California State University, Long Beach

Show simple item record Keo, Chetra Pierce, Mark, interviewer 2023-01-06T00:12:55Z 2023-01-06T00:12:55Z 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<> - evacuation of city, 4/17/75; head to Prey Vang province; three month trek; large refugee stream; "old" and "new people" at camp; no source of news; KR reassurances re food; and, some joined KR thinking would bring equality;demonstrations; financial crisis; bartering for food; food supply; evaluation, Khmer Rouge demographics; CIA complicity; Prey Veng destination; "old" and "new" villagers; disappearances and death of father and brother;disappearances; Khmer Rouge village leadership; father's continuing optimism; village leadership; and "selection" and disappearance of father and brother; en_US
dc.description.abstract <>INTERVIEW DESCRIPTION<> - This is the fourth 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. 12/9/1989 en_US
dc.description.tableofcontents <>File: seclckeo7.mp3<> <>Audio Segments and Topics:<> <>(0:00-15:30)... Keo describes the family evacuation from Phnom Penh to Prey Vang province, his father's birthplace, going through villages. It took them three months to reach Takeo Village in the countryside, frequently pushing the family automobile containing all their possessions. They could only travel at the speed of the enormous refugee stream. They were the "new people" from the city, and the "old people" were those who had resided in the countryside for many years. They camped on the temple grounds several weeks at Chabam-po, hoping to return home, but were told that was not allowed. Loudspeakers at Chabam-po announced that government workers, soldiers, professors, and doctors could go back to clean up corruption, not dirt, in Phnom Penh. Many were tricked, hoping to regain their position or were patriotic. Keo's father was cautious and observed that those who went didn't come back. They were killed, buried in the central market place in Phnom Penh. <>(15:30-26:15)... Keo's family recognized they would never be able to return to the city. Khmer Rouge cadres (soldiers) advised people to move on into the countryside for food. The family left their car behind. For Keo, there was some fun; it was all new experiences. He never saw shootings, but people next to them at the temple told them that their father went to Phnom Penh and was shot. The radio gave no news, just reports on happy people. They hungered for news. Keo never heard of Pol Pot. Rumor had it that Sihanouk ("daddy") would return. Cambodian people continued to look up to and believe Sihanouk because there was peace under him from WWII to 1968. Sihanouk gave the KR use of his name in propaganda. There was always a risk to return to the city; regulations were enforced and people were not allowed back. <>(26:15-30:57)... No one told them where to go from Chabam-po. The Khmer Rouge just said that if you move on, Angkar Loeu (the higher organization) will provide food. That was the first time that Keo heard of Angkar Loeu. KR cadres set up posts on the road and had a form to be filled out and signed: name, where you were from, what you did in Phnom Penh - simple questions. Keo's family skipped it. Things were not strict yet, and the Khmer Rouge didn't keep good records. Keo explains that many Khmer Rouge were regular people; many were educated. Students, teachers, professors were attracted and joined KR because they thought it would bring equality. End of tape. <><>File: seclckeo8.mp3<> <>(0:00-8:38)... Keo explains that students in the provinces joined the KR, while city students stayed in the city. Many students, teachers and even monks joined the Khmer Rouge. Because their uniforms were identical didn't mean that their educational level was the same. Most could read and write. Lon Nol and Sihanouk were not as educated as some Khmer Rouge. Many were attracted to the KR because of Sihanouk. In response to interviewer's questions, Keo speculates and offers his opinion on CIA support of Lon Nol, Sihanouk playing two cards, etc. <>(8:38-14:04)... Keo notes that there was a rumor that Americans were going to bomb and destroy the entire city (Phnom Penh). People were anxious and uncertain and there was no accurate information available. For several weeks, food and money could be obtained, but when money became less valuable, food was obtained by bartering. Three weeks passed and homes and most possessions were gone. Angkar Loeu provided rice, but that wasn't sufficient. Everyone was told to keep moving on to the countryside and no one questioned Angkar Loeu. Keo digresses and explains derivation of Khmer Rouge, first coined by Sihanouk. <>(14:04-21:09)... Prey Veng Province was the choice destination for Keo's family because his father was born near there; after three weeks they moved along a roadway toward Vietnam from Chabam-po to Neak Luong (the same location depicted in the 1984 movie The Killing Field). Without fuel the car could not run; they used it only for storage. They camped, traveled on foot, ate rice provided by Angkar Loeu, and carried worldly goods on their shoulders across the Mekong River, leaving the automobile behind. Regulations started to be more strictly enforced and there was some fear of Khmer Rouge during this trip. Between posts bartering for food was commonplace. <>(21:09-26:57)... Continuing to recount the trek along the "freeway," Keo notes that it was a "terrible" walk. His parents remained healthy throughout the trip. Some people fished, others used clothes for bartering. The "old people" (villagers) were indifferent to the "new people" (the refugees from the cities). When Keo's family reached Neak Luong, they found a devastated city and a war zone, as depicted in The Killing Fields. While specific identification was not required, the few remaining KR soldiers could ask your name and where you came from. Angkar Loeu provided free transportation to cross the Mekong River by ferry. The family only stayed one night in the war-torn city. <>(26:57-30:58)... Keo explains the difference in their travels. There were fewer people, and it was quieter. The county of Prey Veng, where rice is grown, became the family's destination to visit relatives, see his father's birthplace, and have food. Their relatives were pleased to see and visit with Keo's family. Keo's father and first brother died there; they may have been singled out because his father was from the city. Their relatives had urged him not to stay in the area. End of tape. <><>File: seclckeo9.mp3<> <>(0:00-10:06)... Keo's father was told not to remain in the village. His four years as a monk kept him optimistic, with hopes to return to the city. Angkar Loeu appeared to choose randomly who would go and who would stay. Keo notes that the village KR were different from countryside cadres. The least educated were trained to be community and village leaders. They didn't carry guns or wear army uniforms. They were considered police, and could be manipulated by Angkar Loeu. One had to be careful around this class of KR; they could be the most dangerous. Cambodians value education and felt leaders should be well educated, unlike Lon Nol and Sihanouk. Keo explains variations in education, economic, and political levels of the Khmer Rouge. <>(10:06-14:34)... Keo describes the Khmer Rouge and their tiers, both in the countryside and the villages. There were no more soldiers. The lowest level was the village leader; the second was the equivalent of a county leader; and the third lead the province. All the provinces made up a country. Leadership is in pyramid form. Everything depended on the village leader, who was the least educated. He had the most power to control the life and structure of people. <>(14:34-20:30)... Keo recounts his father's attitude from the time of the Khmer Rouge takeover to the family arrival in the village. He was still optimistic that Hou Youn would appear. Although it was not safe to stay in the village, his father remained optimistic and could not understand the fighting and killing. The village leader - who had the least education of the KR leaders - controlled who stayed or left based on the number of "new" people, and who needed to be educated. His father and brother were chosen in that manner. <>(20:30-31:01)... With no other choice, Keo's family remained optimistic. Escape was the only other option and difficult to undertake for an entire family. When his father and brother were selected to be taken away "to be educated," the family was shocked. Everyone was crying at departure time. It was quick; you were told, and then taken away. Many families turned to relatives for support if a member had been taken. There was easy access to the river so they were able to fish and grow rice. <>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 #4 of 5) en_US
dc.type Recording, oral en_US

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