The Ungs arrive in Krang Truop on April 25, eight days after leaving Phnom Penh. The village is small and dusty, full of rice paddies and straw huts. Soldiers replaced the old village chief with a Khmer Rouge cadre, and villagers must now ask permission to leave or have relatives stay with them. Pa gets permission for the family to stay.
The village contrasts greatly with Loung’s descriptions of Phnom Penh, underscoring how different the Ungs’ new life will be. Pa needing to get permission shows the authoritarianism of the new society, as does the presence of the Khmer Rouge soldiers.
Uncle Leang’s house is simply one big room with a dirt floor. With his own children, seventeen people are staying under one roof. Kim scolds Loung for being snobbish about their new living arrangements, saying Uncle Leang was brave to beg the Khmer Rouge chief to let the family stay. Pa tells the children that they must stay away from any city people who might recognize him, and they must act like they are from the countryside. Loung again asks if they can return home since it has been three days. To Loung’s great distress, Pa bluntly says they can never return and that she must forget about Phnom Penh.
The description of Uncle Leang’s house again reveals how different life will be for the Ungs, as well as how unprepared Loung is to handle her new, less comfortable existence. Loung and her family members must continue to hide their identities to survive under the Khmer Rouge. Loung remains hopeful of returning one day to her old life, even as this becomes increasingly unlikely.
Pa explains that Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953, but many people viewed the monarchy—led by Prince Sihanouk—as corrupt. The Khmer Rouge sprang up to fight the government. Meanwhile the war in Vietnam crossed Cambodia’s borders. The United States bombed both countries, destroying villages and increasing peasant support for the Communist Khmer Rouge. Backed by the U.S., general Lon Nol overthrew Prince Sihanouk in 1970, but the Khmer Rouge easily defeated the new, weak government.
Pa gives more context for the rise of the Khmer Rouge, again emphasizing the corruption and injustice of governments past and how this led to widespread unrest and dissatisfaction. His explanation reveals the ways in which nationalistic regimes like the Khmer Rouge can take advantage of political instability and fear to assert power.
Keav comforts Loung and says she will look after her. The next morning, Loung wakes up after the others, who are already hard at work on the farm. Pa says the Angkar have abolished schools and markets and banned money and items like watches and televisions. Loung must be very careful about what she says to other children so as not to reveal that they are from the city. The family must also make do without the comforts of city life, including toothpaste and soap. Though she gradually adjusts to the tedium of life in the village, Loung often feels as though someone is watching them. Pa works long days, and Loung misses his stories.
Family is again a source of comfort for Loung, and the fact that Keav is the one to comfort Loung will make her later death all the more painful. The Khmer Rouge continues to be irrationally brutal, and the Ungs must quickly adjust to the hardships of their new surroundings in order to survive. Loung’s feelings of being watched reflect the way the Khmer Rouge uses fear and distrust to control citizens.