Refugee Narratives: Ten Stories of Cambodian Refugees

Entry 4 (Edited Transcription)

My Own History in the Pol Pot’s Regime
By [S.K.]

The following is my own history during the period of the wild murdering and the bleeding of their own nation conducted by the Pol Pot’s regime and his followers. 

The period of the bleeding continued step-by-step in this poor nation. I was born into an upper middle class family on July 10th, 1957, 3 years after Cambodia got its independence from France’s colonial rule. I was educated in one of the secondary schools in Phnom Penh and was one of the clever students in class. I loved the European western world’s style of living.

I was educated for 12 years in English, French, and Khmer languages, although these haven't been useful in my daily life. 

I grew up in a rough-mannered family, and I wearily bear witness to that upbringing today.

On April 17th, 1975, the final victory of the Khmer Rouge led people to feel hopelessness. I was forced to leave Phnom Penh and was sent by train to the great plain 300km west of Phnom Penh.  During this new resettlement, the period of weariness began. We had to work hard all day long without sympathy or humanity shown to us, and very little food was distributed to us. If one wanted more, they had to pay gold in exchange for it in order to remedy their weakness of heath. I was parted from my father on September 10, 1975, and he died because of hunger. I, who was the one still alive, was useless in the prison without walls, and people had no freedom. [Page 19] We were given 200g of rice per day per person, with no vegetables, meat, or vitamins to support the systems of the body.

Big construction sites were built and opened everywhere to receive thousands of people. Great dams and canals had to be done by man’s strength. I was one of those thousands of people who was forced to work hard and who became very weak. 

When daily work was done, we would have another meeting between the leader and us discussing our faults during the daytime. We had to work hard, and if we were lazy we would be put to death. The meeting always finished around midnight.

Later came the period of massacres.  People who were former officials and soldiers were killed in massacres.  With hammer, knife, or buried alive.  Only the ignorant that can breath more days, and those who were educated pretended to be mad, and I too I have been a mad one. 

Now I am my family’s master because I’m the eldest one. 

Because of troubles in the way of life, I tried to do my best to do what was right and what was my good. I treat men with humanity; this is my important intention.

For you, Sisters, I had told you already about my own story.  I seem to have no more ability to write, since in my brain there are black clouds and the atmosphere of society is covered with darkness.  I want to continue my study.  I want to see the world of freedom and the world of humans who are full of humanity.

[Page 20] Now it is far into the night, and I shut my eyes as I remember my poor life. There are devil leaders and ignorant people everywhere and politicians who haven't had enough experience with real democracy, so, as a result, Cambodia was pushed into hell without help for its poor people for two whole generations. 

After I escaped from the V.N. forces, I came to live in one of the refugee camps along the Thai and Cambodian borders called BanSamet. It was very hard to live there, because water was scarce and the great forest exposed us to great diseases we had never seen before, but I was happy I got freedom and had peace of mind. Later the Khmer Rouge tried to interfere. On January 4th, 1980, they came to attack and seized people to get them back under their power. This time I ran away, ran for my life and freedom, and I thought, where shall I go? I went to Khao-I-Dang because I had tried for a long time to go to Thailand, where I hope I’ll continue my journey to the U.S.A and search for my brother and my cousin, who have been Navy officers and got scholarships to study in the Naval Center of California since 1974.

I tried once to enter Thailand in June 1979 and stayed for a week at Tapraya Camp Aranyaprathet, but I was pushed back with cruelty into Cambodia. I spent two months coming back from Thailand, walking on foot about 600 km across the mountainous landscape, with little rice and leaves from trees. I was badly ill, in bad shape for three months with a fever.

Even though I got a bad fever, I tried to succeed in my life. [Page 21] Upon my arrival at Khao-I-Dang, I received your pity, Sisters, and I’m glad. I’m happy for your helpful actions, and I’ll remember them for my whole life. I’ll pray for God to bless you, to help you with good health and wisdom in life.

Bye bye, and see you later.  May social well-being be forever with you, 

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