Our first book is by Cambodia-based South African journalist Robert Carmichael, and it’s called When Clouds Fell from the Sky: A Disappearance, A Daughter’s Search and Cambodia’s First War Criminal.

It was published by Mason-McDonald Press in December 2015. It was first published in south-east Asia by Thailand’s Asia Horizons Books.

You can read much more about When Clouds Fell from the Sky on a bespoke website:

The book recounts the lives of five key people to tell the story of five decades of Cambodia’s history. Chapter One opens one of those five – a Cambodian man returning to the country in 1977 at the height of the disastrous Khmer Rouge rule. He is never seen again.

The broader purpose of this book is to assess the causes and consequences of the Khmer Rouge’s 1975-79 rule, a period of such bitterness that survivors refer to it as “the time when the clouds fell from the sky”.

In so doing it covers the 1960s – before Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge were a political force of any significance – to the 1970-75 civil war, which ended on April 17, 1975 when Cambodia’s communists captured Phnom Penh and took control of the country.

The book then looks at the Khmer Rouge’s disastrous 1975-79 rule, when an estimated two million people died, before moving to the 2000s to examine the limited post-atrocity reckoning known as the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Each character’s life links directly to these events, and it is these human stories that drive the narrative.


When Clouds Fell from the Sky has received excellent reviews – here are a few of them:


“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 … [This book] 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, October 2015


“Poignant … An unforgettable book”

— Elizabeth Becker, 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, April 2015


“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, April 2015