A Historical Memoir of the Khmer Rouge Revolution

by Chan Samoeun

translated from the original Khmer by Matthew Madden

"Prisoners of Class is among the earliest, most detailed, and most vividly rendered accounts of the Khmer Rouge revolution...The book, available to English readers for the first time in Matthew Madden’s sparkling translation, is a priceless new addition to the testimonial literature on the Khmer Rouge, which sheds new light on one of the greatest tragedies—indeed, crimes—of the twentieth century"

Sebastian Strangio, journalist and  author of Hun Sen's Cambodia

now available at, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books

Special Cambodia Edition

Prisoners of Class is available in Cambodia in a special paperback edition with full-color maps and photographs. Find it at Monument Books in Phnom Penh, at the RELAY bookstores in the Phnom Penh and Siem Reap International Airports, and at the gift shop inside the Angkor National Museum in Siem Reap.

The remarkable early account of life in Pol Pot's Cambodia,
now available in English translation for the first time

In April 1975, Chan Samoeun witnessed columns of young black-clad revolutionaries—the Khmer Rouge—marching into Phnom Penh. What followed shocked everyone, as they immediately evacuated the city’s entire population, on foot, into a new and unthinkable life of forced labor in the rice fields and jungles of the Cambodian countryside. There, Samoeun and his family, former city people, would live and die as virtual prisoners, re-classified by the Khmer Rouge as “new people”: an expendable class targeted for destruction.

When the nightmare ended four years later, millions had perished, including most of Samoeun’s family. While many survivors fled for the safety of the refugee camps, he remained and picked up a pen. He wrote about his experiences in poetry and vivid prose, describing in stunning detail the fear, starvation, labor, brutality, and death—as well as young love and loss—that he had witnessed and endured. The result is both a priceless historical document and a touching, personal, and immediate account of one of the most harrowing events of the twentieth century.

Originally penned in 1979-80, Prisoners of Class is one of the earliest long-form eyewitness accounts of the Cambodian genocide ever recorded, and the earliest one written entirely in the Khmer language.

"Behind my back are the rice fields where the grains of rice ripen and turn golden, covering the face of the land. And even further behind me is the land of Phnom Srok district, the place where my younger brother, my cousin, my sisters, my uncle, and my niece were killed or lost their lives, their bones littering the earth and the woods. My body walks forward, but my feelings run backward, as though pining for the land that took the lives of my family, the place that left me and my brother orphaned and aimless young men. No! I do not pine for that blood-soaked land. But I miss my brother, my sisters, and my uncle...and now I am walking away from them, leaving behind their corpses, victims of unnatural deaths, left in woods without graves, without relatives or friends."




"Of the many Khmer Rouge survivor memoirs that have been published, Prisoners of Class stands out as the most raw, immediate, and honest of them all... You will never be the same after reading it."

Craig Etcheson, author and former investigator at the Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal

"Prisoners of Class is a poignant and personal journey through a society turned upside down. With its proximity to the events described, Chan Samoeun’s memoir adds a unique and captivating voice to a tragic chapter in Cambodian history endured by so many."

Lachlan Peters, host and creator of the In the Shadows of Utopia podcast

"[Prisoners of Class] plays a role in documenting the lives of victims of the Khmer Rouge and in preserving history for later generations of Khmers to study to prevent such a regime from rising again."

Chhang Youk, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia
(on the Khmer edition)