When Clouds Fell from the Sky: A Disappearance, A Daughter’s Search and Cambodia’s First War Criminal

“Several impressive books have been written on the subject. But ‘When Clouds Fell From The Sky’ both humanizes the story and brings new insights into the causes of the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror.”
– Dan Southerland, Christian Science Monitor

“Poignant … An unforgettable book.”
– Elizabeth Becker, journalist and author of ‘When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution’

“A Cold War history lesson that’s worth re-telling. Carmichael writes intelligently about a complicated subject that continues to haunt the survivors, be they Cambodians or anybody else from the myriad of foreign powers that dabbled in this country’s tragic history at their peril.”
– Luke Hunt, The Diplomat

“Combining extensive historical research and analysis with colourful narrative, ‘When Clouds Fell from the Sky’ is arguably the most vivid and terrifying literary portrait of the prison to date.”
– Bennett Murray, The Phnom Penh Post

A man returns home to Cambodia whose people, unseen by the outside world and unknown to him, are dying in vast numbers in one of history’s bloodiest revolutions. He is never seen again.

Back in France his disappearance in 1977 – during the near four-year period of catastrophe that survivors call “the time when the clouds fell from the sky” – marked the start of an unceasing search for answers by his wife Martine and their daughter Neary.

It seemed an impossible task: 30-year-old diplomat Ouk Ket had vanished into the wasteland of Pol Pot’s Cambodia, a country whose population was enslaved and whose borders were closed.

Decades later, though, Martine’s and Neary’s quest for justice saw them testify at the war crimes trial of Comrade Duch, the chief of Pol Pot’s notorious S-21 prison where thousands of “enemies of the revolution” were tortured prior to their execution.

In this book, spanning five decades and five lives, journalist Robert Carmichael takes the reader on a compelling journey into the causes and consequences of the Khmer Rouge’s savage rule during which two million people died, one in every four Cambodians.

In describing one family’s experience, this book illuminates the tragedy of a nation.

“Crisply written, elegantly constructed and thoroughly researched, When Clouds Fell from the Sky is a perceptive, often heart-breaking book.”
− David Chandler, author of ‘Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot’s Secret Prison’

“This is both the poignant story of a young woman seeking the truth about her father’s disappearance at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime, and an unflinching portrait of the executioner who oversaw the torture chamber where he was imprisoned. An unforgettable book.”
− Elizabeth Becker, author of ‘When the War Was Over: Cambodia and The Khmer Rouge Revolution’

“A beautifully written book that does a masterful job weaving the history of the Khmer Rouge tribunal with a more personal story of human tragedy and redemption. This extremely thoughtful work is the product of its author’s deep understanding of Cambodia. Anyone trying to make sense of the Khmer Rouge war crimes court should read this timely book.”
− Peter Maguire, author of ‘Law and War’, ‘Facing Death in Cambodia’ and ‘Thai Stick’

“’When Clouds Fell from the Sky’ is a standout. Carmichael chronicles the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge through the interconnected stories of five different people.”
− Dan Southerland, Christian Science Monitor

“Several recent books have tackled the most vexing questions – the how, what and why – of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge past. Robert Carmichael’s When Clouds Fell From The Sky’ is the latest effort and could well be the best of the crop. Carmichael draws on an impressive range of sources and interviews in Clouds, leaving few stones unturned as he weaves together events of the past, with the efforts by its victims to reconcile with its legacy.”
− Wayne McCallum, The Advisor


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