First They Killed My Father

Khmer Rouge Term Analysis

Translated as the “red Khmers,” the Khmer Rouge refers to Cambodian communists who, led by the dictator Pol Pot, overtook Cambodia in 1975. The group attempted to transform Cambodia into a self-sufficient agrarian society, banning modern technology, medicine, and anything indicative of foreign influence. The Khmer Rouge oversaw the Cambodian genocide, during which an estimated two million people were killed through mass executions, overwork, starvation, and disease. It ruled Cambodia until being defeated by the Vietnamese in 1979.

Khmer Rouge Quotes in First They Killed My Father

The First They Killed My Father quotes below are all either spoken by Khmer Rouge or refer to Khmer Rouge. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of First They Killed My Father published in 2001.
Chapter 8 Quotes

“The Khmer Rouge are executing people perceived to be a threat against the Angkar. This new country has no law or order. City people are killed for no reason. Anyone can be viewed as a threat to the Angkar—former civil servants, monks, doctors, nurses, artists, teachers, students—even people who wear glasses, as the soldiers view this as a sign of intelligence. Anyone the Khmer Rouge believes has the power to lead a rebellion will be killed. We have to be extremely careful, but if we keep moving to different villages, we may stay safe.”

Related Characters: Pa (speaker)
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 11 Quotes

Ma is proud of her heritage but has to hide it before it proves dangerous to us all. Pa says that the Angkar is obsessed with ethnic cleansing. The Angkar hates anyone who is not true Khmer. The Angkar wants to rid Democratic Kampuchea of other races, deemed the source of evil, corruption, and poison, so that people of the true Khmer heritage can rise to power again. I do not know what ethnic cleansing means. I just know that to protect myself, I often have to rub dirt and charcoal on my skin to look as dark as the base people.

Related Characters: Loung Ung (speaker), Pa , Ma
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
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Khmer Rouge Term Timeline in First They Killed My Father

The timeline below shows where the term Khmer Rouge appears in First They Killed My Father. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: Takeover, April 17, 1975
Genocide, Racism, and Propaganda Theme Icon
The Unbreakable Bonds of Family Theme Icon
...that they no longer seem friendly. Keav explains to Loung that they are called the Khmer Rouge and are Communists. The soldiers shout that the city must be emptied for a few... (full context)
Chapter 4: Evacuation, April 1975
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The next morning more Khmer Rouge soldiers yell at them to keep moving. Pa says that the soldiers kicked everyone out... (full context)
Chapter 5: Seven-Day Walk, April 1975
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On the fourth day, they reach the Khmer Rouge ’s military checkpoint in Kom Baul. Soldiers question families before they can pass and insist... (full context)
The Price of Survival  Theme Icon
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...always lived in the countryside and as such are considered “uncorrupted model citizens” by the Khmer Rouge . Pa says they will live with them in the village of Krang Truop. (full context)
Chapter 6: Krang Truop, April 1975
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...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.... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 7: Waiting Station, July 1975
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...them in the village and they must leave quickly. An uncle has arranged for a Khmer Rouge truck to take them to Battambang, where Loung’s grandmother lives. There are about thirty other... (full context)
Chapter 8: Anlungthmor, July 1975
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...and grains every week or two. The village is called Anlungthmor and is patrolled by Khmer Rouge , so they must never speak of Phnom Penh. (full context)
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...have come to the village and are often moved from place to place by the Khmer Rouge . Pa, Khouy, and Meng must do manual labor every day. Food becomes increasingly scarce,... (full context)
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...stand out. Pa begs the village chief to relocate them. He also says that the Khmer Rouge have started killing anyone perceived as a threat to the new regime, including monks, doctors,... (full context)
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The family is again picked up by a Khmer Rouge truck. Loung feels used to the routine of moving by this point. Meng says that... (full context)
Chapter 9: Ro Leap, November 1975
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...by villagers wearing black pants and red and white scarves, the familiar outfits of the Khmer Rouge . Someone shouts that capitalists should be killed and spits at Pa’s feet. Loung can’t... (full context)
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...hundred original villagers of Ro Leap, called “base people,” are considered model citizens by the Khmer Rouge because they have not been “corrupted by the West” and supported the revolution. Kim explains... (full context)
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Despite the professed equality of the Khmer Rouge , there are three “levels of citizenship.” First-class consists of the chief and Khmer soldiers,... (full context)
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...have a missing generation of children, and vows that Geak will not be the “ Khmer Rouge ’s next victim.” He works harder than anyone else, and the chief makes him leader... (full context)
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The Khmer Rouge also ban religion, fearing it will detract from people’s loyalty to the Angkar. They destroy... (full context)
Chapter 10: Ro Labor Camps, January 1976
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...from a nearby village, Laine, to decrease the likelihood of his being recruited to the Khmer Rouge army; with a wife, the Khmer Rouge know he can “gives sons to the Angkar.”... (full context)
Chapter 11: New Year’s, April 1976
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Pa and Ma worry that malnutrition has stunted Loung’s growth. The Khmer Rouge does not allow New Year’s celebrations, despite it being Cambodia’s biggest holiday. Loung reminisces about... (full context)
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...people dispose of bodies in communal graves. Her neighbor Chong’s husband was killed by the Khmer Rouge , and her two-year-old son then died of starvation. Now, desperate for food, her daughters... (full context)
Chapter 12: Keav, August 1976
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...makeshift infirmary. There she waits, though she knows there is no medicine and that the Khmer Rouge killed all the doctors. (full context)
Chapter 13: Pa, December 1976
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...into the mountains. People say he is working to recruit an army to fight the Khmer Rouge , giving Ma hope. But weeks pass, and he never returns. The family continues to... (full context)
Chapter 15: Leaving Home, May 1977
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Entire families begin to disappear overnight. Kim says the Khmer Rouge are killing even the children of the people they’ve already executed, fearing they will one... (full context)
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...angry memories to replace the sad ones. She will never forget her hatred for the Khmer Rouge . (full context)
Chapter 16: Child Soldiers, August 1977
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Loung has recurring vivid dreams of being attacked by a Khmer Rouge soldier or some sort of monster. They always end with her struggling to obtain control... (full context)
Chapter 18: The Last Gathering, May 1978
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...and his wife Laine, though no one asks about her, having learned that under the Khmer Rouge some things are better left unsaid. No one brings up Keav or Pa either, choosing... (full context)
Chapter 20: The Youn Invasion, January 1979
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...until night. When they rest, Loung overhears people cursing Pol Pot’s name and discussing the Khmer Rouge ’s defeat by the Youns. Loung thinks of how Met Bong said the Khmer Rouge... (full context)
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...Youn army was far better trained and had more weapons, however, and easily defeated the Khmer Rouge . (full context)
Chapter 21: The First Foster Family, January 1979
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...out Ma’s prized silk shirt, which she had hidden under her black uniform when the Khmer Rouge soldiers burned their clothes. The mother puts it on, but sensing the children’s anger, declares... (full context)
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...the same age as Chou and similarly timid. Pithy’s father was also taken by the Khmer Rouge . She meets them each morning to gather firewood. (full context)
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...she observes that his face has turned “dark and mean” like the faces of the Khmer Rouge . He attempts to rape Loung, but she screams angrily and is able to fight... (full context)
Chapter 22: Flying Bullets, February 1979
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...but knows living with them is their safest option. Villagers talk in fear of the Khmer Rouge closing in, and their soldiers attack random villages every few days. Because many villagers still... (full context)
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...The inside presents scenes of death and suffering similar to what Loung saw in the Khmer Rouge infirmary, though she notes that there, people went to die; here, on the other hand,... (full context)
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...her family. She dreams of owning a new red dress to replace the one the Khmer Rouge destroyed. (full context)
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...decomposing body in the woods. Though she cannot be sure, Loung asserts it is a Khmer Rouge soldier who deserved to die; it is too difficult to think of the body as... (full context)
Chapter 23: Khmer Rouge Attack, February 1979
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Explosions erupt all around the foster family’s hut as the Khmer Rouge attack. The second foster father hurriedly leads everyone across the river, where they take shelter... (full context)
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...Pithy’s mother, who is also injured, cradling her daughter’s dead body. Pithy’s brother says the Khmer Rouge are crossing the river. Loung grabs the backpack, ignores the cries for help around her,... (full context)
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...camp. Their second foster father says the Youns have taken back the village, but the Khmer Rouge left a horrific scene behind. Stories spread about them tossing victims’ heads through the streets,... (full context)
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...When the Youn invasion happened, they were in a labor camp. Unable to escape, the Khmer Rouge forced them to be porters and to come with them into the jungle, closer and... (full context)
Chapter 24: The Execution, March 1979
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The Youns capture a Khmer Rouge soldier and a frenzied mob of villagers demand he be released to them so that... (full context)
Chapter 25: Back to Bat Deng, April 1979
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Loung learns that Bat Deng was liberated weeks before Pursat, and that the Khmer Rouge were more humane in the eastern provinces: people had more food, worked shorter hours, and... (full context)
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...talks excitedly about moving to America. He also says that, fearing the return of the Khmer Rouge , many Cambodians are leaving for Thailand to start a new life. Meng says the... (full context)