First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung [Book Summary – Review]

The mass murder operated by Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge in 1975 – 1979 has practically been inscrutable. That was handled so rapidly and extensively that predictions regarding the number of sufferers differ a lot; people could not understand the real extensiveness of those murders. Facts and figures and external resources would not completely transmit the terror of what experiencing such an immediate, ruthless crime was meant.

Very similar to the journal of Anne Frank, this book of Ung provides an individual perspective of experiencing this while being a kid and seeing a reign that would like to methodically put an end to huge sections of its people.

The tale of Unf has been the tale of strength that would inspire every reader. Being a US refugee, her viewpoint permitted her to return and think about the things she was experiencing. Her tale has been a tale, principally, regarding the power of the bonds of family.

Throughout the following chapters, we will talk about

  • In what kind of presumed ideals the Cambodian community was thought to be restructured by the government of Khmer Rouge;
  • The car label that was highly awarded by the elites of Cambodia before the government of Khymer Rouge; and
  • The way the family of Ung refrained from hunger, with the self-abnegation of her brother.

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1 – The advantaged times of Ung as a kid in Cambodia ended instantaneously at the time the reign of Khmer Rouge was set in place.

The day of Ung that transformed her living forever started as if it was ordinary. An ordinary day of 1975, at the age of 5.

On the family apartment’s balcony, she was having fun with her peers. Everything was normal – however, through the finish of the day, in the afternoon, the previous living was becoming a memory far far away.

She was living with her working-class family around the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Her dad had been a high-ranked military person and this is why her family had been in relative bounty, inside multiple places inside a contemporary building.

Comparably, the lower class in Phnom Penh was living in improvised shelters with no contemporary luxuries.

The writer’s siblings and she had been in luck. They had the chance to not only get education 6 days each week, but they could also have time outside, in the cinema, restaurants, and malls to shop. Their dad had a nice sports automobile of Mazda, a sign of opulence and rank that only very limited people could get those times in Cambodia.

However, on that inevitable day of April, from their balcony, Ung realized a group of troopers coming into Phnom Penh.

Her dad explained to her that these troopers were Khmer Pouge. That Communist rebellious military was battling contrary to the officials of Cambodia, democratic administration – and this military was the one that won. The style of Khmer Rouge’s communism wanted all people in Cambodia to live as basic, laborers off their land.

The military had megaphones. While they were walking inside the town, they shouted to everyone to get off of their land, otherwise, the military would kill them by gunshots.

At the time she got inside the house, she saw that everyone was preparing their luggage, filled with their properties. After some time, all of her family; her mom and dad, her 2 sisters and 3 brothers, and herself, left home behind and they did not come back again.

They stacked into an aged van and left the town. They were not by themselves; myriads of inhabitants of the town were running away as well.

2 – The family of Ung needed to conceal who they are to save themselves from torture.

With their high-ranked position, the family of Ung lived an undisturbed, enjoyable life before their flee of Phnom Penh. However, their lives transformed completely, fleeing from the town. Subjected to the novel government of Khmer Rouge, their family was now considered at the lowest-ranked, actual adversaries of the nation.

To have a little opportunity to live, Ung’s dad needed to conceal who they are against the government.

Sometime following the flee from the town, they came to the control point of the new government. At that place, the military was responsible for inquiring individuals going out of the town regarding their former jobs. Everyone who accepted that they were in link with the previous regime was maintained. Loung Ung thinks that those individuals were killed nearly afterward.

Her dad, as an officer of the former reign’s military, understood that the family and himself were in danger – therefore, he told a lie and explained that he had been a rustic farmer. Afterward, it came to her mother. Her mom explained that she had been selling dresses in the regional bazaar. Although they were let to continue, that was only the start of the cheat. From that time afterward, they were always required to hide who they were. 

The family of Ung was not Khmer Rouge’s aim just because of the previous occupation of her dad.

The new reign asserted that it wanted to construct an agricultural, socialist community. Ostensibly, everybody needed to be the same and every people from Cambodia needed to live basic, village lives being rustic farmers.

Sadly, Khmer Rouge’s thoughts of egalitarianism were implemented subjectively; this egalitarianism was not the same for everybody. The government killed everyone who was not from Cambodia ethnically, and previous town inhabitants, therefore there existed 3 reasons for the family of Ung to fear murder. Not just because her dad was a military person of the former reign but their house was also in the town, and her mom had the Chinese-Cambodian ethnicity.

That had been a consideration of the time and not whether who they are is found out.

3 – The family of Ung started being a slave-labor for the cruel government of Khmer Rouge.

The government of Khmer Rouge brought novel transformations to the shape of the community of Cambodians. As a consequence, the family of the writer was given the order to turn back their life as rustic farmers inside a distant rustic townlet. Nearly three hundred other people started to work inside that townlet at that moment.

That was the beginning of the endless nightmare which looked unavoidable.

To construct a novel rural community, the new government cleared the towns and ordered the citizens to work and live inside rustic townlets. They were the ones who get benefitted from the new homeowners.

The new people in the townlets were ordered to make a hard job every day of the week. Day and night, the family of Ung was working strenuously, cropping rice, building dams, and excavating shelters.

The extent of their work was not changing anything, they never owned sufficient nutrition to continue. In 5 months, ⅔ of those individuals either died because of the lack of food or developed a fatal disease.

To let everything be even worse, the government separated the town into 3 social ranks. The initial rank was the officers and soldiers of the reign; the 2nd rank was the rustic people who were living in townlets all of their past, and the 3rd rank and the most subordinate rank involved all the people who were thought to be linked to the former reign and people who were educated or lived in the city.

In other words, teachers, nurses, and doctors were ranked as the lowest rank – including the quantity had been the family of Ung and herself.

There existed no way to explain: surviving for the lowest rank people with those brutal rules was completely scary.

Loung saw these with her own eyes. She observed lots of other newcomers to the townlet die because of the insufficiency of food because the lowest-ranked families were not provided with sufficient nutrients for survival. The family of Ung refrained from malnourishment themselves since her brother Kim at the age of 11 could find a housemaid occupation inside the house of the townlet’s head.

Kim stood for the beats of the kids of the head to him each day for those boys’ enjoyment. At least, Kim knew that after all this, he would be let to have the leftover food from the head’s family dinner to his home.

4 – The older sister of Ung had been the initial one to be taken over by the new reign.

Living inside a townlet went inside dread, however, the family possessed one another at least.

However, they were not laughing or joking together any further, they could not even talk a lot because of the fear. There had been a big danger that they might be heard while talking and told to the reign regarding their criticisms of the reign.

Regardless of that, even their short time of silence was cut off. In just some months of living in the townlet, their closely attached family was broken down.

New reign’s military came one day. They explained to the people that Vietnam occupied Cambodia, and that was required to have each young girl and boy away. They would be taken to the camps and ordered to be in place in the battle struggle contrary to Vietnam.

The family of Ung and Loung had nothing to do while the reign was taking Keav, the older sister at the age of 14. While she was leaving, Keav told to her dad something. She explained to him that he should not worry since she will be alive.

Everything the family could perform was praying for Keav to turn out correctly. However, unfortunately, that moment was the last moment they could see her forever.

She was brought to the camp with 160 young people. Females were pressured to work like males with less nutrition than males. After nearly 6 months of living inside a dirty place, she developed dysentery. They brought her to the “hospital” of the camp, however, that place should not be esteemed with that expression.

She was explained that she will be given to nurses and doctors – however, they were lying. The government had structurally killed every real medical staff of the country and the employees of hospitals. There existed no medical people.

The nation placed people with no medical knowledge to act like they were doctors. She was retained to lie inside her dirt, and in some days she died being far away from her family.

5 – The worst horror of the family of Ung was actualized at the time the government understood who Loung’s parents were.

Ung’s older sister was the initial one she had lost, however, that was not the end.

Her dad could save his family until now by explaining to the officials that he was only an indigent farmer. However, in a way, from a place, the reality is found out. Around December 1976, 2 troopers came to the door of their family tent. They take over Ung’s dad.

That was the final moment she could see her dad. Probably, similar to many further condemned connections of the previous reign, her dad was brought to the accumulated grave and killed by hammering down his head.

Although that would be a little easiness, Loung wished her dad to be dead before he was put into a hole. However, she had no chance to know. A lot of individuals were hammered down just incomplete before they were put to a hole while living, choked by the dead or incompletely living corpses thrown onto their bodies.

The following horror had been that the left family might have the exact end as the dad. Ung’s mom was feared in particular.

The members of the families that were determined as betrayers would be killed by the army of the new reign. They would not like to be in danger that those “betrayers’” kids would try to take revenge for their mothers’ or fathers’ death when they grow up.

Filled with complete desperation, their mom wanted her kids to get out of the townlet. Everyone would go to a distinct place till they could come up with a place to live. When someone inquiries them, they would tell that they are orphans, as their mom explained to them.

Her idea was that when everybody goes to another place, the troopers would have less chance to collect all of them and kill them at once. Ung, her sister, and brothers made what their mom wanted from them, and got out of the townlet. But their mom stayed in the tent, with the smallest girl at the age of 4, who cannot go out by herself.

This was it. Everything of what was the life of a family had vanished forever.

6 – Owing to her mom’s idea, Loung could stay alive out of the genocide.

Undoubtedly, Ung’s mom’s decision was the most difficult one for a mom; that is not simple to let your kids go to this wild world by themselves. However, that idea allowed them to survive in the end.

It is found out afterward that, if their mom would not tell them to go, they would be killed for certain.

Following the flee of the townlet, Loung discovered a place to stop: a camp for orphans. One day, approximately after a year, she got up with horror.

She could have a one-day permit to get out of the camp. She went back to the previous townlet, with her fastest run. Her presentiment was correct: the worst was there.

The people in the townlet explained to her that her little sister and mom were taken over by the troops only 1 day ago. She could not discover what is made to them, however, she thinks that they experienced the same with others. They were also killed with gunshots and their bodies were put into the mass hole.

To further her fright of the things that occurred, she started to torment herself with the inquiry of who was shot initially, her sister, or mom.

Luckily, the crude reign of this government was for a limited time. And owing to her mom’s self-abnegation, Loung and her other siblings could see better days.

4 years later, troops of Vietnam could discharge huge parts of Cambodia. The reign’s power was lowered, the mass killings of people were stopped.

Around 1979, Meng, the writer’s oldest brother, could collect sufficient funding for himself and for his one other sibling to have a safe gateway to the US, the country they could begin another life. He selected Loung as his comrade, the youngest that survived. His reason was both bountiful and meaningful: she was at the age of getting an education and becoming educated. Having all these opportunities that she could not have before, she could get the opportunity to begin once more.

Therefore, around 1980, Loung came to the US. She stayed as the survivor of a huge, and most terrifying genocide of the world – however, she has the future at the minimum.

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung Book Review

The reign of Khmer Rouge had been a mass killer that murdered guiltless people and separated families. While they were ruling, a lot of Cambodian citizens could not reach food, died because of the lack of nutrients and illnesses, or were killed with crude techniques, freezing blood. But although this cruel reign vanished families, the bonds of family among the family of Ung may not have vanished.

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