California State University, Long Beach

Show simple item record Keo, Chetra Pierce, Mark, interviewer 2023-01-06T00:05:03Z 2023-01-06T00:05:03Z 2023-01-05
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. <p&gt;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. <p&gt;Eventually, they were given a piece of land to work and provided a bamboo hut. <p&gt;Note: There are few details about Keo's experiences during the Khmer Rouge years, nor his eventual escape and experiences in the US. <>TOPICS<> - KR attack on Phnom Penh; father's state of mind; contact with Hou Youn and Hu Nim lost; sisters help support family; fear of KR; sources of information; evacuation of US troops; family's reluctance to leave;helicopter evacuations by US; bleak prospects for future; KR propaganda; people lose faith in Lon Nol; initial welcoming of KR; no free press; hiding identities; 2nd "new order" cruel; preparation for evacuation; en_US
dc.description.abstract <>INTERVIEW DESCRIPTION<> - This is the third of five interviews conducted over a three month period with Chetra Keo, a friend of the interviewer. As before, the interview was conducted in Keo's room, late at night. It should be noted that the segments in this interview tend to be rather long. 11/3/1989 en_US
dc.description.tableofcontents <>File: seclckeo5.mp3<> <>Audio Segments and Topics:<> <>(0:00-16:25)... In April 1975, the KR surrounded Phnom Penh and school was closed. Keo's family lived in the southeast part of the city, and the Khmer Rouge, just across the Mekong River. Keo observed bombings, artillery fire, Khmer Rouge attacks, and watched Marines push the KR back from the river. Airport transportation was disrupted. Keo notes that daylight was not scary because the river was between the sides; the scariest times were during dinner when KR launched artillery attacks. People still got out and around but only within the city. Keo's father lost interest in doing anything when he lost contact with Hou Youn and Hou Nim. He still took responsibility for the family, but sat back and relaxed, not saying much. The community lost respect for him because he wasn't working and making money. Children still respected him, but after Hou Youn and Hou Nim went into jungle, things didn't go right for Keo's family. <>(16:25-23:45)... Keo reflects that in 1989 Cambodian society became so large it lost sense of community, but in l975 there was still a strong community sense. You knew and could talk to your neighbors and socialize. People were afraid that if they became involved with Keo's father, the government would come after them. In 1970-1971, the Republicans would come at night with guns in hand and take a family member away. The next morning they could find out nothing. This was not an uncommon. The police would blame the Khmer Rouge. People with money and government positions tended to go around armed. <>(23:45-30:47)... Keo's only source of information before the takeover was an American military doctor for whom his sister worked. Buddhist philosophy meant that no one believed the Khmer Rouge would kill people like animals; everyone thought there would be peace when they took over and that they would be able travel and see relatives. Keo's father never expected to be kicked out of the city or flee his country. As a result, when the doctor told his Keo's sister that the family must get out, they couldn't face going and losing everything. His sister wanted to go, but as a single woman, she lacked freedom, didn't know where she would be going, and wanted to stay with the family. Three days before the KR takeover, American troops landed by helicopter and evacuated their people. The doctor again urged Keo's family to leave, but they wouldn't. End of tape. <><>File: seclckeo6.mp3<> <>(0:00-8:10)... Keo saw helicopters come. It looked just like the movie, The Killing Fields - the background, people waiting in line, American soldiers. Keo knew those people were leaving them behind and that the future of country was not looking great. His sister and father knew more of what to expect. Khmer Rouge propaganda said peace was coming. People were tired of war and killing and had lost faith in Lon Nol and welcomed the Khmer Rouge. The propaganda mostly spread by word of mouth; there was no free press and only one radio station. All the promises sounded real. The Khmer Rouge takeover happened overnight, three days after the Americans pulled out troops. Keo awoke in morning and discovered the Khmer Rouge coming from east and west . Everything felt peaceful. Even though people were happy, each family knew it needed to keep past identity hidden. <>(8:10-24:16)... Keo went outside about 9:00 to watch the troops. The first Khmer Rouge were excited, happy, shooting off guns in exuberance, talking to people, singing on tanks. The Republicans said that the KR were cruel, would take children to train for war, but at first he saw none of that. The Khmer Rouge had been fighting the night before and were dirty. They carried only guns and bullets, no heavy loads. Keo recalls wondering who the leaders were; everyone was dressed the same, unlike Republicans. The second group of Khmer Rouge who arrived by midday was the "new order." They were brutal and mean looking, shooting a few dogs. They had stripped Republican soldiers naked and tied them on top of the tanks, beating and sometimes kicking them in the stomach. But people were laughing and shouting. People were happy and cheering because the war was over, a great victory, and a celebration was in order. The Khmer Rouge promised peace and equality. <>(24:16-30:54)... On takeover day, the Khmer Rouge patrolled city, maintaining order, keeping people off the streets. Nobody was shot. Everyone waited for word on radio. Keo realized everything not right when his father said that he might need to leave the house. People were told Americans were hiding in city. Soldiers came to door with guns, but they were very polite. They said, "Uncle, you need to get out of the house-we will keep order. Pack what you need to be gone for three-days." Some left before the order, going back to their provinces. Keo's family offered hungry soldiers food, green tea, and soft drinks. A second group came and a third, and each one was harder. <>End of tape.<> 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 #3 of 5) en_US
dc.type Recording, oral en_US

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