Ung, Loung. First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers.

Harper Collins, 2000Loung Ung was a victim of the genocide that occurred in Cambodia in 1975. Her experiences are documented in her autobiography titled First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers. The story starts off as her life before the overturn of the government by the Khmer Rouge communist group. At the age of five her whole world was changed as she was forced into a time of evil and hate.

Throughout this book she documents her struggles and victories during her time in work camps. This story takes you through her mind set and introduces you to her loving family and the brave risks that were taken to save one another. Hays, Jeffrey.

“Buddhism in Cambodia.” Facts and Details, Jeffrey Hays, May 2014, Accessed 23 Jan. 2018The novel shows the genocide from the communist group of Khmer Rouge. Their plan was for “ethnic cleansing.” Since the genocide is about the ethnicity of the Cambodian citizens, it doesn’t explain much about their religious beliefs or ideas in faith. Cambodia is highly influenced by their surrounding countries and the countries they are in constant contact with for trade and things of that matter, cultural ideas are adopted by the Cambodian citizens by places such as India.

A common Indian religion is that of Buddhism, which is shared with the Cambodian people as well. This source is written by Jeffrey Hays who is a English teacher who has traveled and learned his knowledge in such topics from experiencing their culture. This is a credible source of someone who has created a website out of his own passion of history and different world cultures. Cambodia’s populations religion is 95 percent Buddhist. The article tells that Theravada Buddhism is the religion of almost all ethnic Khmers. Khmers make up 90 percent of the Cambodian population. The Buddhism religion had been the official state language since the 15th century. “During the Khmer Rouge era all religions were banned and monks were killed,” once again showing another side to the evil of the Khmer Rouge communist group (Jeffrey Hays).

After the Khmer Rouge was stopped and the leader were imprisoned, the temples were rebuilt and the monks returned. Buddhism was made the official religion once again in 1989. The Cambodian Buddhism had no traditional ties to the other Buddhist groups, but may hold ceremonies together in order fulfill the required number of clergy. “Buddhism is organized nationally in accordance with regulations formulated in 1943 and modified in 1948,” showing the long standing religion that is strong in many different countries (Jeffrey Hays). The Buddhist monks belong to their own social class and are thought of in high regard, interestingly enough, there is a specific vocabulary that is used when speaking of them.

The monks appearance consist of shaved heads, bright orange robes, and are often seen using begging bowls. Each order has their own hierarchy of eleven levels. The top four levels are referred to the rajagana, while the lower seven are known collectively as the thananukram.

To be named to the higher levels you must serve for the minimum of twenty years. This relates to Loung Ung’s work First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers showing the suffering a holy group experienced. The genocide and execution of many Cambodian citizens, including those promoting the immense amount of peace. In the novel First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, by Loung Ung, she tells how her parents were worried of the soldiers of Khmer Rouge finding out their association with their political beliefs, but never much of religion. Continuing my research onto Pol Pot, I learned that he was educated in a Buddhist monastery, which Leonard C. Overton and David P. Chandler “Cambodia.

” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 18 Dec. 2017. Accessed 21 Jan. 2018Cambodia’s demographics and information are a topic I am completely unfamiliar with.

Upon that, I decided to find a suitable source that was both trustworthy and accurate. I searched through many sites but decided to use Encyclopædia Britannica’s website, knowing that it is credible. In Leonard C.

Overton biography provided by Encyclopædia Britannica, it is explained that he is a country representative, apart of the Asia Foundation, Lived in cambodia 1955-1959, as well as South Vietnam 1965-1967. This shows his first hand experience with the country itself. David P.

Chandler is the author of The Tragedy of Cambodian History, and is considered a “Research Fellow.”The population was last recorded in 1962 and was found to be around 5,700,000. This number is said to be hard to determine because of the loss during the 1975-1979 genocide led by the Khmer Rouge. The population “has continued to expand at a rate above the world average,” and has doubled in size when a second population count was taken in 1998 (Leonard C. Overton and David P. Chandler). Similar to many developing countries, the children under 15 age group is the largest group, maintaining 33.

7 percent of the population. During the 1970’s turmoil that occurred, “the country’s subsequent political and economic disruption, also seriously affected the geographic distribution of Cambodia’s population” (Leonard C. Overton and David P. Chandler). In the time between 1975 and 1978 many people, up to hundreds of thousands, or urban people were forced out and made to work in rural areas for maintaining irrigation work and working in rice fields. The towns and cities began to grow after regaining control of the country, but “the unrest of the 1970s led more than 300,000 Cambodians to emigrate,” causing them to go to countries such as Australia, Malaysia, and the United States of America. Some of the population were lead to refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian border. This shows the detrimental loss Cambodia encountered during the genocide.

Loung Ung’s novel tells about her personal loss of family member that was earlier mentioned to be recorded as 30 relatives. In First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers she also shares her journey that led her to the United States of America that is further finished in her second novel, Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind. Reading about the population curves helped my understanding in the novel by furthering my thoughts to realize that Cambodia is a developing country. Coming from privileged country the thoughts of events similar to these are hard to grasp.

It also is interesting to find out about majority of developing countries having a higher rate of the population coming from the 15 and under age groups.Leonard C. Overton and David P. Chandler “Cambodia.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 18 Dec. 2017.

Accessed 21 Jan. 2018As stated above, the source is found to be credible from the author’s background and the site itself. In Leonard C. Overton biography provided by Encyclopædia Britannica, it is explained that he is a country representative, apart of the Asia Foundation, Lived in cambodia 1955-1959, as well as South Vietnam 1965-1967. This shows his first hand experience with the country itself. David P. Chandler is the author of The Tragedy of Cambodian History, and is considered a “Research Fellow.” This helps to ensure that the information being gathered is both correct and scholarly.

Cambodia is known for the sandy soil that is poor in nutrients. In the eastern part of the country there is soil suitable for commercial crops like rubber and cotton. Mekong’s annual flooding helps to enrich the soil with nutrients. Cambodia is a country apart of the Indochinese mainland of Southeast Asia. Their great amount of plains and rivers help to support its trade routes linking China to India. Their demographic structure helps to create a wide variety of influence opportunities from countries such as Asia, France, and the United States of America.

In the capital of Phnom Penh, the cultural and structural influences are apparent. The capital is also “one of a handful of urban centres in the largely rural country.” The Cambodian civilization had adapted for 2,000 years from countries such as India and China (Leonard C. Overton and David P. Chandler).

This shows through their Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms on Funan and CHenla and the Angkor period. The Cambodian, or Khmer, empire reached its climax in the 12th century. During this time it was shown by the creation of  “massive temple complexes known as Angkor Wat and Bayon and the imperial capital of Angkor Thom”(Leonard C.

Overton and David P. Chandler).  The next 400 years of downturn was when Cambodia turned into a French colony which then led to the 20th century and the uprise of the turmoil of war. Throughout the years of 1975 and 1979 the country was ripped apart by the reign of Khmer Rouge.

Under his rule, 1.5 million Cambodians were killed or died. This tragedy still affect this country today. The healing process and recovery started under the People’s Republic of Kampuchea under the Vietnam-backed leadership. This movement helped Cambodia to regain political autonomy, re established a constitutional government, and subsequently instituted free elections,” in the years of the 1990’s.

With this change the Cambodian economy has slowly improved. For their land makeup, Cambodia is only about one third size of France. Theri western/northwestern neighbors are Thailand, as the northeast territory is accompanied by Laos, and lastly, their east and southeast partner is Vietnam.

The country’s landscape is characterized as, “a low-lying central alluvial plain that is surrounded by uplands and low mountains,” that includes the Mekong River delta as well and the Tonle Sap (Leonard C. Overton and David P. Chandler). Out from the central region are the transitional plains and the thinly forested elevations that reach up to 650 feet.  Moving to the south, the southern costa is adjoining to the Gulf of Thailand that is a narrow lowland strip, which is filled with trees, but not populated highly.

Through the explanation of the territory it helps to gain a sense of Loung Ung’s surroundings in her novel, while also understanding the reason for rescue and help from their neighboring country, Vietnam. This research helped to put in perspective of the closeness of Vietnam and how their help was crucial in the survival of many Cambodians. “Loung Ung.” Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2013. Biography in Context, Accessed 19 Jan. 2018.When looking for articles on the author, Loung Ung, I first started with Gale.

This source allowed me to confirm its credibility by stating,”each entry contains the most complete and up-to-date entry”(Contemporary Authors Online). The article I chose was the best fit for the information I was trying to gather.Loung Ung is the author of the thrilling novel, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, which is written as her autobiography. Ung was born April 17,1970 to Seng Im Ung and Ay Choung Ung in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She was raised in a middle class family of both Chinese and Cambodian heritage.

Throughout the article it refers to her family, which consisted of her six siblings between the ages on three and eighteen. When Loung Ung turned five, she had to grow up drastically, this was the year that the Cambodian Communist Army, Khmer Rouge arrived to terrorize the city of Phnom Penh. The reasoning for their arrival was for his “…intent on its program of ethnic cleansing”(Contemporary Authors Online).

The next years consisted of terrorization, hunger, and fear. At the raw age of five her world was changed with death of family members and lessons learned being surrounded in an environment that consisted of pure evil and hatred. One year into their new agonizing reality, Ung now had to endure the death of her fifteen year old sister as a result of food poisoning. Not long after the death of one family member, the Khmer Rouge suddenly recognized Ung’s father, he was taken away never to be seen again. Throughout the family’s fight for survival, Ung not only was submerged in this unfamiliar world of hate, but was also put through further pain of more losses in her family that was abruptly made to five. Later, her two older brothers disappeared simultaneously. This left Ung’s mother with the youngest four. Not long after, in 1977, Ung’s mother made the decision to send them away, hoping to save them.

Ung’s mother strategized this, thinking that if they were away as orphans, they would have a better chance of survival, not fully knowing the purpose of these orphan camps. The camps that he and her sisters were sent away to were made to have children be used as combatants in the return for food. Ung’s skills were strong, at only eight years old, “Ung was taught to kill and, at one point, had to fight off an attempted rape.” Eventually, she learned that both her mother and youngest sister were murdered (Contemporary Authors Online).

Ung’s life seemed to be a constant tragedy, suffering so much, at so young, that was until the Vietnamese came to Cambodia. The Vietnamese rescued many of the survivors out of the country. Ung was then taken to a refugee camp in Thailand, it was there where she was reunited with the rest of her family that was left. Her brother and his wife, along with herself were blessed by a charitable organization and were brought to a new home in Vermont. Ung decided to finish her college career fifteen years later after the escape from Cambodia. She eventually returned to her hometown only to discover that thirty members of her relatives had been executed during the genocide in Cambodia. After the visit to the land that once was her home, her memories were haunting, she decided to write her novel, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, to help cope with the tragedy she faced. This novel propelled her into success that led her to win the first Asian/Pacific American Librarians’ Association Award for nonfiction literature in June of 2001.

The novel had also been translated into thirteen different languages. The popularity of this book continued to present her with many more opportunities, such as her position as spokesperson of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, this organization was awarded with the Nobel Prize 1997. The response to Loung Ung’s first novel resulted in the follow up with her second memoir titled, Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind, which entailed her journey as an immigrant in the United States of America with her brother and his wife in 1997, leaving behind three of her remaining siblings. The making of her second novel catapulted her to create her third memoir,  Lulu in the Sky: A Daughter of Cambodia Finds Love, Healing, and Double Happiness. Her third novel explains her life as a college student and refugee. Reading this article it is very similar to Loung Ung’s novel, it is this way because First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers is an autobiography and a perfect source for the writer of the article to use. However, this article did help to give a brief summarization of the novel.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica “Khmer Rouge.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., 19 Jan. 2018The choosing of this topic for government seemed to be a no brainer upon reading the novel,  First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, for the whole reason of the book was due to the evil this group produced. I chose to use Encyclopædia Britannica for this topic. I knew the source was credible along reading the authors of this article which includes the editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, which itself is a scholarly source.

Khmer Rouge is a radical communist movement that dominated Cambodia from 1975-1979 that caused the immense amount of deaths in the country. This communism movement started in the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party that was founded in 1951 under the auspices of the Viet Minh of Vietnam. With majority of the french educated Marxist leaders, the name evolved to the Communist Party of Kampuchea, with Kampuchea meaning “Kingdom of Cambodia.” This name has the symbols and meanings of royal, authority, and power, all of which they certainly did obtain. During the late 1950’s the members of the Communist Party of Kampuchea were apart of secretive expeditions against the government or Prince Norodom Sihanouk.

For many of the following years they made little progress against Prince Norodom Sihanouk from their remote location bases. Sihanouk’s popularity among the peasants made it difficult for the communist group to finish their plan, trying to have the commoners turn against their beloved Prince Norodom Sihanouk. However, in 1970, “Khmer Rouge entered into a political coalition with him and began attracting increased support in the Cambodian countryside,” which was the beginning of this groups takeover that was aided by the destruction the United States of America caused while bombing Cambodia during this time (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica). The civil war proceeded for almost five years from 1970, causing the rule of KHmer Rouge to gradually take over areas of the Cambodian countryside. April of 1975, the ruthless Khmer Rouge group finally took their first strike on the capital city, Phnom Penh. The leader of Khmer Rouge became the new prime minister, he was known as Pol Pot.

This rule lasted for the next four years, marking it “some of the worst excesses of any Marxist government in the 20th century,” ending the lives of an estimated 1.5 million Cambodians (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica). This led to the elimination of the country’s professional and technical class.

In the year of 1979, the Khmer Rouge government was finally overthrown by Vietnamese troops. The troops from Vietnam created a puppet government, backing it by Vietnamese help and skill. In result of the isolation in the western provinces of the country, and becoming more and more dependant on gem smuggling for funds, Khmer Rouge communist group suffered a great amount of military defeats and slowly grew weaker. In 1996 one of their leaders Ieng Sary “along with several thousand guerrillas under his command and signed a peace agreement with the government”(The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica). This state of confusion continued and grew more intense in 1997 due to the arrest of Pol Pot.

Pol Pot died soon after in 1998, leading to the imprisoning of the surviving leaders on the Khmer Rouge. Throughout researching this group you get to see insight of the fear that Loung Ung and her family had to endure. This group was designed for the sole purpose of terrorizing the citizens of Cambodia. Reading about these horrible events can’t even start to show the horror of how it was for Ung and her family.

Throughout reading this article, it helped me to gain a better understanding of the motives and tactics used my Pol Pot and the rest of the Khmer Rouge during the four year war in Phnom Penh. I find it interesting”Pol Pot.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale, 1998.

Biography in Context, Accessed 23 Jan. 2018.The work I used for the information on prominent figures was an article from “Encyclopedia of World Biography.” I found this article through the database of Gale. As I read through the article, I found specific information about the communist leader and found it to be very helpful in my research of the man who had such an impact on the city of Pol Pot. This is a credible source because it is found in encyclopedia which is written and used by scholarly teachers and educators.

This article starts by giving the background information on Pol Pot. It explains that, “he was the second son of a conservative, prosperous, and influential small landowner,” his father also had obtained political and social connections of the royal court in the capital of Cambodia, known as Phnom Penh (Encyclopedia of World Biography). This helps to transition into his education and his involvement of “a small circle of leftist Cambodian students–some of whom later became prominent Marxist and/or Communist Party leaders”(Encyclopedia of World Biography). At the beginning of the education section it is said he received his education in a Buddhist monastery and a private Catholic institution. He later enrolled in a technical school in the town of Kompong Cham.

His return to Cambodia in 1953 led him to the underground Cambodian Communists and radical nationalists, which eventually led him into the organization of the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party. The Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party was the first known cambodian communist party that was founded in 1951. Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Tou Samouth, along with others met in a secret room on September 28, 1960. During the meeting the Workers Party of Kampuchea was founded.

Over the next years Pol Pot won the acceptance as a top party leader, eventually making the decision to change the name from Workers Party of Kampuchea to Communist Party of Kampuchea. The communist group coined to term Khmer Rouge, as a title for their new government. Pol Pot furthered with his communist beliefs on April 17, 1975 as he took over Phnom Penh, Cambodia with Communist Cambodia and Sihanoukist factions. He continued to terrorize the country with the war, genocide, and turmoil. This continued until 1979, “Pol Pot’s name synonymous with one of the modern world’s worst holocausts,” killing up to 1.5 million innocent cambodians (Encyclopedia of World Biography).

Learning about Pol Pot helped furthering my understanding with the novel, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, by Loung Ung to show the man behind the horror that arose in the capital of Cambodia. His background in religion confuses me, because of his abhorrence with the religion and decision during this four year war. “Pol Pot.” Newsmakers, Gale, 1998. Biography in Context, Accessed 28 Jan. 2018.

This article gives detail on Pol Pot’s background. I decided to use this article to show how he was raised and came to be, the articles also includes his effects on the Cambodian country during the 1970’s. The source that was used is provided by Gale and is stated as a credible resource on their site.

The company Newsmakers is an online ebook used for schools and classes grades 6th-12th.In this article Pol Pot is compared to Adolf Hitler, which shows the severity of his destruction that him and his Communist group caused, stating, “Cambodian leader Pol Pot, one of the most brutal rulers of the modern world” (Newsmakers). His background is once again brought to the attention of the reader. Telling how his name was once Saloth Sar, but changed to Pol Pot years later.

When Pol Pot was in school in his later years he failed the exams needed to enroll in high school, which led him to attend a trade school to study carpentry. In 1949 he left to France to further his education on scholarship to study radio technology. Cambodia at this time was under the control of France. His classmates described him as a shy personality that “was in sharp contrast with his ruthless public policy” (Newsmakers). While in Paris, he adopted the ideas of Joseph Stalin, a Soviet Communist leader. His intentions for the future was to secede from French colonists. It was in France that he met his wife and fellow communist Khieu Ponnary.


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