Khmer Rouge arrive in Phnom Penh
Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975. Ly-Sieng Ngo's life — and that of virtually every other Cambodian — was turned upside-down. For the next four years, the people of Cambodia lived a nightmare; a holocaust that would result in the deaths of more than a million, perhaps as many as 2 million people, out of a population of 5 million. No one came out unscathed; but the educated and professional classes, the elite, the rich, city folk, and the Chinese minority, were all singled out for extermination. Ly-Sieng Ngo and her family qualified on all counts.
Phnom Penh fell under the control of the Khmer Rouge, the communist guerrilla group led by Pol Pot. He immediately directed a ruthless program to “purify” Cambodian society of capitalism, Western culture, religion, and all foreign influences. He wanted to turn Cambodia into an isolated and totally self-sufficient Maoist agrarian state. Foreigners were expelled, embassies closed, and the currency abolished. Markets, schools, newspapers, religious practices, and private property were forbidden. Members of the Lon Nol government, public servants, police, military officers, teachers, ethnic Vietnamese, Christian clergy, Muslim leaders, members of the Cham Muslim minority, members of the middle-class, and the educated were identified and executed. Anyone who opposed was killed.