Frontline World

Cambodia - Pol Pot's Shadow, October, 2002

Synopsis of "Pol Pot's Shadow"

In Search of Justice

Historical Analysis: The U.S. and Cambodia

The Rapper, the Dancer, and the Storyteller

Learn more about Cambodia

Genocide, War Crimes, Politics




Prach Ly - The Rapper
Prach Ly - The Rapper Prach Ly, 23, a Cambodian-American rapper from Long Beach, California, cut his first CD, Dalama: The End'n' Is Just the Beginnin', in his parents' garage. He didn't have a mixing board––he used a karaoke machine and sampled sound bites from old Khmer Rouge propaganda speeches to create what he calls an "autobiography," reciting stories he'd heard from his refugee family to deliver a blistering history lesson about Cambodia's genocide.

He did the artwork himself, made about a thousand CDs, and passed it around to friends during Cambodian New Year 2000. Somehow a copy found its way to Cambodia, then onto Pnomh Penh radio, then into the country's booming bootleg business, where Prach's music was copied and distributed, without attribution, under the title Khmer Rouge Rap. A year ago, an Asiaweek reporter tracked Prach Ly down to let him know his album was No. 1 in Cambodia: He'd become the first hip-hop star of a country he hadn't seen since he was a toddler.

Read and hear lyrics from Ly's latest album.

Listen to "Power, Territory and Rice," from Prach Ly's yet-to-be-released album, Dalama: The Education of the Lost Chapter.

Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge were back up by the Viet Cong
and the North Vietnamese.
They were sent out to purify the Khmer race,
by creating a classless society.
They rose to power by taking over rural provinces.
By recruiting soldiers, poor illiterate peasants.
By the time Pol Pot took the capital Phnom Penh.
His military has reached over thirty thousands.
They emptied cities, bomb banks, and cleared out prisons.
Separated families, eliminated private property, and outlaw religions.
There was no warning shot, what's told was never twice.
It was total chaos, they destroy all aspects of social and cultural life.
Soldiers demanded that all families pack up small supplies, of food and clothes.
They was told, "they'll be back in due time."
To leave their homes and march out of town in a single file line.
They said that: "the United States was going to bomb Phnom Penh's heart."
But it was a lie, it was more like a dying death march.
It's about POWER, TERRITORY, and RICE,
And of course that comes with a hefty price.
Whenever there's WAR, there's always sacrifice,
And it's usually the innocent who lose their life.
They target all intellectuals, survivors.
Prisoners often ditch their eye glasses,
Teachers try to pass as taxi drivers.
No one was told who was running the country but ah,
Only that those in power was call "Angka".
Children's was brainwash into believing in them,
They was taught that: "there's no such thing as parents."
At camps, most execution occurred at night.
Soldiers awoke prisoners suspected of any crimes.
And quietly lead them into the field or forests,
Ordered them to dig their own grave those who mark for death.
They're either stab, beaten or bury alive to save bullets. "This ain't no bullshit".
In the next four years, the horror of the killing fields rise,
With almost everyone in the country force to grow rice.
It was a tragedy base in part of the mistaken idea it seem,
they thought that that the ancient reservoirs was a giant rice growing machines.
It's about POWER, TERRITORY, and RICE,
And of course that comes with a hefty price.
Whenever there WAR, there always sacrifice,
And it's usually the innocent who lose their life.

Listen In "Resurrec," from Dalama: The End'n' is Just the Beginnin,' Prach raps in Khmer and English.

I love my land to death,
a child of the Killing Fields.
Generation X what's next?
It's time for us to heal.
We've been suffering for decades,
decades of genocide.
Annihilation of generations,
a 'demon-stration' on Khmer .
Now why do we do what we do?
like Hitlers to the Jews,
Whites to the Blacks,
they act like we (are) slaves.
I rather be back where I was born,
then here confused and dazed
I love America...but anyways.

NEXT - Read an Interview with Prach Ly

GO TO - Sophiline Shapiro - The DancerChanrithy Him - The Storyteller

Photos courtesy of Jerry Gorman