The Documentation Center of Cambodia believes that one of the most effective ways to preserve the history of Democratic Kampuchea is through the voices of those who survived. Our Promoting Accountability, Research and other teams thus continually seek interviews with, and solicit stories from survivors.
When my father returned f
My father, who was born in 1920, was a real patriot and very active in politics. He was a representative in the National Assembly for two terms, from 1959 to 1967, and was involved in the coup to depose King Sihanouk in 1970.
My father Pon Arun fell in love with my mother at first sight. She was very beautiful and a performer of Basak [a traditional dance]. My father was the son of an Ouknha [a title given to a rich person]. My grandmother, however, didn’t like my mother and constantly tried to find ways to separate my parents.
When he was 18 years old, my husband was ordained a monk. He passed his baccalaureate examination in the Pali language. Chuon Nat, the head of his monastery, ordered him to teach other monks. But Sopheak was facing financial problems, so he quit and took the entrance exam to work as a trial court clerk. He got the third-highest score and a posting in Phnom Penh.
I was very lucky to have survived the Khmer Rouge regime. My mother and five of the eight children in our family died, but I lived by lying to the Angkar, saying I was a cyclo [pedicab] driver.
My father was the chief of forest and wild animal preservation at the Ministry of Agriculture. In 1973, the Ministry assigned him to monitor along the Koh Kong coastline. He decided to move his family to Koh Kong after the Khmer New Year of 1975, but everything changed on April 17.
Among our family’s seven children, Sboang was the luckiest; he had the highest position. He was a clever student and fluent in French. During the Sihanouk regime, he passed a civil service exam and became a cooperative chief in Prey Veng. He supervised the agricultural system for the whole province.
Thai was a smart man. Before 1970, he studied at the agricultural school in Kampong Cham Province. He rented a house there and fell in love with Huot Phannary, the landlord’s daughter. We call her Nary. She is a well behaved and educated woman who taught sports. When King Sihanouk visited our province, Nary greeted him and put a garland of flowers around his neck.
I moved to Phnom Penh from Kandal Province so I could attend high school, but after I completed the 5th grade [the equivalent of 7th grade in the west] I took an entrance exam for the postal service. I passed and began working at the post office in 1961.
I still remember my father’s words: “I am a soldier, and will not flee the country. If I die, I want to die in Cambodia.” He said this on April 15, 1975 when my mother told him to escape. He probably knew he would be killed, but decided to stay in Phnom Penh anyway.
Phoeun first saw me one evening when I was walking to the river to have a bath. He kept watching me and followed me whenever I went to the market. He came to my parents to ask for my hand in marriage. My father didn’t agree at first because he hadn’t brought any elderly people along to act as middlemen. So, he came back a second time with his relatives, and my father accepted his proposal. I was 18 and he was 28. He was a small man, so he looked young.
My husband Yos Prim first saw me in 1952 and asked my parents for my hand in marriage. After he graduated from high school, he entered a military academy and was promoted step by step. He became a colonel in Lon Nol’s army in 1970.
My father was a handsome man. After he fell in love with my mother Makk Ngoy, he had to work very hard to please her parents so they would agree to his marriage proposal. My father’s older brother had seen her first and also loved my mother. However, my uncle was generous; he thought that if either of them married my mother, she would be part of his family.
My father Uk Tat was a soldier. He was the only one in his family to be educated; he went to school at a pagoda and transported vegetables and fruits to the market to help his family. Then the French government recruited him into the army.
Noeun studied in Kandal Province. He was a good student and earned a diploma. During the chaos following the 1970 coup d’état, he volunteered to join a unit that guarded his school at night because they were afraid the Vietnamese would burn it down. He wore a uniform that was the same color as tree leaves and carried a gun. Although he was paid 500 riel a month for this, it wasn’t enough for food.
I was very lucky to marry my husband. If I had married a selfish man, I probably would have died from starvation during the Khmer Rouge regime. He was a handsome man and many girls were attracted to him.
My husband Vorn had skin the color of a soybean. He was gentle, hardworking, and very likable. We were married when I was 16. About a month later, the village and sub-district authorities came to persuade Vorn to join Lon Nol’s army. He didn’t want to, but had little choice. He served in many battles.
I was not really ready for love when I was 18. Mann and I first met on the Khmer New Year, when he was on a short leave from the army. It was love at first sight for him. And when he had his unit chief ask my mother for my hand in marriage, I didn’t have any feelings of love for him. But I had to accept my parent’s arrangement for me. His chief and Lay Sam, a colonel in Unit 554, were at my wedding, but not his parents.
Kauv Choa married me when he was 22 and I was 18. Although we lived in the same village, we had never met before his parents came to mine to arrange our engagement. My parents asked for a 100 riel dowry; it was a lot of money at that time. But because his parents loved me, they agreed to it. On our wedding day, we killed many pigs for the reception.
This picture was taken during the Lon Nol regime in Phnom Penh. I had moved there to live with my younger cousins because I didn’t want to join the Khmer Rouge. I’m not sure why my friends and I decided to have our picture taken, and we didn’t dress properly. I was wearing a pair of baggy trousers and flip flops.