shirts. A new set will be issued to you once a month." To drive his point home, the chief paces around, looking the new people in the eye, pointing his long index finger at them.
"Children in our society will not attend school just to have their brains cluttered with useless information. They will have sharp minds and fast bodies if we give them hard work. The Angkar cannot tolerate laziness. Hard work is good for everyone. Any kind of schooling carried out by anyone without the government's approval is strictly forbidden."