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Stay Alive, My Son: The Gripping True Story of One Man's Courageous Escape from the Terror of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge
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Stay Alive, My Son: The Gripping True Story of One Man's Courageous Escape from the Terror of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  583 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
A harrowing account of life in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and particularly the evacuations of Phnom Penh, written by an engineer for the Ministry of Public Works.

On April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge guerrillas filed into Phnom Penh, signaling the start of a reign of terror which would devastate an ancient culture and cause the deaths of over two million Cambodians in jus
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published August 1st 1987 by Free Press (first published 1987)
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Mar 12, 2011 Alesa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pin Yathay was a government engineer when Pol Pot's regime took over Cambodia. He describes being marched with all the other residents of Phnom Penh, the capital city, to the fields to labor. This is his true story, told with simplicity and a sort of beauty. I bought this book in Cambodia, and it helped explain what we saw during visits to The Killing Fields and S-21, the Khmer Rouge's torture center. Although it's educational, it also just leaves you numb inside, wondering about our species, an ...more
Audrey L
Aug 20, 2009 Audrey L rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a hard to find book. My mom borrowed it from a woman who bought it on her trip to Cambodia. This is one of the best books I've read from an adults point of view what happened during the takeover of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge (the name given to the followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, the totalitarian ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, led by Pol Pot)

The Khmer Rouge subjected Cambodia to a radical social reform process that was aimed at creating a purely agrarian-based
Apr 15, 2012 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Located this book in Siem Reap and purchased it rather reluctantly because my bag was already groaning with books and we were still two weeks away from home. However, I was pleased with my purchase as it offers a unique perspective on the deprivations of the Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime in 1975-79, told ex-university professor. Yathay survived by concealing his identity and by miraculously adapting to the brutal conditions and starvation of enforced collectivisation and peasantry. There is a he ...more
Sarah Louise Leach
Dec 28, 2012 Sarah Louise Leach rated it really liked it
What an incredible book, i took so much away from it. A narrative that read like an adventure film, a heartbreaking true account of the plight of the people of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, an insight into how quickly what you have can be lost, how quickly a politically vulnerable country can be taken over by so little ammunition and so much stealth and obfuscation.
What surprised me was how currency was de-valued within three days of the people being driven from their homes, and how survival
Karen San Diego
I read it in Filipino, translated by Ruth Elynia S. Mabanglo. The descriptions were very graphic and real. I am very sorry for having no knowledge of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia much because of Sihanouk's involvement with the Vietnam war, until now. What happened was very horrible and I grieve for his family. This is very well-written and emotionally charged. Recommended for those looking for historical non-fiction wartime stories.
Will Peart
Dec 02, 2012 Will Peart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harrowing and revealing account of living through the Khymer Rouge era in Cambodia. The book is essential reading for people spending time in Cambodia wanting to fill the gaps of historical overviews and broad statistics with a human story representative of the suffering and horrors at the hand of Pol Pot and his 'Democratic Kampuchea'.
Apr 23, 2016 Doug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an outstanding memoir of survival. And the author was not trained for it, as we conventionally think of athletes, climbers, et al. having some fitness for it. I was astounded at all the turns of fortune that the author experienced, wrenched by his losses, and just simply amazed that he survived to tell the tale. The writing is good, and those especially interested in Cambodia in the time of the Khmer Rouge will find this all the more riveting. The tale also helps to destroy any illusions ...more
Al Redman
May 18, 2015 Al Redman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book to get a greater gauge on the Khmer Rouge regime and their motivations. The book not only delivered that but a heart wrenching tale of loss and incredible resilience. Undoubtedly one of the greatest tales I have ever read and I feel a must read for anyone who is unfamiliar with the Khmer Rouge regime and Genocide. To think similar things are taking place in the world today ( West Papua) is a sad commentary on humanity. The book is so intriguing you will hardly believe what your ...more
David Vardy
The true story of a Cambodian Engineer named Pin Yathay, who survived the Killing Fields of Cambodia. He decided that he had to leave Cambodia to survive, but his young son was too sick to travel, so he had to leave his son at a Cambodian hospital, so that he and his wife could escape to Thailand. While running through the jungle of Cambodia, toward Thailand, Pin became separated from his wife, Any, and never saw her again. He is still looking for his wife and son.
This book is well worth reading
Dec 22, 2012 Veronique rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The true story of Pin Yathay who was a goverment engineer when Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia.
Not an easy book to read,it will haunt me for a while,it will stay with me even longer.
It's interesting to see how very quickly the situation of the country changes, how the people, first in denial, move to accepting, still hoping things will get better, then to survival mode before (for some of them), thinking of escaping or fighting (even if that simply means choosing how to die.)
Though it was written almost like an action-adventure story towards the end, this book was painful, pitiable to read-- the author trying to apply cool logic to the arbitrary, absurdly methodical Khmer Rouge regime while he's stripped bit by bit of everything and everyone that defines his life. As the story goes on Yathay lists his possessions several times, each list more impossibly small than the last, a metaphor at the end for the relationships equally stripped piece by piece, each loss imposs ...more
Jul 11, 2013 Travelin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Portrays the days and months just after the Khmer Rouge took over, with the capital evacuated and people burning suddenly worthless money. More importantly, a very personal, very honest account of how psychologically heartless survivors become during extreme duress.

It seems to be that victims in such situations spend so much time ignoring or manipulating each other, that it's often not necessary for the dictators to enforce suffering one-on-one anymore. Why for example, were some decisions made
As with all the true stories reported during the Khmer Rouges regime, it is frightening, depressing to read this one. It is different because first it is well written, there is some interesting insights into the regime, and the Khmer society at the time, and a message of hope and compassion.
Jan 26, 2014 Oli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amazing personal recount of the emotions and responses to the forced migration, labour, separation and starvation perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge, along with harrowing descriptions of executions and anticipation of them. A must read for anyone with a passion for human rights. The author lost every one of his rather large immediate family; the country lost a third of its population. What strength it must have taken to relive the horror by writing such graphic description.
Chelsea Uy
Jan 04, 2016 Chelsea Uy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book in Cambodia not knowing it would bring me to tears. This true story also gave me a glimpse of the hard times in Cambodia. Highly recommend.
Liam Arne
Nov 14, 2014 Liam Arne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Wow... That was unbelievable. I've read many books about genocide and atrocities, but few have hit me as deeply as "Stay Alive, My Son" did. Just... Wow.
Aug 25, 2014 Carole is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: histoire
Livre prêté par une amie qui a vécu au Cambodge comme professeure avant de devoir quitter le pays.
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An intense, well written and unnerving account of the Khmer-rouge takeover of Cambodia in the 70's. The author made it out alive, but not a page goes by where you aren't reminded of all the people who didn't make. Worth a read.
Travis Kendall
Aug 06, 2011 Travis Kendall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A sad and relentless story of horror and suffering during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. This is the story of a family trying to stay together and alive in conditions of horrid brutality. It is also about how far people will go to escape from oppression. Yathay's story is frightening and sad and striking in that it shows the relentless and mindless brutality of the KR. Also, what makes this book interesting is that it deals with a single family and life on the ground as opposed to big picture pol ...more
Feb 17, 2016 Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A survival story set in Khmer Rouge Cambodia. Powerfully writtenand very moving, despite the dodgy edition with lots of missing pages. 7
Jan 15, 2014 Saxon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The best Khmer Rouge memoir I've read so far. Unlike the child narrators in "First They Killed My Father" and "When Broken Glass Floats," both of which were still quite good if slightly less satisfying, the narrator in this book is a married man with kids. As a result, you get a much more nuanced account of what happened, along with the added weight of his being responsible for children. The writing is crisp and clear, the story structured to slowly ratchet up tension. When I finished reading it ...more
Indi Martin
Oct 17, 2009 Indi Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-enjoyed
This and "First They Killed My Father" are the two best-written books I have read regarding the tragedies and atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Having just completed a personal and harrowing viewing of the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng, this is to be the final book I read on this era in Cambodian history, I think. I have read enough and seen enough, so unless something "new" comes out that is definitive, I think I'll now let this era pass as a shadow into the histor ...more
Jun 08, 2016 Vinhcao rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is an incredible story.
Sep 01, 2014 Mona rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: se-asia, cambodia
Wishing I'd read this book before a four-day whirlwind stop in Cambodia. We have no idea of the horrors that happened to innocents during the time of the Khmer Rouge and the "killing fields". Little by little the author lost every family member and all he owned. By luck and ingenuity he managed to escape the horrors which will fill his heart, mind and soul for the rest of his days. When does the world learn? This is happening again now in another part of the world and we know it, yet can't stop ...more
Camille Baird
Feb 01, 2012 Camille Baird rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bought this book while in Cambodia. Read it shortly after coming home and I am very glad that it was written to help us heal old wounds and hopefully not repeat this episode in history. Even though circumstances can be incredibly and unbelievable difficult and horrible people still survive and have such a strong drive to live and pursue freedom.
I am not going to say this was an easy book to read even though it didn't take me very long. I will remember it for a long time.
I read this book to get an understanding of what people went through during this time, what I got out of it was the utmost respect for my parents. Unlike, 'First They Killed My Father,' this book is written from a perspective of an adult with a family, just like the circumstances of my parents. Not only does he talk about the horrific experience, but he also talks about the political events that took place, and also the culture. Amazing and inspiring book!
Aug 30, 2008 Pat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The horrors of what happened in Cambodia during the Pathet Lao rule continue to provide books of memoirs by people who were lucky enough to live through the time and to be able to write about it after they escaped. This is another such memoir. In the process, the author lost most of his family and barely managed to reach Thailand. The book is well-written, but I guess I'm getting a bit bored with this litany of brutality and loss.
Paul Vermeher
Dec 25, 2012 Paul Vermeher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This might be a controversial comment, but I think Pin Yathay ate his wife.

Pin Yathay gives a very detailed account of his esacpe from the Kmher Rouge. The only part of the escape that is recollected in less than a paragraph is the death of his wife.

Cannibalism had been frequently reported, and the man was surely starving. Cannot blame him though for wanting to admit to that. Just my theory, of course.
Definitely a must-read for someone who wants to learn more about the plight of the Cambodian people under the Khmer Rouge. I read this after reading "First They Killed My Father" and I appreciated the perspective of an adult who had been persecuted (the other book I appreciated for the perspective of a child and a female). It's still hard to comprehend the incomprehensible events.
Michael Broeckhuyzen
Sep 14, 2011 Michael Broeckhuyzen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cambodia
35 years after the genocide took place it is still hard to comprehend the brutality of the Khmer Rouge. This truly is a harrowing story. God only knows how Pin Yathay mustered the strength to live through this ordeal and tell the tale to the world. He lost everything but his life. Highly recommended.

Brilliant! God only knows how Pin managed to survive. What a harrowing tale!
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Yathay Pin was born in Oudong, a village about 25 miles north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Yathay’s father, Chhor, was a small trader, and his family, though not impoverished, was poor.

Yathay was the eldest of five children. His father had high expectations of him: Knowing that Yathay was an excellent student, Chhor sent him to a good high school in Phnom Penh. Yathay received a government scholarship
More about Pin Yathay...

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