book ”Crossing the Cambodian Killing Fields, an Escape from Communist
is the account of a long trek by land from Saigon to the Thai-Cambodian
border via Chaudoc, Phnom Penh, Battambang and
Sisophon. On a dangerous and painful voyage
of more than one thousand kilometers the author and his 12 year-old son
suffer continuously the pressure of being arrested. On the Cambodian
beside the threat of arrest by both Khmer and Vietnamese troop, other
hovered over the head of those who were escaping Communism by going to Thailand: muggers, mine fields,
dense tropical forest where the
traveler could get lost easily, thirst and famine, and cruel soldiers.
the reason why the author had written that “he had to go through death
body knew how many had died on horrifying trails through these “killing
fields”. Many families of ten had only one or two who arrived; many
groups never saw their fellows again. The author had miraculously
recount the horrifying escape. His son had been arrested near the Thai
Of three people who went along, one was shot dead with a Cambodian
two others had disappeared without leaving traces.
the author left Saigon, like any other escapee, he knew that he had
chances to die and only one to survive, but he was still ready to
death to find life. Nothing is more pathetic than the advice a father
his 12 year-old son before fleeing the country: “ I told him that in the event he is
arrested and I am not I would
continue to go ahead. Conversely, if I am arrested and he is not, he
continue his trek. We cannot wait for each other. If both of us are
we should not declare that we are father and son. One of us can step on
and die, the other still has to proceed.”
author had escaped arrest and went with his guide to the border a
by walking the killing fields. He got lost in the jungle and for
had struggled to get out of the inextricable jungle trails to escape
to fatigue and thirst.
had pushed people like him to risk their life to go look for freedom?
describes their state of mind and their living experiences with the
System that had been established in South Vietnam after the Americans
withdrew and Saigon fell.
implementation of both the Marxist Leninist ideology and the Stalinist
with all their aspects of savagery and cruelty has reduced the
population in South Vietnam to the rank of animals.
The adoption of policies aimed to
impoverish the people in order to realize social equity has paralyzed
everybody. The policy of controlling people by stripping them of all
rights has rendered life unbearable. This document contains vivid
of how the life of each individual has been affected, especially the
the intellectuals, such as the author. Young women became prostitutes
to survive; teenagers had to live under social disintegration and moral
The book also portrays some human specimens, creation of the socialist
cunning individuals who swindled people to make money, a former student
defrauds his teacher; high ranking Communists cadres who stole people’s
properties and extorted money to become rich.
under Communism was miserable at its climax forcing people to decide to
their lives in dangerous escapes by land, encountering on their way
dangers, such as arrest, thirst-and-hunger-stricken death, or land mine
The Communist regime has mistreated its citizens at an excessive level
them to accept that kind of choice. In the two attempts to escape
the author encountered scores of difficulties and perils. Several
times, he was
so close to death, just to be rescued, such as in his first escape by
boat on Tiengiang River. That
time, the Viet
Cong coastguard patrol arrested him and his family. They shot at the
people and robbed them of everything they had. Alternatively, during
from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh he had to
stay under the cover of pineapples and coconut in the hull of a boat
the treacherous trip from to the Thai border he was arrested but ran
his assailants in pursuit shooting AK rifles. He survived to carry on
border-crossing operation for the second time, got lost in the
jungle, and tried to find his way out by circling the hilly area near
reader can easily imagine the feelings of an individual who fled the
regime leaving his wife and children behind, having with him only the
who was 12 at the time and losing track of the boy when he reached the
region of Sisophon.
author describes the many inner conflicts he experienced when he had to
with daily happenings. Before his first escape, he was afraid of going
when he was incarcerated in Mytho, he prayed and wished to be released
having to suffer in Viet Cong prison. However, after he got out, a
hopelessness and despair filled his heart as he witnessed the facts of
he wanted to go back to jail. After he overcame so many dangers and
found death in the escape from the hands of the Communist Khmers near
border, he got lost before being able to arrive at the refugee camp in Thailand.
Once safe in the camp, he suddenly felt remorseful and
wanted to be back in Saigon
with his family. The book recounts many occasions when the
author stumbled upon such contradictory feelings. This is the state of
that he labels “abnormally conflicting”.
is a living document of high value. The author provides a detailed
what he saw, what he heard, what he has experienced, and what he had in
mind while living in a Communist system and while attempting to leave
country in search of Freedom. This book is of real value as it
sorrowful reality that a nation had to suffer under a regime set up by
Minh and his comrades.