Then the Khmer Rouge Came is a memoir of first hand accounts collected by the author of the impact of the Khmer Rouge on the lives of ordinary folk in northwest Cambodia. It gives a taste of what it is like to build a relationship with people of this extraordinary country. It is though far more importantly about the author’s repeated discovery of the traumatic past of the people she met on her visits.
People wanted to tell her their life story. They wanted her to know. Their families had been farmers, or food sellers, or cooks. They had been poor, though reasonably happy. They were young, they thought the future would bring more of the same. Then, one day, their life had been turned upside down and the scars would stay with them for ever.
Their recollections made for uncomfortable listening, but they were not people prone to self-pity. They had got on with their lives, they were survivors. Theirs was the story of the triumph of the human spirit. They were pleased to see her, to be listened to. They smiled, laughed, and occasionally cried. Despite her awareness of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, the author wasn’t prepared for the stories she heard.