California State University, Long Beach

Show simple item record Keo, Chetra Pierce, Mark, interviewer 2023-01-04T00:08:25Z 2023-01-04T00:08:25Z 2023-01-03
dc.description <>SUBJECT BIO<> - Chetra Keo was a lycee student at the time of the Khmer Rouge takeover and had been planning on going to France to continue his studies. Keo was born in Phnom Penh to a middle class family. His father was a jeweler by trade but volunteered to teach reading and writing in adult education classes. Like many Cambodians, Keo and his family were very optimistic that the Khmer Rouge would bring peace. His father was rather well informed and kept abreast of political developments. Initially, he was somewhat supportive of the Khmer Rouge as a result of his respect for and friendship with Hou Youn (known later as one of the "Three Ghosts" of the Khmer Rouge leadership), with whom he worked in a provincial election. <>Keo's family was evacuated, like all the others in Phnom Penh, and joined the long line of refugees, pushing their automobile, which was laden with supplies and some belongings. They were headed to his father's birthplace in the countryside. Initially, the family stayed with relatives, but after his father and brother were taken away and killed, the family was sent to Takao Village, where a kindly Khmer Rouge woman took care of them. <>Eventually, they were given a piece of land to work and provided a bamboo hut. <>Note: There are few details about Keo's experiences during the Khmer Rouge years, nor his eventual escape and experiences in the US. <>TOPICS<> - family background; family and school activities; occupations of parents; Khmer educational system; early school years; schools become targets of indoctrination; Lon Nol government; countryside refugees arrive in Phnom Penh; and Tuol Sleng prison at his former school;KR artillery attacks; protests; assassinations; VOA; "Uncle" Hou Youn; disillusionment with Khmer Rouge; father branded by KR; schooling; and siblings; en_US
dc.description.abstract <>INTERVIEW DESCRIPTION <>- This is the fist of five interviews conducted over a three month period with Chetra Keo, a friend of the interviewer. The interview was conducted in Keo's room, late at night. Many of the topics covered in this interview are dealt with in greater detail in the next interview. It should be noted that the segments in this interview tend to be rather long. 8/25/1989 en_US
dc.description.tableofcontents <>File: seclckeo1.mp3<> <>Audio Segments and Topics:<> <>(0:00-17:28)... Chetra Keo was born and raised in Phnom Penh, where his parents had moved and opened a jewelry store. Their business supported the family in middle class comfort by Cambodian standards. Their wood house was raised on stilts; and they had electricity for lighting, but used charcoal for cooking. Live-in servants handled household chores while Keo's mother helped in store. Keo, two older brothers, and two sisters all attended school because their parents believed in education and sacrificed to pay for all the children. Keo started school at six. At primary school he had many school friends, and enjoyed meeting new people. Both his sisters got jobs, the older one in accounting and the younger in nursing. She learned English in night school while working with English doctors. Both sisters helped support the family when war forced the family business to close. Keo's brothers remained in school. <>(17:28-32:58)... Because he was still and child and in school, Keo initially noticed few changes as a result of the war. His first impressions came when he changed schools and was separated from friends in 1972. People stopped talking about war even at home, and papers stopped reporting fuel problem and injured soldiers. Schools became targets of indoctrination and children were confused. The Lon Nol government was corrupt and had lots of American money, but teachers were ill paid and felt cheated. The government promoted republican ideas, but the teachers believed in communism and taught economic and social equality. Keo reports that he was a "pretty good kid" and stayed out of trouble. His siblings kept an eye on him. He learned French in 9th grade. <>(32:58-46:14)... Keo recalls more relatives living with him as the war advanced in l973 and l974. The area was changing rapidly in Phnom Penh. More refugees from the countryside arrived, and they were starving and living on the streets. In school, there were riots, The teachers were prohibited from teaching, they were asking why Cambodia was fighting for America when people were starving, and demonstrating against government. The students were being indoctrinated toward communism. Keo attended Tuol Svey Prey School, a lycee. It became the notorious Tuol Sleng prison under the Khmer Rouge, with killings, persecutions, murders and suicides. After the Vietnamese takeover, he visited the school but saw nothing nor anyone from his school days. The professors were all gone. Keo was very bothered by his visit to his former school following the war. He could only hold onto his sweet memories. End of tape. <><>File: seclckeo2.mp3<> <>(0:00-10:45)... By the end of 1974, the Khmer Rouge was launching artillery attacks on the city. It became dangerous to go to school, especially on a bike, because government buildings and the American Embassy were nearby and were targets of artillery anytime, day or night. Keo continued in school, with parental approval, until April 1975 when the KR took over and closed the school. Keo was never involved in an organized group at school or in protests, and his school never had riots like others. The government took military control over schools, and two KR educational ministers trying to control things were assassinated in a school classroom. <>(10:45-22:50)... Keo never participated in protests, but his family was concerned about the involvement of his nineteen and twenty-one year old brothers. There was no TV at home, only a radio to keep them informed. Keo's father wasn't supporting either the communists or the government, but a distant relative, Hou Youn, one of three "ghosts" of KR. He was educated in France and reappeared in the war against Lon Nol. Keo called him uncle. It was a big feast when he arrived in his Mercedes. Keo's family liked him because it was good to have a big shot come to the family home. His mother liked him for his beliefs in equality and socialism and opposition to the corrupt Lon Nol government. His father, who could read and write Cambodian, admired Hou Youn for his education in France. The family wasn't concerned about its friendship with Hou Youn because he was still "a good guy", who ran for provincial office in Sihanouk era. He needed support and became close to Keo's father, who worked on his campaign, to the detriment of family finances. Hou Youn, however, was a dedicated communist years before the Khmer Rouge takeover. The last time Keo saw him was when he was eight years old, in Phnom Penh. <>(22:50-34:40)... By 1975. the Khmer Rouge were "in back yard" and there was constant fighting. Keo's nurse sister was told by an American doctor that the Khmer Rouge takeover was inevitable and that she and her family should get out with him. Their parents objected, however. They couldn't see a bright future or how to earn a living in a foreign country, leaving all they owned behind. As a single Cambodian girl, his sister couldn't envision a future far away from her family. In any event, they never dreamed of the Khmer Rouge evacuation of city; they expected the KR to bring a peaceful life. Keo's father decided not to go into jungle with the others and leave family behind so he was branded a potential traitor by Khmer Rouge, including the Hou Youn group. He felt that he couldn't be active because Lon Nol would arrest him. He had no clear picture of events from either side. He still believed the old ideology of Hou Youn that good things would follow a Khmer Rouge takeover. However, during the war he heard things from his family in the countryside that KR were not the way Hou Youn described them. Keo's father was never arrested. He was helped by his two daughters and employed by Lon Nol regime. <>(34:40-44:30)... Keo's brothers remained optimistic that life would be peaceful under the Khmer Rouge and that schooling would resume. No one in the family expected everything to turn out so badly. Keo's sisters paid for him to go to a private, French language school at night because it was the official language and would prepare him for international trading. The first day, his French professor made him feel like a fool by speaking French to him. He still rode a bicycle; the family put money for private school over a motorbike and he agreed. Everyone expected much of him, planning to send him to France after school; he felt pressured to perform well. One brother was a troublemaker, though he was never arrested, and didn't do well at school. Keo's other brother was a good student and was being prepared for medical school and being a big shot. en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.rights This repository item may be used for classroom presentations, unpublished papers, and other educational, research, or scholarly use. Other uses, especially publication in any form, such as in dissertations, theses, articles, or web pages are not permitted without the express written permission of the individual collection's copyright holder(s). Please<a href=""> fill out this form</a> should you require permission to publish or distribute any content from this collection or if you need additional information or assistance in using these materials. en_US
dc.subject Cambodian Life Histories en_US
dc.subject Southeast Asian Communities en_US
dc.title Keo, Chetra (audio interview #1 of 5) en_US
dc.type Recording, oral en_US

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