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Ashlynn Farley

English

1/17/14

Essay

First They Killed My Father

The country of Cambodia was turned into work camps and detention centers where

people suffered starvation and murder by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. Two million

people were killed and died from starvation in almost four years, but the population used to be

seven million. When the Khmer Rouge rose up, it was a reaction to the United States being

supportive of Lon Nol. The plan the Khmer Rouge had was to turn the country into a rural,

classless society. Relationships of families were criticized and the family was separated to

destabilize the country. The “Angkar” wanted everybody to know that they became their “mother

and father”. In 1979, the Vietnamese succeeded in taking over Phnom Penh and ending the

control of the Khmer Rouge.

It was the worst genocide in history, but it wasn’t the largest genocide that’s happened.

The Khmer Rouge took control for three years, eighteen months, and twenty-one days. When the

Vietnamese took over, those remaining in the Ung family found each other. The anger Loung

had over the Khmer Rouge is what kept her alive through the years.The Khmer Rouge didn’t

even care about the people they abused or even killed, as evidenced in their motto: “To spare you

is no profit. To destroy you is no loss.” (Khmer Rouge Slogan).

In the course of the story, the deaths Loung imagined of her family members are what she

might have imagined and didn’t actually see. Loung’s father was taken from them and they never

really would have seen his death if his family never knew if the Khmer Rouge found out that

their father used to work for Lon Nol’s government. Her Ma was in a different camp than Loung

was, and she would have never made it in time to see her death. Geak was in the same camp as

Ashlynn Farley

English

1/17/14

Essay

Ma was, so Loung couldn’t have witnessed her death either. When she imagined their deaths, she

thought it would be better to imagine that her family’s deaths were quick and painless. It helps

with the story in telling how she wanted her family’s deaths to be as painless, less suffering, and

quick so that she didn’t have to think of what they might have suffered. It was important to

imagine so that Loung could remember how much she hated the Khmer Rouge.

The first person who was killed by the soldiers in Loung’s family was her father. The

soldiers might have found out about how he used to work for the Lon Nol government.When the

two Khmer Rouge soldiers came for her father, she knew she would never see him again and

when she begged him to bring her with him, he told her he couldn’t and then left with the

soldiers. Loung’s father told her that she couldn’t go with him because she wouldn’t be able to

help and they already knew that he wasn’t coming back to them. Loung’s father told them to take

care of each other and to behave themselves. “‘No, you cannot go with me. I have to go.You kids

be good and take care of yourselves,’ and he puts me down.”(Pg. 103). The way Loung imagines

her father’s death seemed like she really seen his death but at the same time it seemed like she

didn’t when she said she was in spirit form. This shows that Loung might not have witnessed her

father's death and wanted us to know that all she could imagine with her father’s death was that

he was sort of suffering but died quicker than she thought he might have.

When the soldiers took Ma, she had a feeling that she knew she was dead when she felt

deep inside of her that there was something wrong with her Ma. When Loung felt the warning

inside her that something was wrong, Loung left her camp and didn’t pass to go see Ma and

Geak. Geak was really devastated and she kept screaming for her mother to wake up but she was

clueless that her mother was dead and would never come back, the soldiers ended up shooting

Ashlynn Farley

English

1/17/14

Essay

her afterwards. Loung was so upset when she found her Ma’s hut empty of her and Geak. “‘Ma,

where are you? Ma, you can’t do this to me!’ I scream into the empty hut.”(Pg. 160). When she

got to the camp, Loung went straight to their hut, but they weren’t there. The woman who lived

next door told Loung that the soldiers came and took Ma and Geak a while ago. When she

imagines Mas death is that she is shot because some had to take Geak from her but she wouldn’t

let go. This shows that Loung may not have witnessed her Ma’s death and showed the she only

wanted her mother to die quickly with no suffering.

When the soldiers took Ma, they also had to take Geak because she was the only other in

their family who was living in the village. When Loung tried to find Geak and Ma, she know that

the soldiers must have already taken them and killed them. When Loung imagines Geak’s death,

it was because she wouldn’t stop screaming and crying. After Ma got shot Geak got on her knees

and held her Ma’s head in her hands and kept asking her to wake up but she wouldn’t so Geak

cried and screamed for her to wake up, but the soldiers had enough and shot Geak. Geak held her

mother’s head and screamed for her to wake up, but she didn’t. “Holding on to Ma’s head, Geak

screams and screams, not stopping to take any air. One soldier's face darkens and raises his rifle.

Second later, Geak too is silent.”(Pg. 162). This shows that Loung may not have watched Geak

get killed and wanted to show that Geak may have witnessed her death and Geak didn’t really

know her mother was dead, but finally had her ending similar to her mother’s and there was no

suffering for her.

The way Loung imagined her three family members who were killed by the soldiers,

could have been because that was the only way she could think to remember that they were

actually killed. When Loung’s father was taken from them, that shows that the soldiers knew

Ashlynn Farley

English

1/17/14

Essay

about him working with the Lon Nol government and the soldiers probably didn’t want them to

know he wasn’t coming back.That could have showed that she hadn’t witnessed his death and

when Ma was taken so was Geak. Loung might not have seen Ma’s or Geak’s deaths since she

was at a different camp at the time. This proves that Loung may not have witnessed all three of

her family deaths and wanted to show that telling how she imagined her family’s deaths in detail

to make the book more interesting to read and to show how bad some of the deaths she witnessed

had be very excruciating to watch. To most readers, the book may have been inspiring for them

and especially for the people who also survived the genocide in Cambodia and has the

experience of being beat, watching their families and other people die, and working so hard it

was starts to kill them. Loung Ung was the only person brave enough to write about her

excruciating and bloodshed past.