Sabado, Enero 14, 2012

My story

                                                   Sivath's story

The beginning

There is a verdant land where an ancient civilization was born that had no equal in its
time. It is a land of emerald green fields, pristine forests and a gentle people. It is a land
of immense lakes and rivers where people live in peace if not prosperity .In its ancient
name it was called Khmer empire that left its mark in the world history as an astounding
example of what human ingenuity and endeavor could accomplish.

It was a Hindu empire that grew out of a place called Angkor thousands of years ago and
created lofty temple and city complex with intricate system of lakes, canals to support a
vibrant agriculture based economy that supported in turn a vast empire ruled by god
kings.   It predates European history and had nothing comparable in the ancient world.

I come from such a land now called Cambodia. It is a shadow of its past glory but if you
come to my land, you will know what I mean .You will stand in awe in Angkor wat when
you notice its scale, its grandeur and its monumental glory. You will wonder how was it
possible for the ancients to create such a place that has survived to the present day.

Then you will notice on one side of the road leading to the monuments, a sad cluster of
people with missing limbs or other deformities playing music. A sign says they are victims
of land mines and war atrocities and are trying to earn a living and keep their dignity.
Some tourists give a few coins and others simply walk on by not willing to face the ugly
facts that bedeviled this once peaceful land and still haunts its people.

I come from such a land and have a story to tell. My name is Sivath and I am a woman
who suffered un imaginable horrors that fell on my beautiful land as a scourge .I was only
a young girl then.

A dark shadow descends

I do not know when the Khmer Rouge gained power around the capital Phnom Penh but I
do know that on April 17, 1975 at around 9.30 in the morning they arrived in Phnom Penh
with their guns and an agenda that no one knew anything about. We knew who they
were because they wore black clothes and   wrapped a Khmer krama around their neck.
They exuded   an aura of fear surrounding them that we had never seen before. I
suppose you could say that they were like the SS in Nazi Germany except that they were
in simple black clothes and rubber tire sandals. I will refer to them as KR from now on. We
lived near the US embassy south of the city and at first did not know what the KR wanted
but soon they came and took my father’s car by force and told us to leave the town within
three days .

They said that the Americans were going to bomb the city . The same day on April 17,
1975 when they took my father’s car, they ordered us at gun point to leave so we took
whatever we could carry on two motorbikes and one bicycle and started towards an
unknown future trembling and with deep foreboding.

We had seventeen members in our family. My father was a colonel and two brothers were
in the army but this fact was hidden from the KR because they would have shot them. So
they   just took his car and left and we started a slow and fearful journey past the US
embassy and to the south of the city.

All around us were throngs of people who had been ordered out by the KR but at that
time we did not know how many. Later we would learn that they emptied the whole city
and forced a huge population to move. No one was spared, not even babies , sick or old

I was born in Kratie province in April 1957 so you can now guess how old I was . We had
never faced such a dire situation in our whole life so we organized as best as we could to
stay together and took shelter that night at a pagoda named Samround.

My father said that the KR were communists and a bad lot so we must tear up our IDs
and other documents . He also cautioned us not talk too much. We felt that as long as we
stayed together, we would be safer and the elders would know what to do.

Since we left in a hurry, we could take with us some rice ,few cans of fish , box of
medicines and some clothes only but my father had hidden a lot of money as well. This
would turn out to be useless as there were no opportunity to spend them . So we
decided to go south to the Samroung Pagoda where my knew the monk .We could not go
my father’s home in Battambang because it was too far and dangerous. We also did not
want the people there to know about our situation so we moved on hoping to find the
monk but the monk was nowhere to be found. The KR had taken him away.

We heard that before KR took power, there was fierce fighting between them and general
Lon Nol in 1970 but I was too young to know all the gory details. Days later we reached
another pagoda along the Basak river because we were by now desperate for a shelter
of any kind . You can now picture the throngs of people in the same situation. But we
stayed there only one night and the very next day the KR told us to move to Kos Thom
province across the river.

The strategy

At that time the KR divided the people into two groups called new people meaning the city
people and the old people meaning the peasants. The peasants were told that the city
people were lazy and uppity so they had to be taught a lesson in the dignity of labor. The
task was left then to the old people who felt no affinity for them. They could treat the new
people with scorn and abuse.

Whenever the KR wanted to take something, they said Ang ka Ang Ka but we never
dared to ask what it meant.
We were thus told to stay in a farmer’s house where he allowed some of us to stay the
night at the cowshed in a very filthy condition . The rest were put up somewhere without
a wall. As we had brought only one sac of rice, we tried to exchange our clothes for
potato or corn to cook with rice but the farmer warned us not to anger the KR.

When we ran out of rice , we were given one can of rice per person and a few days later
3 cans of rice for five people by the KR. By now everybody was on a list of the KR.

The interrogation :

The KR now started the process of determining who was who and said to us that we
must not lie to them and tell them who my father was and what he did . If he was in the
army then he would be sent back to serve in some capacity. If he was a teacher then he
would be placed somewhere to teach but we could see in their cruel eyes that they were
hiding their true intentions so we kept quiet as my father had told us to. But we were in
shock when my father capitulated quickly under interrogation and told them that he was a
colonel in the army and his two sons were soldiers. We felt very sorry for him.

They kept a stony face that revealed nothing and said that he must await their decision.
In the mean time if the KR needed to educate him then he must get ready to go to
indoctrination camps. They were setting up vast camps to re educate people to the KR
ways of thinking but we were now truly afraid.

After they left, my father admitted that he had made a mistake by telling them who he
was and had perhaps put our lives in danger as well. He said that the communists were
very bad people but we must somehow survive.

As the days passed, he was given the job of tending the cows and we were told to report
to work with various work gangs that the KR had now set up. So my mother, my sisters
and brothers were all separated and told to join different groups. Only my youngest
brother was ordered to work with my father in herding and tending animals.

The villagers by now knew who my father was but did not treat him badly at first.
However, this would change over time. The village chief was keeping a very close watch
on all of us. The KR told us to go to work early every day and return back to the village for
dinner at night.
They checked everyday who went to work and who didn’t .

One day they saw that my father did not go to work and stayed instead with my ailing
grandmother.   This did not go well with them and he was asked roughly why he did not
go to work that day. They did not like his answer that he was very tired and needed to
look after the grandmother as well . This would later have dire consequences for my
father. As our small supply of rice dwindled to nothing, we had to beg the KR to give us
something to eat but this was just the beginning of a prolonged nightmare.

As I had mentioned earlier, the KR had divided the people into new and old people. They
called the new people meaning the city people Pracheachon Thmey   and the old people
Pracheachon Cah. Now the old people looked down on us bordering on hate and said
that we were soft and not hard working like them. This hatred was encouraged by the KR
who wanted to start a class war.

My father said again and again   that the KR plans to kill him in the re education camp and
it was only a matter of time so imagine our horror when one day several cadres came to
pick him up . He trembled and his eyes were red . All he could mumble with downcast eyes
was –  yes. The KR said that there was nothing to worry about and it was only going to be
for a short time but deep in our heart we did not believe them. We could not sleep whole
night thinking about our father and what would happen to him and comforted each other
while suppressing   sobs.

The next morning my mother told us that our father had left her a small note that said
something like this:
“ Children- when I am away , please please struggle hard for your life, do not quarrel with
each other and always listen to your mother. Take care of her and the younger ones. I
may never return from this ordeal.
Bye”. We all felt very sad but had to wake up early every morning to go   where the KR
wanted us to work that day and returned exhausted to share our meager dinner

Imagine our pleasant surprise when father returned after three days of camp somewhere
and said that it was not as bad as he thought and he met many of his friends there. We
began to have some hope.
After my father came back to live with us, he started to work at the farm again with my
youngest brother and sister and looked after the cows .
He thought a lot, could not sleep well and sometimes put his hand on his forehead,
looked at the can of rice that we kept for the family. He believed that one day   he would
be back to work at his office in Phnom Penh then get his income to support his children

Few months later the Ang Ka's cadre came to tell him that it was time
again to go to the camp for political re education.   We did not at this time feel any alarm
and thought that perhaps they would allow us to go back to Phnom Penh again to live a
normal life.

We waited silently for any news about our father ,woke up early everyday to pack our
lunch and go to the farm to work. We were lucky to get some meat or vegetables once in
a while thanks to the village chief who passed on the tidbits on the sly. But often there
was not enough rice for all of us so we added corn or potato to the rice when we could
get them. It was a miserable life.

We lived in a village called Kos Tung in the Kos Thom district of Kandal province. The KR
made us build levees in the rice fields during the summer season but there was no end to
the forced labor.

We still hoped to see our father again and live with him in Phnom Penh but now we were
not sure. Because the KR deceived people into believing that they could go back to their
homes or towns if they so wished. This made my older sister and brother who were
married to add their names to the list of those who wanted to go leaving the rest of us
with our mother. My grand mother and uncle thus stayed.

Hunger and malnutrition :

After my older sister and brother left us, my mum decided to add our names to the list   to
move from Kos Tung village to see our father in Phnom Penh. We still believed to meet
him soon.

We went by boat across the Basac river again and stayed 4 or 5 days at a pagoda the
name of which escapes me.   It was not only my family that wanted to move, but a lot of
people too. All waited for four or five days until we got called to move by a big truck.

I do not remember when we were ordered to go but it was the day after our name was
put on the list. The trucks transported hundreds of people tightly packed so there was no
room to sit. We could see a few KR men and women in black outfit and scarves along the
road, some standing quietly while others cutting trees passing by the Pocheng Tong
airport .
Phnom Penh university and then onto Oudong in   Kampong Snang and eventually arrived
in Pursat province in the evening .
We were surprised and very disappointed that we were not allowed to return to Phnom
by the KR and knew then that they were very cruel . We were now afraid of them
and decided not to tell them anything about us or our family not knowing what they
would do to us.

We worked hard and lived very poorly in Kos Thom province but then our family decided to
go to Battambang by train to seek a better life.
We went past two provinces of Kampong Snag and Pursat   and were dropped off at a
village between Battambang and Siem Reap
that we walked to .Our mother kept on saying that we must not tell the KR anything
about us except that we are the children of a vendor.
At first they let us return to the village   but a month later they started
separating the singles from the widows and widowers.

My grand mother, mother, two elder sisters and brother, three younger brothers, two
younger sisters and me were now the remaining members of our group. As our difficulties
mounted day by day, we exchanged our clothes for rice with the old people called
Prachea Chun Cas. Now we got very little rice from the KR so we lived on rice water mixed
with potato leaves and such.

Our life deteriorated rapidly after we moved from the Kos Thom district
although we still had a glimmer of hope that our father was in Phnom Penh working and
soon our situation would   improve . Due to lack of food and hard work, my older brother
got sick and could not stand up anymore. He cried for food and became thinner day by
day. We had no
medicine to give him . My mother tried hard to look for food like meat in exchange for rice
or sugar but she was unable so our brother died due to lack of food and medicine. My
younger brothers were also very thin but they scavenged by the river side for fish or
anything. The KR gave us some rice but it was never enough so our Ma fed us the rice
gruel with occasional potato in it .

Then it was the turn of my younger brother who developed classic
symptoms of malnutrition like big eyes, swollen knees and feet and
weight loss . The KR gave us some herbal medicine but it did not help him because soon
he too died.

The village in the Battambang province where we lived was called
Anloong Vil .By this time we had   lost two members of our family ,one due to illness and
the other one due to hunger. Now it was the turn of our grandmother who died painfully
with swollen legs. Months later our
younger brother was injured by a sharp bamboo while looking for
fish in the river and died of infections. We had no medicine for him.

Death in the family :

Now we were left with my mother, my older sister Sithan, myself,
my younger brother Santhy, my younger sister Sivann, my younger
brother Sidoeun, my youngest sister Sivanna and my youngest
brother Siphanno , eight in all . At this time my elder sister and I
were sent to work with a group of women far from our family so
that we could not get back to join them. We came to know of the cruelty of   the KR and
the fact that they were very dangerous so we learned to keep our mouth shut , be
patient and work hard.

We could plant potato in the Anloong Vil village and raise chickens
but everything belonged to KR or Ang Ka as they liked to call themselves, not only the
things we gathered in the village but things we had brought from Phnom Penh . All they
needed was to say they wanted it. It was horrible.

The incident :

One day we saw a chicken near our cottage so I dared to kill it as we had not had any
meat for so long and lived only on boiled rice or rice water but I forgot to look around
.One little girl who was playing near our cottage saw me and ran to report to the village
chief. We waited in apprehension to see what would happen next but cooked the chicken
anyway .

The very next morning I was summoned to the house of the village chief . My family
members were stricken with dread and thought that surely I will be put to death for this
offense. There the KR cadre bound my hands behind me and took me to a corn field . I
then thought that this was the end and they would surely execute me. In the quiet corn
field behind the village I was filled with dread not knowing what they would do next.

Here they started to beat me and asked why I dared to kill the chicken without their
permission. Didn’t I know that everything belonged to Ang Ka ?   As the beatings
continued ,I pretended to be faint and laid down on the grass without saying a word but I
could hear everything they said. They kicked me and asked me to stand up but I bit my
tongue hard and stayed still.

I could hear everything they said but I still pretended to faint. Perhaps half an hour later I
could hear the voice of the Village chief who told them to stop beating me and let me go. I
slowly opened my eyes  
and stood up although my whole body ached and went home. My   mother and other
siblings felt happy to see me again and said that I had a long life. I thanked God for being
alive after this ordeal.

The separation from the family :

A month later I was told to pack my things and get ready to move to a
farm far away from my family. My elder sister was allowed to stay
with her group closer to the cottage because she lied to KR that she was a widow. I
walked for more than half a day to reach the place
where I was to work as a slave. Thus I was separated from my family for the first time
.The only way to survive was to please the KR.

I joined a group of single women to work in the fields starting very early in the morning
until late in the evening so most of my day was spent working hard in the fields very far
from the main road. I lost track of time and felt a longing to get back to my family. This
was not allowed so I convinced myself that I was old enough to live alone.

We woke up very early every morning at around 4 and came back to the cottage at 8 or 9
pm exhausted after working in the fields the
whole day. I did not know the names of places where I worked or where I lived. My
companions were a Chinese girl and three Cham
women who were Moslems. We grew very fond of each other and always slept together .

The KR forced us to do weeding in the rice fields, make ditches or dams, harvest or plant
rice ,cutting thatch or collect plants to make fibers to make rope or sacks, catch fish ,
make baskets and even plough the rice paddies . This was very hard labor. The leaders of
the work gang were uneducated farmers who took orders from the KR and enforced them
without thinking and without mercy.
We had no way of knowing time and often slept at the place where we worked and woke
up at 3 or 4 am to go to work again.
We did not know one place from the other and never received any
information about my family .

Hard labor took its toll :

We the women looked older than our age due to this harsh regime and poor food .I had
no period for three years and my body was filled with lice because I had no soap to clean
myself. I was young and knew nothing about the situation around me except that I had
to follow orders and work till I lay down exhausted.

The never ending work under sun or rain sapped our energy so we
slept under the stars and looked at the moon longing for the return to normal life . Our
clothes were dirty and our bodies and hair full of lice. The worst part was that we all
smelled foul because we had no way to clean ourselves . We got soaked to the skin
during the heavy downpour as we had no raincoat or shelter. We shivered and felt utterly
miserable knowing that peace was not to come and make us free once again. This was
the daily struggle to survive when I lived with a group if single women.

The KR lies :

The KR lied to us saying that we could get rest if our work was finished before time but in
reality they forced us to move from place to place without any rest day or night. We often
had to carry old and feeble men and women . Sometime we worked close to work gangs
composed of men but we only looked at each other in despair and self pity. There was a
time during the winter when after finishing work at 8 pm we were forced to cross a river
on foot. I felt so utterly cold and pathetic.

I gradually lost track of time as I worked with the gang of women and constantly moved
from place to place. The KR propaganda forced us to say that we loved the KR, they were
our parents   and only they could do so much for the people .This was broadcast via the
radio using the song of Kampuche Prochea Thimyey over and over again.

My diarrhea   at this time made my life hell as there was no hospital or medicines but
slowly I got better only to go back to the slave work.
There were no schools, no hospital, no market or even rudimentary health clinic . The
Cambodian money was useless and even gold was not worth much so often the KR took
the gold from us to melt down and   make oil lamps with it.

During the rice planting season I worked pulling seedlings to be transplanted .Again the
lie was that if we could finish the work early, we could rest so I worked fast and sneaked
out to visit my mother and younger sisters whom I missed dearly. This was risky but my
friends in the work gang covered for me when they could. This was
when I worked close to the village where they lived.

I also went to see them because sometimes I could get some food or old clothes   as my
clothes were thin and tattered and did not keep me warm during the winter .The constant
hunger drove me to steal some rice grains from the plants in the paddies but this was
also very risky.
Suddenly a KR militia appeared with a long gun and stopped me stone cold and said that
he wanted to check me. I was so afraid that I thought this was the end of me. Surely he
was going to kill me if he found the rice grains in my pocket.


He searched my first shirt that was loose and found nothing and let
me go .I was lucky again as he did not search my second shirt
underneath where I had hidden the rice. I was relieved and thanked God for helping me
the second time around and started walking toward the main road .

The fear:-

I could not stay on the road due to the fear that I may come across another militia again
and I may not be so lucky the second time around so I looked for a short cut to reach the
village. But this was also difficult and the darkness made it more difficult to find my way .
It was winter and dark so I could not see well where I was going but dimly saw a long
channel full of water that I had to cross .I could not swim so thought of rolling up my
trousers and wading through it not knowing how   deep it was. Gingerly I stepped into it
and luckily found the water to be only chest deep. Thus I was able to reach the main road
and walk toward the village.

As I was very cold and could not reach the village, I decided to spend the night along the
way somewhere. I found a boy burning hay to keep him warm in a cow shed so I slept
with him huddling his warm body and woke up early next morning to find my way to the

Early next morning I woke up and rushed toward the village when I suddenly heard my
brothers and sisters calling me that made me cry with joy. I missed them so much. They
gave me some food like potato, red sugar and some rice but I told them that I had to
return to work soon so my mother hurriedly packed some food for me that I shared with
my friends little as it was.

We lived like this without a roof   where ever we could and could not escape .The shooting
pain in my leg often crippled me and I pretended to go away to urinate but often the KR
did not believe
us and followed us to force us back to work. I had to remind myself again and again to be
patient. I faced a thousand dangers during this time under the KR regime. Stealing a
chicken to feed my family, stealing rice to stave off starving all was dangerous work
because the militia always kept a close watch.

Starving and punishment :-

The empty stomach, painful legs and diarrhea to boot made my life so miserable, I wish I
could die to end it. But I continued to live with a group of women and constantly moved
from place to place.
I remember once during the hot season KR forced people to make a dam where there
was no water for drinking. If we needed water, we were allowed to look for it but only
one person at a time. When we found water, it was foul and muddy. When KR brought
water, it was only for drinking and not for washing. Anyone caught washing was punished
by tying the hand to a tree and let the ants bite or tying the hands back under hot sun .
Such harsh punishment without food or forcing to dig   a large pit   4 to 5 meters long was

At first the KR organized people to work in small or big groups but later changed their
mind when they saw that people could not work as much as KR wanted them to due to
their famished conditions.
Now they started by forcing each person to work a required amount each day like digging
a pit of 4 to 5 m long.

This was specially hard on weak and starving people .The lack of drinking   water was a
crucial issue so they promised a new bucket to a group to fetch water . But something
held me back. The group that was promised new buckets was punished to dig pits and
they did not return that day. I felt so sorry looking at them the next day and thought I
was lucky that I did not ask for a new bucket and waited.
We waited a long time for a simple bucket of water at the time of harvest but in vain. I
forgot about the time .

Once KR sent our group to cut a kind of plant to make ropes in the deeper part of water
during the rainy season. I did not know how to swim and the place looked like sea. There
were no villages nearby
that made us afraid. We felt cold and shivered just looking at the expanse of water
everywhere. We worked hard and ate our meager lunch standing in the water and
somehow got back to our cottage
late in the evening. Our legs felt very itchy and hurt but there was no medicine to be had
so we had to stay in the cottage and subsist only on rice water. This was the punishment
for not working so I found a few grains of rice in the field and chewed on it during the
harvest time   to ward off the pangs of hunger. Nearly all my teeth were thus worn off
chewing on uncooked rice grains.

A ray of hope:-

With my Chinese and Moslem friends we sometimes found a fish or two in the ditch or
some rice grains in the field but we were always afraid the KR will find out and punish us.
If one of us got sick, we shared our food with her secretly. We lived like this for a very
long time and lost hope that peace will come one day. But one day some people started
talking and said that peace will come soon and our country will soon be free and we all
will be able to go home and be with our family. Often we could hear the sounds of bombs
but the KR kept us working and said that it was nothing.

We heard that the Vietnamese had come to liberate us but nothing changed for us and
we were herded everyday for forced labor by the KR . Some of them had radios but they
did not tell us what they heard so we could only guess what was happening.

One day however, we saw a big group of people leaving but did not know where they
went. This time the KR allowed us back to our cottage early and eat. We wondered why
but dared not ask. Among us we whispered that perhaps peace was coming and God will
allow us to return home and end our misery.

As we laid down on the wooden floor, we heard the sound of bombs
getting near by the minute and were very afraid so we huddled together not knowing
what was happening. Suddenly near midnight
we saw the Vietnamese soldiers pointing their flashlights on us.

The dreaded KR flee:-

The KR had fled during the night   so at last we were free of the tyrants . However, one
group was forced by the KR to go with them westward. We woke up with joy the next
morning and rushed to get some food, any food we could find and quickly packed our
meager belongings because we all felt that finally this nightmare was over and we were
going home. We saw many tanks along the road and hurried past them delirious with joy
to get to the village to rejoin our families.

At this point I was so thin and weighed less than 30 or 40 kilos but I thought that
perhaps my family did not have enough to eat so I tried to get a bucket of rice for them
but this was hard for me to carry because I felt very weak and was easily tired so I had to
stop many times   and get rest before I could reach the village. I prayed that God should
give me strength to reach the village and I laughed out like a mad woman happy to be
free once again. I saw people carrying things and hurrying to meet their loved ones and
their faces showed joy and relief that peace had finally come to Cambodia.

Finally my sisters and brothers rushed out to meet me   .They hugged me and kissed me
and we shed tears of joy at this reunion. They gave me rice ,meat and vegetables to eat
but it gave me diarrhea .
We found to our joy that we could go anywhere and find anything we wanted and did not
need permission of the KR thugs anymore.

Our family stayed at the Angloog village for a while before we decided to go back to our
home in Phnom Penh so we moved toward Siem Reap slowly . We met a lot of people on
the road , all eager to return to their native places . We stayed nearly a month in Siem
and made rice noodles in exchange for other food.

All the time the Vietnamese soldiers gave us ride in their truck and often dropped us in
some unknown places and said that we should
hitch a ride whenever a truck passes by. Thus we stayed on the road and waited for the
ride the next day to get to the Skun commune.
We were eager to see our house in Phnom Penh that was near the US embassy but we
could not enter the city because it was under the Vietnamese control and all roads
leading to it was shut .

We knew hundreds of people who were now lost in this dark period   but hoped that some
of them will find us if we wrote our address on the walls of many places although the
hope was very small.


Home again :-

We could not talk our way through the cordon because we did not speak the Vietnamese
language so we waited until we found a
kind person in authority who permitted us to stay at a place near Phnom Penh. Even
when we   reached   Phnom Penh, we had no chance to look at our old house. Many people
had died during these turbulent times and many houses in Phnom Penh were empty so it
was not difficult to find a place to stay temporarily but we lastly found our house still in
good shape. It was the happiest moment in my life.

We tried every day to find   a way to see it until one day the Vietnamese troops opened
up some roads and allowed us to pass . We were so happy when we finally reached   ours
but much to our dismay found the place in shambles and almost derelict. It was a great
shock to us to see the house completely vandalized
and the furniture dumped upside down here and there but we did see one plate so
admired by our grandma among the mess. We sat there a long time looking at the ruin of
what was once an elegant home but we dared not ask the Vietnamese to get our house
back although they had liberated our country from the KR .We expected so little from
them and were unsure how to go about getting our home back.

We missed our father terribly and saw the bamboo plant that he had planted in the
garden. We hoped that many relatives might have had a better luck and perhaps survived
but we did not know where they were so we wrote our address on the wall of our house
with the hope that perhaps they would thus find us someday.

One day my younger brother went by our old house and while sitting under a tree was
approached by my sister who was allowed to go and live with her husband by the KR and
had survived . My sister had remembered the face and recognized him right away. She
was in shock when she saw a young boy under a tree who looked very much like our
younger brother. They hugged each other and cried hard when they recognized each
other. He had grown up since we had seen him the last time. Happily we were reunited
once again bringing tears to my mom’s eyes. Thus little by little some members of our
family were found and reunited

Our second sister was a typist and had worked with an assurance company before the
nightmare of KR regime. Our first sister was a school teacher and we the rest were just

One day a strange man approached my sister near the Russian market where she was
waiting for my mother and asked her if she wanted to work and what type of skill she
had. My sister said that she was a typist so the man gave her a job at the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and found her a place to live nearby. We in the mean time found another
place to live but still could not get back to our own home. However, my sister requested
her boss to let me work with her which he granted so I too became a staff at the ministry.
This permitted us to have free lodgings but being single, we were afraid to live just by
ourselves so we moved in with other MFA staff who   were living in the old parliament
building close to the MFA.

My sister worked as a typist and I as a cleaner but without any salary. We were only
given 10 kg. of rice a month each and sometimes some meat, fish and vegetables. But my
sister was a good typist so she later got a job at the Cambodian embassy in Russia .She
told me before leaving Phnom Penh that   I too should learn to type so that I can get a job

At that time the offices had no lock and key so it was easy for me to sneak in and practice
typing .I learned how to type but it was boring.
At that time the offices had no lock and key so it was easy for me to sneak in and practice
typing .I learned how to type but it was boring.
Now I had the idea of saving my rice and exchange it later for some clothes and a
necklace. In the meantime I continued to learn to type after all the staff left. At first I had
difficulty but soon I learned to type fast in French and English but typing in Khmer was
I did not have a teacher so I typed with two fingers only .Sometime
I wanted to quit but somehow I continued because it was a way out of my situation. I
wanted a proper job so I had to have a proper skill.

Later I found a proper job and little by precious little we started to rebuild our shattered
lives, wiped out tears and stood up once again to face the future.

Epilogue :

Thus my sad story comes to an end . I was reunited with what was left of my family and
we got back our home or only the shell of it but it was a lot more than many of my
countrymen found and some never did. Millions lost their lives in the hands of the KR and
millions more like me bear the scar of their brutal regime that have not yet healed.

It is hard to imagine such misfortune in a land that was so peaceful and blessed once and
that gave rise to the greatest civilization in this part of the world . It is incomprehensible
to anyone who visits our beautiful country now   how such monsters like KR ever came to
rule this land with such brutality and left such a horrific legacy .

The Toul Sleng torture centre is now open to tourists who wander through its corridors
and rooms full of photos of victims and torture equipment , records and blood smeared
walls   and wonder what made man so cruel to a fellow being . The world history is full of
such cruelty and persists even today.

So if you come to my country and see those people playing music near the road to past
glory , stop and listen to them and their story played through mournful music . They will
tell you that although their bodies were beaten , their soul is untouched and their spirit to
rebuild this ravaged land is unbroken.