IAMA daughter of parents who lived through the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia until its fall. I am with my mom here who will answer any questions at all! She lost her parents and many of her siblings, fought off soldiers, joined a resistance to es...
I am currently sitting here with my mom who is willing to answer any questions related to her life in Cambodia, her experience through the regime and war (where over 1.3 million Cambodians died), and her arrival in Canada in '83.
She was around 11 when they chased everyone from the city and made them march on foot to labour camps. There is so much of her experience I haven't heard yet, so this will also be somewhat of a new thing for me.
This is her and my dad when they first met at a refugee camp in Thailand.
One of the reasons why I decided to start this AMA is to raise funds for a personal cause.
My mom lost her parents during the time they made everyone work on the farm in villages. When the regime fell, one of her uncles went from villages to villages in search of my mother and surviving children of the family. He then took them all in and raised them as his own, not only because he had unconditional love for them, but also in memory of his brother (my grandfather) who had always supported him to make sure he had a good life while they were growing up.
She left Cambodia in 1983 and never had the chance to return. My parents and I grew up in a low income household before I started workig.
We recently got news this month that he was diagnosed with lung cancer and is already at the terminal phase, leaving him with less than 3 months to live.
What I'm trying to do is basically raise enough money so my mom can go to Cambodia (she doesn't know this yet!) to meet her uncle, whom she actually calls her adoptive father, before it's too late. One of my regrets in life was not being able to help my dad go to Cambodia when his parents passed away when I first started working. It was devastating to him and extremely heartbreaking to me.
TL;DR: My mom's uncle raised her when she lost her parents. She hasn't seen him in over 28 years and now he has 3 months to live. So I'm trying to raise money by doing this AMA. She's not aware of it, it's a surprise!
For more details, I invite you to visit my fundraiser page: http://www.indiegogo.com/khmer-daughter
And this is my verification with my mom Not sure how I can provide other proof except pictures in the refugee camp of Khao-Dang.
2 hours later
There may have only been only one or two questions, but my mom's responses exhausted me. Wow.
I will continue taking questions, but they will be answered tomorrow if my mom falls asleep. She's currently watching her Chinese stories.
10:20 PM EST Update
Okay, my mom is tired and I am slightly exhausted. Please feel free to continue submitting questions, I will have them answered tomorrow around 7:30 PM EST the latest.
11:45 PM EST Update
It looks like I'm still awake. I'm answering most of these questions based on what I know and my own opinions, but I will re-reply to many of these with my mom's own response tomorrow.
3:12 AM EST Update
Uhhh, so it started off reeeeaaaaally slow, but boy did that escalate quickly! I was supposed to be in bed since 11PM.
On that note, I need to go to sleep for real. I will try my best to answer the questions I may have forgotten and promised to deliver later this evening.
Thank you so much for everyone's support. If you want to know more about experiences during that regime, the war and more, I recommend the following books:
To the ones who contributed and chose the 'Vanity' option, please PM me your email address and I'll be contacting you then to get all the details I need to draw from your picture :)
26/09/2012 10:30 AM EST Update
I am extremely moved by the outpour of support since last night. Little did I know I would wake up to this AMA exploding and receive, not only contributions, but personal stories, bits of history, resources in return. Thank you so so so so much!!! I can't wait to show all of this to my mom when my Indiegogo deadline is met.
I'm going to continue checking this post and provide answers as much as I can & get back on last night's batch of questions.
I recently finished that book and had to put it down many times. Mainly because I felt that's what both my parents went through.
The story of soldiers chasing off city folks towards villages was exactly how my dad told me too - he hasn't read the book. The many points in common were escaping from villages to villages, lying about your identity, the labour, the things you see. I'd say a good chunk of the author's story could be told by any survivors.
im vietnamese. how do the people of cambodia feel towards vietnamese.
I will answer in the meantime, my mom's asleep.
It's an old mentality with a long history where Cambodian people hold a grudge againt Vietnamese, resulting to hatred most of the time.
I'm sad to say that I was a little exposed to it growing up; I was once told I could marry whoever I want as long as he's not black or Vietnamese. But the times have changed, my parents are less filled with such hate towards any group of people.
yeah as a vietnamese i feel bad about it too. i learned vietnamese people tookt he champa kingdom. south vietnam use to be part of cambodia. but from personal experience i know cambodians are great people. yeah thats good to ehar.
I can understand the feelings from the older generation or ones who are extremely nationalists... But unfair to hold such a grudge for this long. I just wish there was some sort of agreement between all countries, acknowledgement of history, and move on. But such is my hippy-ish dream!
naw cambodia and vietnam are on pretty good terms now. some cambodians see vietnamese as heroes because of the vietnamese-cambodian war. the vietnamese liberated cambodia from the khmer rouge. i guess thats a way of correcting mistakes of the past by creating a better future. but most importantly how do you feel about americans. have you heard of the secret war in cambodia.
Politics are so complicated, but that was definitely our saving grace (in my mind) during that time.
I love the U.S. and the American people. It's the politics that I hate.
And can you elaborate on the secret war? Are you talking about now or back during the Pol Pot takeover?
during the vietnam war , vietcong hid in laos and cambodia. america bombed those countries regardless of civilians.
I was reading "Cambodia's Curse" and the author basically reported how jaded the US government were about what was about to break out in Cambodia due to the lack of interests in that country. All focus was on Vietnam. I never really got to finish that book, but yeah, definitely heard of the war before the war.
i also forgot to mention my grandma lived in cambodia during this. imagine what its like for a vietnamese living in cambodia.....
Oof. The fact that they'll kill anyone who doesn't fit their standard, I cannot imagine what it was like for her. Did she live through it?
what also made the khmer rouge so bad was that they were known for employing a lot of child soldiers.
in that article it explains that even after 30 years nuon chea(pol pots 2nd in command and other higher ups) are facing justice for their crimes against humanity
It's been a long time coming. It's frustrating how long this trial have been dragging along, soon enough they will die of old age too.
yep she escaped but her brother wasnt lucky.
I'm sorry to hear. What happened to him?
I can understand their problem with Vietnamese because of their close borders and long history of strife between the two peoples.
What is their problem with blacks?
That, I can't answer. I just feel it was prejudice from mainstream media, they probably never have seen a black person before.
Today, we have Blasian babies running around family reunions. Like I said, times have changed :)
I just got back from Cambodia and want to say that every single Cambodia person I met there was inexplicably nice, hospitable and all around amazing. You could never guess the true history of the people of Cambodia but please take the time to do so.
That is great to hear. All my life growing up, my parents have always told me how Cambodians are kind, but too kind at times, to the point of being taken advantage of.
I'm glad to hear you had a great experience there.
Cambodia was also my favourite country when I visited South East Asia - I couldn't believe how friendly and kind everyone was, especially with reminders of the genocide everywhere and how recent it was. A wonderful place and such lovely people - I hope your mum is able to return and see it again!
Thanks for the support! I love hearing other people's experience in the country, I hope to see it one day too.
How many brothers and sisters do you have ?
I had 10 brothers and sisters and 5 half siblings. Only 4 of us survived after the war.
I don't have any questions at the moment, but I'd like to share some Cambodian music I really enjoy. Their fate is a tragedy I lament. Ros Sereysothea
Actually, I do: Was this Cambodian rock popular during that time?
Hey! My mom's currently asleep, but I can probably answer this one in the meantime.
Yes, it was huge, the golden era basically. She was extremely popular, her and Sin Sisamouth who is considered the Khmer Elvis.
So many Cambodians of my parents' generation still go on and on on how much they miss old Cambodian rock n roll, where no voices today could compare to their musical legends. I actually feel it too.
If ever you're interested, look up 'the golden voice', it's a short movie on Ros Sereysothea. Slightly haunting. If
Thanks for the response. It truely is great music. If you don't have them, look for the Cambodian Rocks and Cambodian Swing compilations. Lots of gems.
Thanks for the suggestion! I certainly will. Perhaps you already know them if you're interested in Cambodian Rock, but Dengue Fever's first album was an amazing tribute to Khmer legends, you should check it out if you haven't already.
What happened when she left Cambodia? Did her uncle know she was leaving? Or did they accidentally get separated? Have they been in contact at all since then?
Yes, he knew 2-3 days before the departure. I, myself, didn't know I was leaving until the night of around 3 in the morning. My sister and our uncle had kept it secret to avoid any information being leaked to anyone. No one could be trusted around that time, should a soldier or informant know, they would have killed us.
We were in contact for the first few years and I sent him money back to Cambodia. I'm sorry to say that we lost contact until very recently.
I'm typing as she tells the story, FYI
Can you tell us how everything happened when you did find out, in the middle of the night, that you were leaving?
I was confused and really afraid when my sister woke me up, I was just following and trusting her.
We rode on cattle carriages in the middle of the night. There were 5 families, but we all fended for ourselves. We had to cross a checkpoint and we were stuck there. In fact, they only stopped me and told the rest of the carriages to leave.
My sister and her husband were scared for me, they tried bribing the guy overlooking the checkpoint in vain.
He took me to a cabin where I was kept in a room alone. My sister and brother-in-law were begging the guards to release me but they wouldn't.
I don't know how much my brother-in-law gave to the guards, after maybe 2-3 hours, they released me.
Once released, my sister and her husband gave me some money just in case something like that happened again.
After 3-4 km, there was another checkpoint. Our guide, the one who owns the cattle carriage, left to talk to a guard. A few moments later, my sister and brother-in-law were ask to follow. At the time, my sister had two children, she carried her son while I was far behind looking after her daughter during their interrogations with the guard.
He asked them where they were going, my sister answered they were leaving for the next village. He walked to me asking me where I was going, with my niece still in my arms, I answered I was following my husband (which was a lie). He then questioned where my husband was, I said he was in a camp in Thailand working, that it's been a long time since I've seen him, which is why I'm looking to go to him now.
I was really afraid then. I was still celibate then, my sister told me to lie to protect myself prior to the escape.
The guard proceeded to ask about my niece whom I was still holding, I told him she was my daughter. My husband had left the two of us alone for too long, I needed to find him. He didn't believe me, so he went back to ask my sister. She supported the lie.
The guard brought my sister and brother-in-law to a room. Moments later, they came back out, the guard seemed satisfied with his interrogations.
I thought maybe my sister bribed him, which is why they were released.
We continued crossing the jungle for a few more hours.
(part 2 coming. She's drinking water.)
It was around 1 PM and it was scorching hot. My sister didn't want my face to be seen, so she used a fabric to use as a veil. Deeper in the jungle, the carriage owner decided to bring his cattle for a drink of water -- we went even deeper and away from the roads. I remained in the carriage with my niece still in my arms. When he brought brought his cattle to the water, my brother-in-law and another family member noticed him speaking with checkpoint guards. They didn't think much of it, like it was just a normal conversation they were having. Shortly after, the guards hopped on their motorcycle and went ahead of us.
After the break, we continued our way to the next checkpoint. About half an hour later, we arrived and this one was a much bigger one; there were many armed guards. They asked the usual questions, first to my sister, then my brother-in-law. But they didn't spend much time on them, they quickly came interrogating me.
The two who had left by motorcycle earlier came up to me and asked where I was going. I was really afraid, I didn't unveil myself and hugged my niece. They demanded my face to be revealed. At that moment, my sister was afraid. I continued saying I was meeting my husband in Thailand. They forced me to get off the carriage, and only me. My sister and brother-in-law whispered not to follow their orders, but I had no choice. They were all armed and didn't want anything happening to my family.
Once off, still with my niece in my arms, they ordered for all the carriages to go on without me. My sister was getting more afraid, she whispered me to slowly walk behind the carriage. As they began to move, my niece noticed my sister getting further away, she then jumped out of my arms and yelled for her mom. She was only around 2 years old then. Not even 2, actually.
It was then that the guards caught me in the lie.
They ordered me to bring my niece back to my sister and for the rest of the people to move on. I was then left behind with armed soldiers who brought me under a tree. They started hounding me, calling me out on my lies. I still kept with the story about my husband in Thailand, but they didn't believe me anymore. I begged them to let me leave but they wouldn't listen.
A moment later, they asked how much money I had. I took out the amount given earlier, but they refused and still wouldn't let me leave.
I was crying, they went back to a cabin and came back. One of them said that everything was all good now, that he will bring me back to the carriage with the rest of the people who were already on their way.
He carried me on his motorcycle, promising me I'd join my family. There was another guard who followed us behind. We rode for a while until I spotted the carriage as expected, but we didn't stop. They said we'll stop a bit further up. My sister and brother-in-law kept their eyes on me as we passed. I felt even more in danger at that point.
We went really far, turned left, went off the road back into the jungle. This spot was familiar, I had heard many detailed descriptions of this place; I knew it was where soldiers would bring women to rape and kill them.
The motorcycle following us behind stopped first while we kept on going.
Once in, he made me get off the motorcycle and he followed me with his gun. He demanded to search my body for possessions, I knew it was a lie. I was already afraid, but lost all hopes, so I answered: "I have nothing, I will not allow you to search me." He insisted. I told myself I was done, I knew he was going to rape me. But I kept refusing to let him touch me and if he wants to do so I'd rather die. This was it.
The roads were quiet, I could feel it then. My sister and brother-in-law were far now.
After my defiance, I decided to run for it. My vision was blurry because I was crying, but I didn't care.I knew I was going to die for this, but I kept going. I heard a single gunshot coming from behind me, but I didn't stop. The guard who had stopped first saw me and yelled at his partner asking why I was crying; I felt it was a fake-pity coming him.
I kept on running and went really far. When I was back on the road, I came across a man on a bike. I was afraid for my life then still, he offered to take me on his bike, kept on saying "get on! get on!". I decided to take a chance and hopped on, we then rode away even further across the road and jungle. Not long after, I saw my sister and brother-in-law waiting. We had arrived at a crossing border where their soldiers were fighting the guards we've encountered.
My sister and her husband ran to me and hugged me in tears, my sister kept crying for a long time. She said she heard a gunshot and was so sure I was dead. The cyclist told me I was lucky, no one ever escapes that spot. He even called me brave (laugh).
My brother-in-law was extremely angry, he was holding a stick of wood and was literally waiting for the two soldiers to kill them. That never ended up happening.
In the evening, my sister and I went ahead first towards our final destination: the refugee camp. My brother-in-law and a few other men joined us much later. We found out that they had stayed behind with the cattle owner to brutally beat him up, he was the one who gave away to the guards that I was single, a virgin, and beautiful. Which was why I kept being singled out from the beginning. I almost died because of him.
I apologize for the redundancy, I was trying to keep up with her telling the story as I typed.
Wow. That is an unbelievable story. Thank you so much for sharing it. I can't imagine how hard it must be for you to relive all of that. You certainly are brave, no doubt about it. All the best to you and your family - I hope you get to see your uncle again!
Thank you for reading if you went through all of that! It was as intense for me as it was probably for you.
Wow. Just wow... Please write a book.
I'm not much of a writer, but I would like to eventually document my parents' entire history before it's too late!
If I can give you one recommendation either invest in a relatively cheap camcorder/ or a tape recorder.
I have recently recorded my Grandparents (on my mother's side) stories of their lives. Both went through the Holocaust.
My biggest regret in life is not doing the same for my Father's side(both passed away) although I'm lucky enough Spielberg, yes that Spielberg, interviewed my dad's father who was in Auschwitz.
If nothing else, it will allow you to preserve their experiences and give your kids an understand of what their ancestors/family has gone through.
Wow, that's amazing about your family's survival and interview.
And it's exactly what I want to do.
Did the cattle owner gain anything from telling the soldiers your mom was single?
He got money and immunity from the guards and soldiers for snitching.
At 3AM, my sister and I left our uncle, we went from Phnom Penh to Battambang within a day by car. We then stayed in Battambang for 2 weeks until we found someone who was willing to take us to the Thailand border. My sister sold the house in Phnom Penh in order to have enough money to pay the people who were in the business of bringing Khmer to the border of Thailand.
What happened to your aunt, if you don't mind me asking?
Holy shit, that is crazy. And at such a young age too. I really hope there's something for that one day...
It's amazing that your mom is open to doing this. The only time I've heard my parents talk about this was when I chose to do a school project on the subject in the 7th grade and needed info. They both lost their parents and most of their siblings in this genocide so the subject is touchy still. I'll definitely try to take a look at the fundraising effort.
Also, you sure we don't have the same moms? Mine gets cranky when she misses her Chinese/Korean shows hah.
Haha - do you guys have drawers of VHS tapes of all the shows? And bootlegged DVDs? We can open a video rental store with all of this.
I actually am amazed at how open both my parents are to telling their stories, they randomly just tell them if something triggers their memories. I know so many survivors who refuse to revisit those thoughts, which is totally understandable, so I feel extremely priviledged to have the parents I have. I feel it's important to know my family's hardship and history.
I'm sorry to hear about your own family's tragedies. While I only had one surviving grandparents (from my dad's side), I never really got to know them except via mail correspondance (which is still great).
Did you ever feel left out because you never got to meet your grandparents?
I know those VHSs man, with like four of them taped together so you don't lose part of the series LOL my mom used to watch them all the time when I was younger
I completely forgot about the tape around the boxes; that is hilarious.
Also a Chinese/Cambodian American as well - sort of. We're Chinese, but my parents were born in Cambodia and got out shortly after your folks (1985, I think). They also went to Thailand, but then came to America. There's actually quite a few of us in LA (but maybe I just feel that way because a lot of my parents' friends fled here as well).
My parents used to tell us stories when we were younger, probably because it was still on their minds so much.. but in the last decade or so, the stories only come up when relatives visit. My brothers actually went with my mom to Cambodia a few years ago; they took pictures of some of the places my parents were kept. I remember hearing that the entire family sat and cried when my brother showed them some of the pictures of the untouched fields - mostly a picture of a tree covered in blood. They later told me that guards used to swing babies against the trees to stop them from crying.
Good on you for doing what you can to help your mom. Hopefully you can raise enough money and find time to go with her.
Oh wow. I cannot fathom what that would feel inside to have actual visual memories of what they went through. How in the world can anyone just do that??
Thank you for sharing your story and your support. I greatly appreciate it.
Hi there, I am also a daughter of parents who survived the Khmer Rouge regime. The eldest two brothers on my mum's side were out before the regime started, one in in the United States, one in New Zealand.They escaped through the jungle to Thailand where my uncle in New Zealand sponsored them to come here. They arrived with only the clothes on their backs and not a word of English. My parents are my heroes, they are my inspiration in life and the bravest, strongest people I know. They went through a type of hell I will most likely never experience in my life time.
It always hits close to home when I hear of or meet other Cambodians of my generation whose parents went through the same thing. You probably grew up with long elaborate stories of escape told to you as "bedtime stories". Are you finding it hard to translate the your mum's answers from Khmer? I find it difficult to repeat my parents stories in English to people, let alone express them in typed words.
When I read that you are planning surprise your mum with a trip to Cambodia, I started tearing up. Last night my dad told me he has resigned from his job so he can "relax" – he totally deserves it. I told him he should go on holiday, and he exclaimed that it should be me paying for it. I wholeheartedly wish I could.
Anyway, sorry for the out pour, I saw this thread and felt instantly connected. You are doing such a beautiful thing, I wish you all the best!
I did struggle a bit retyping my mom's story. There were probably a lot of redundancy.
Thank you for sharing your story, it's always incredible to relate to other kids of immigrant parents who went through such hardships. I really wish you and your family the best. I'm sure your dad was joking for real, mine does it too and it breaks my heart all the time.
Thoughts on Communism? Also how do you feel about the song "Holiday in Cambodia" by Dead Kennedys?
I went through a "leftist punk" phase where I would only listen to politically inclined bands. While I'm more 'zen' about life today, I still have an appreciate of the DK's morbid sense of humour and criticism of everything back in those days.
As for communism... well obviously, that didn't work out so well. So no thanks. That's all I'm going to say.
Right obviously she is inclined to dislike it but I was wondering how she feels about communists, especcially non-maoist ones.
I'll have to get back to you on this tomorrow. It's very rare that she talks politics unlike my dad.
How old were you when you left Cambodia?
I was 18 when I left Cambodia and arrived in the refugee camps in Thailand. When I arrived in Canada, I was 20. A year later, I gave birth to my daughter.
Do you tell your daughter about this and the history of her grandma or is she too young/you don't want to? I feel like a part of it would be wanting to cover it up but it's good you can talk about it. Personally I feel regretful that this doesn't have more activity because Khmer Rouge and the incredible bloodshed in Cambodia are so largely glossed over. I hope you and your family are happy and safe.
Is this question for me or my mom? If it's for my mom, she's always told me stories at random, but I never really heard much about her mom.
If the question is for me, I have no daughter :)
Oh hahaha I'm sorry I wasn't sure which one was responding. So how old are you if you don't mind me asking.
I am 28 now (daughter responding).
Hey! Happy Cakeday!
I plan on teaching my 10th grade World History students about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge next semester. What aspect of that horrible time would your mother want me to emphasize? if my students only learn one thing about it what should it be?
I'll ask her that tomorrow.
Personally, I don't feel people know enough about it and there can't be emphasis on just one part of that period. I heard of this war being taught in school during the time we were learning about communism, Pol Pot was the main subject. It should be about the history of the country, its people, what made it a great country, what made it fall, why there is still struggle now.
Pol Pot is a fucking asshole... excuse my French.
Damn fuckin' right.
What was life like before the conflict started? And what was it like when the trouble began? Did it happen suddenly or slowly?
I will have to let my mom answer that.
But from the few stories she's told me prior to the civil war, she was a spaz. She'd poke bee hives, climb trees, chase cats, while her sister would tell her to buzz off whenever she was being bratty to her. She was an energetic/bratty kid, definitely the complete opposite of who raised me.
When the trouble began, all she's ever told me was that she hid when soldiers began emptying houses in the city. She was around 10 or 11.
Wow! No way! My parents went through the Khmer Rouge as well. It's one of the most sad and tragic events that occurred in history, but yet most people only know about the Holocaust. I wish I could have my parents do an AMA as well, but I'd have a difficult time translating. I speak it, but not as fluent because I came to the US right after I was born. My parents haven't gone back to Cambodia either because of money issues since 1992 or before that, since they escaped to Thailand. Luckily, I sent them on a one month vacation last summer to visit some family and I was only 19 then. So, I'm a little proud that I kind of gave back to my parents after raising me.
tl,dr I'm Cambodian too!
That's really awesome of you :) I feel it's one of the best gifts (like, actual paid-gifts and not straight-A's type of gift) you can give to them. Did they have a good time or was it hard?
They enjoyed it. My mom finally got to see her parents and siblings in over 20 years. She's really looking forward to going again now!
That's great! I'm actually genuinely happy to read that.
What Chinese stories is she watching?
What languages can she speak?
Your Mom is a strong lady. From one traditional asian culture to another, give her a hug from the Internet!
It's one of those fantasy TVB Chinese series that used to take up 20 VHS. I never know the actual titles because they're all dubbed in Khmer. I also never know the real names of the actors.
She speaks Khmer and a little French and English.
FYI, if you ever want to read reviews to determine which series to watch, check out http://www.spcnet.tv/reviews-tvb-series-titles.html. I wish we had this back in the day. I learned to speak and understand Khmer better from watching those Chinese movies.
I think nowadays, people in Cambodia watch a lot of dubbed Korean movies and dubbed mainland Chinese movies. There's reviews for those movies/series too.
Holy crap, thank you so much for this link! I actually really like Chinese series.
Our TV is really stuffed at the moment, the volume can only go really quiet or REALLY LOUD. My mum watches those dubbed movies on it and I can here the whininess of the voice actor from my room. On the other side of the house.
I love it when adults do the children's voices.
Wow. That is a great question. Can I get back to you on it? I feel like this needs a lot of thoughts put into it, because I do know kids of my age who are in similar situations. I never understood why.
As for the recipe, I will ask my mom. She makes figuratively speaking killer Khmer food!
I just wanna say thank you for taking the time to do this. My parent's family also went through this ordeal in which my mother had lost 3 of her siblings through this regime. Luckily her family made it to the Thai border in which they later became sponsored by my dad's family to come over to Australia.
To this day my mother still sheds a tear everytime people ask about her struggles during that time. Your mum is certainly brave to be answering questions about her ordeal and for that she has all my respect and gratitude.
I will definitely donate to your fundraiser as soon as I get paid.
tl;dr Also of Cambodian descent, family went through similar hardships
Thank you for taking the time to read all of this and sharing your story. It's really unbelievable how so many went through these atrocities. Something I could never imagine going through.
And thanks for the support!
when will you tell your mom your plans to send her to cambodia? how do you think she'll react? have your aunt and uncle gone back?
When I raise enough to buy 2 tickets to Cambodia. I don't want to tell her something I can't guarantee to deliver. If I don't reach my goal, I'll tell her about the money raised that will be then sent to her uncle so he can pay the medical bills and whatever he wants to do before he passes away.
I'm not sure how she will react. I feel like she will freeze and look very confused.
My aunt hasn't gone back for the very same reason as my mom, we were never well off.
are you afraid that she won't go? or that she will get there and it be too overwhelming?
I honestly am! Which is why I'm looking to raise enough for 2 tickets, she'll be more inclined to go if my dad is with her. I know she wants to go there, so I'm not too doubtful.
holy fucking fuck!! I wish I wasn't going through some BS right now so I could donate .
No worries, I totally know how it can be. Even though it's super personal and no one really knows me here, if you can help me spread the word, that would be greatly appreciated :)
what were the camps in Thailand like? what were your impressions of Canada? how do you think Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary should be dealt with (supposedly no. 2 & 3 in KH) have you read the book Year Zero?
I'll let my mom answer her experience in the camp.
As for her impressions of Canada, she was amazing, lost and confused at the same time. She couldn't handle the food here for the longest time, still wore sarongs and flip flops around town, didn't have much at all. But she had a reverand and his wife who helped her settle into her new life, they literally took care of her and my dad when she was pregnant with me, they were so young and had no clue how to handle all of the sudden change. The religious couple made my parents' impression of Canada positive and they're still thankful to them today.
Thanks for doing this AMA. I realize that I don't know a whole lot about the genocide in Cambodia, I'm going to have to read more about it.
What did your parents do for a living before the war?
What was your job in the labour farms? What was a typical day like?
How long was it before your uncle found you? How did he find you?
Did you have a choice of what country to go to? If so, what made you choose Canada?
My mom was 10 before the war, and my dad was still a student, I think he was 16-18 (ya, age difference looks so weird like this).
For question 2 and 3, I'll need to ask my mom.
As for the choice of countries, my mom had Canada and Australia to go to (I believe). My dad followed shortly after, but he had the choice of being in France.
Can she tell us about her experience when she first arrived in Canada. Her impressions, fears, hopes, things she liked, things she disliked, etc. Thanks.
I'll respond in the meantime with what I remember her telling me.
When she arrived in Montreal, she felt really lost. On her way from the airport to her hotel, she passed a big parking lot, her first thought was how amusing that they looked like little toy cars.
When she was first given a meal, pizza, she didn't like it at all. She only wanted rice and fish. The adjustment period was hard because of that culture shock.
I am in shock as well that someone, somewhere, some time, didn't like pizza.
Oh, but all that has changed! She loves going to Pizza Hut for family dinners.
My condolences. I too am a child of parents who went through the Khmer Rouge. My mother was not fortunate enough to have any pictures left of her family, and now they're all gone.
My heart pours out to you, I can't imagine what it's like..
what happened to the other siblings?
are you (daughter) close with your aunt and cousins (the ones who escaped with your mom?)
For the surviving siblings: my aunt lives not too far from us with my uncle, who beat the guide. Her other brother moved to California with his wife and kid. As for my other uncle, she doesn't know what happened to him, he stayed in Cambodia. She thinks he may have passed away or something, no one knows unfortunately.
Of all of my family members, I am definitely close to that aunt and my cousins. I grew up an only child and only had them to play with. My cousin (who was in my mom's arms the whole time of the escape) is like my older sister. We talk, help each other out. She now has a kid of her own and it's the closest thing I will ever have to a niece.
For the siblings she lost, I really don't know the whole story. I would have to wait for my mom to answer that.
i cannot imagine losing so many siblings. your mom, and her sister and brother, are crazy strong!
My mom comes off as very delicate, and she's also very kind. Some times I forget what she went through. I whine as soon as I start getting cold symptoms.
I feel this way too. My mom survived the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution (not the same as the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, but the work of yet another overzealous and oppressive Communist regime) and I call her sometimes to cry about how I missed my bus...
Your mother's story touched me, I hope my small donation helps get your parents back home. Good luck to all of you :)
Thank you so much. I would love to know more about your mom's survival. AMA??
Chinese/Cambodian American here as well! My parents/family came to America as refugees from Cambodia and I know that it still affects them to this day.
Tell your mom that there are Cambodian youth in this country rooting for her!
Thank you for your kind words :) I will mostly pass the word on!
How are your parents now? My dad still has crazy dreams where he wakes up drenched in sweat.. at times actually kicking my mom (accidentally) because he's fending off soldiers in his sleep. Really intense.
When you were being sent out of the cities, what was going on in your mind? What was your first thought?
Also, thank you very much for doing this. This is something that will give insight into a topic not often discussed.
I'll answer with what I remember both my parents telling me (very similar stories): at first, they saw soldiers entering the city, their face stern, getting people to cheer for them thinking they had won the war or something. When people went on with their lives later, that's when a few (who knew what was about to go on) started panicking and gathering their belongings together.
My mom was young, so she had no idea what was going on. When the soldiers forced themselves into her home, her and one of her sibling were hiding in a corner, scared and confused. My dad knew something was about to happen, so he gathered his siblings and waited for his mom to come home from work.
As for her first thoughts or what was going on in her mind during the trek, I will have to get back to you with my mom's response tomorrow. My apologies, she's been asleep for a while.
I actually searched Reddit's AMA subreddits and was surprised to not see any on the topic of the war and genocide in Cambodia. So I'm glad to contribute a part to it! I'm hoping to hear some more stories from other Redditors with parents who went through the same period of time.
Question: How did the Khmer Rouge regime compare to North Korea today, in your mom's eyes?
I have a feeling she won't be able to answer that. She's not much into politics, my dad is however. I can maybe ask him tomorrow if you're still interested.
Personally, from the stories I've been hearing from people who have escaped North Korea, I'd say they're similar. While I don't want to compare these kinds of tragedies to one another, there are many stories that are parallel to the Killing Fields. Mainly the isolation, brainwashing, having to be loyal to x. That's all I can think about for now.
What was the deal with the forced marriage? Who was doing the forcing, were the people doing it in order to get favors or what? Also what was the guy she was going to be forced to marry like? Also I'm sorry to hear about all that your mother has been through, and I would donate but I'm a poor college student with no job.
Her sister and brother-in-law were basically hassling her to get married to this guy only because he was rich. My mom, being the rebel that she was, refused. She had a lot of guys who were after her, so here was just another annoyance in her head.
Wait, that sounded really mean. She was young too and not ready. The overwhelming feeling of being forced into something would not sit well with anybody, especially post-war.
another qusetion what does she wished happen to pol pot.
I'll have to ask her personally for this one. But I have a feeling she may have wished him harm like many other Cambodians who went through his regime.
Being as its just you online now, how do you feel like it has affected your own outlook on life, having a mother who has, for lack of better words, "seen some crazy shit", and has a greater appreciation for life than most people? Do you think its made you a more passionate person or more pessimistic to have known about such evil at an early age(that being said how early did she tell you about things from Cambodia?)?
I'm asking this because I have my own daughter who is just 15 months old and its a great question I've struggled with in my head, how childhood innocence should be treated when it comes to education and at what age is best for kids to start learning more about the world when they aren't naturally being exposed to it.
EDIT: I just read your full post, and I am but a poor student from southern Ontario and wish I could help, so instead I hope some philanthropist stumbles upon this post and donates the other $5000 you still need, good luck to your mother!
Being a kid, I didn't understand too much of why my parents didn't want to waste the food I didn't want to finish or why I shouldn't trust people immediately/stay wary. These little things that were affecting them were being passed onto me. It wasn't until later that I understood where they came from.
For sure it gave me a different outlook on life, it was hard growing up, but as years go on and my parents were more comfortable sharing their stories, I understood them a little more and why I was behaving a certain way.
I have a much bigger appreciation for life and easier time to move on. Mainly because there's not a day where I don't think about what my parents went through... Having sacrificed a lot to come here and then giving me a comfortable life, I honestly have nothing to complain about!
Is it true that pol pot's plan was like to destroy all the machines and then everything would be wonderful? Also, does this guy look like pol pot?
He basically wanted to recreate the time when Cambodia was dominant, back when everybody rode elephants or something. But yes, destroy all modern technology, return to old roots; Year Zero.
I'm genuinely sorry for the hardships your mother had to go through. Have either of you ever read First They Killed My Father?
If so, were any of her accounts of the war similar to the ones in the book?
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