Outside the city, casting final glances back, the people saw buildings and trees fall into a black silhouette against an orange sky burning itself out into grey lifeless cinders. Millions of people paused to eat, spread along the roads and adjoining fields, and lit hundreds of thousands of cooking fires, a sea of fireflies with families huddled beside every one.
Travelling further, the roads changed to dirt, then sand and finally broke into rough rocky tracks. Vehicles ran out of fuel and carts suited to city streets bogged in the sand and were abandoned along the roads and river crossings until only oxcarts and walking remained. Machines helping with work and personal transport rested dormant, the people returning to the land with pickaxes and hoes. Only tired old trains ran, loading people in cattle cars and transporting them around the countryside to begin work. The sick passengers died one by one without water or food. Cambodia was beginning its history again at year zero.
All foreign nationalities and their Cambodian husbands or wives, were methodically rounded up and restrained behind the French Embassy gates, then sent by lorry convoys to a Thai border crossing. Here the final Cambodians lacking correct paperwork were held back, the rest ejected. The Khmer Rouge shut down borders and airports, cut off all communication, stopped mail, newspapers, radio and television, and destroyed all money.
The King expectantly returned, only to be arrested and imprisoned in his palace, cut off from his people with only the Voice of America on his prized radio connecting him to the world. Many of his children and grandchildren also became prisoners, some sent outside the city to work in the fields.
The gates could not be closed.
This was not Cambodia any more. It was now Pol Pot’s Democratic Kampuchea and the communist cadres of his Angka army were in charge.
Completing part one of the new democracy and keeping word of equality between all, they sent everyone to the fields.
Then the spectre of communism raised its wings, enclosing them over the country.