First They Killed My Father


Loung Ung

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First They Killed My Father Characters

Loung Ung

The author and narrator of the memoir, Loung is just five years old when the Khmer Rouge takes over the Cambodian government. Before the genocide she lives a comfortable, middle-class life in Phnom Penh with… read analysis of Loung Ung


Loung’s father is a generous man with dark skin, a stocky build, warm eyes, and a broad smile. Born in a rural village in 1931, Pa joined a Buddhist monastic order at the age… read analysis of Pa


Ma, Loung’s mother, was born in China—a fact that Ma says is to thank for her height and porcelain skin. While living in Phnom Penh, the beautiful Ma is very concerned with social proprieties… read analysis of Ma


Loung’s oldest brother is eighteen when the Khmer Rouge takes over. The valedictorian of his high school class before the genocide, the kind, soft-spoken Meng had planned to go to France to earn his… read analysis of Meng


Loung’s second oldest sibling (who is sixteen when the memoir begins), Khouy’s hobbies in Phnom Penh including riding his motorcycle, karate, and flirting with girls. Loung asserts that while Khouy thinks he is cool… read analysis of Khouy
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Loung’s fourteen-year-old sister is beautiful but a gossip, a quality Ma does not consider very ladylike. Loung considers Keav similar to herself in that both are “headstrong and ready to fight.” They argue as… read analysis of Keav


Another of Loung’s brothers, Kim is ten years old at the beginning of the story. His name means “gold” in Chinese, though Ma calls him “little monkey” because he is so agile and small… read analysis of Kim


The eight-year-old Chou, whose name means “gem,” is Loung’s opposite in personality: where Loung is bold and rambunctious, Chou is quiet and obedient. Nevertheless, Chou is Loung’s closest companion. After Keav’s death, Loung… read analysis of Chou


Loung’s little sister and the youngest Ung sibling, Geak is just three years old at the beginning of the story. Her name means “jade,” and Loung describes her as a happy, adorable child who… read analysis of Geak

Uncle Leang

Ma’s second brother, Uncle Leang is nearly six feet tall and very thin. He lives in Krang Truop, the village the Ungs travel to after being forced to leave Phnom Penh, and readily takes… read analysis of Uncle Leang

Uncle Heang

Ma’s oldest brother who lives in the same village as Uncle Leang. He brings a wagon to pick up the Ung family after they have been on the road from Phnom Penh for… read analysis of Uncle Heang


A teenage girl from a neighboring village of Ro Leap who is forced by her parents, as well as Ma and Pa, to marry Khouy. Laine’s parents arrange the marriage in an effort… read analysis of Laine


The beautiful teenage daughter of Loung’s neighbors in the village of Ro Leap. Despite her parents’ efforts to hide her beauty, the soldiers take notice of Davi and force her to leave her home… read analysis of Davi


A woman in Ro Leap whose husband is murdered by the Khmer Rouge. When her two-year-old son then dies of starvation. she carries his dead body around for days, until the village chief forces her… read analysis of Chong


Meng’s wife, who was away at school during the purge of Phnom Penh. After she and Meng marry in Bat Deng, Eang learns that most of her family escaped to Vietnam and are alive… read analysis of Eang

Met Bong

Loung’s supervisor at the child soldier training camp. “Met Bong” is a generic title or means of address, rather than a specific name (and Loung briefly has a different Met Bong at her earlier… read analysis of Met Bong

Palm Tree Boy

A young boy who waves to Loung from a palm tree when she first arrives at the child soldier training camp, granting her the first hint of human contact. He lives in a nearby village… read analysis of Palm Tree Boy

Foster father

The father of the palm tree boy who once waved to Loung outside the child soldiers camp ends up taking her, Chou, and Kim in while they are living in the Vietnamese camp. Though… read analysis of Foster father

Foster mother

Loung’s excitement about being part of a family again are abruptly shattered upon meeting her first foster mother. She treats Loung and her siblings cruelly. When Loung cuts her foot after nearly being raped… read analysis of Foster mother

Foster Grandmother

The cruel grandmother of Loung’s first foster family in the Vietnamese camp. After the grandmother is shot in the leg by a Khmer Rouge attack, Loung is forced to bring food to her in… read analysis of Foster Grandmother


The fourteen-year-old son of Loung, Chou, and Kim’s first foster family in the Vietnamese displaced peoples camp. Loung at first considers Paof the only bright spot in her cruel new foster family… read analysis of Paof


A girl whom Loung and Chou befriend while gathering water from a stream in the Vietnamese displaced peoples camp. Like Chou, Pithy is quiet and meek. The Khmer Rouge also took her father away, so… read analysis of Pithy

Pol Pot

The autocratic leader of the Khmer Rouge whose policies lead to the deaths of an estimated two million Cambodians. Pol Pot’s name begins as a mysterious rumor whispered across villages after the Khmer Rouge takeover… read analysis of Pol Pot

Vietnamese Soldier

A young soldier whom Loung, Chou, and Pithy come across while gathering firewood. Having forgotten their canteen, Loung asks the soldier—via gestures, because he does not speak Khmer—if he has any water. The… read analysis of Vietnamese Soldier
Minor Characters
Aunt Leang
Uncle Leang’s wife.
Second foster mother
The mother of the second family to take in Loung, Chou, and Kim. The family are secretly Buddhists, and are kinder than the first foster family the siblings lived with, although the mother accuses the siblings of looking at “dirty things” when they get an eye infection.
A girl at the child soldier training camp who calls Loung a “stupid Chinese-Youn” because of her light skin. An enraged Loung viciously attacks her, screaming “Die!” From that moment on, the other girls at the camp stop picking on Loung.