IN MEMORY OF MY MOTHER - Nâng Thet Borey 1931-2008
 


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 Humanity: "Above all, this country is our own. Nobody has to get up in the morning and worry what his neighbors think of him. Being a Jew is no problem here." -Golda Meir
 confronting the past
 By Vorak Ny
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THE DISAPPEARANCE


Ny Omarith (missing)

I read and reread them, making sure that I won't forget those who died. I lost three bothers and two sisters to the Khmer Rouge. Two of them, one with two children and the other who had a son and was six months pregnant in late 1976 were executed. Two of my brothers died of starvation and disease at Chrey village in 1977-1978. And one went missing and is presumed dead.

The disappearance of my brother remains as fresh for me today as it did then. My mother still lives with the agony she feels over his disappearance in mid-1977. Although we remained hopeful for some years that he might resurface, it is painful today to look back at those moments of optimism.

Most Cambodians having seen the killing fields, but it is difficult for me to accept that my brother is among the victims there. Since I returned to Phnom Penh in October 2003, I have visited and revisited the Tuol Sleng torture center, hoping not to find his picture there, but to learn more about the regime that remains shrouded in secrecy.

 

Was my brother caught and brought here to face charges or could he have died here? I walk from cell to cell, and when I reach the gallery where photographs of victims are displayed along with implements of torture, I look at them and see things I witnessed during the regime. Also Read: To My Mother With Love

This experience has had a disturbing effect on me. Many of the methods the Khmer Rouge used to curb dissent proved to be similarly ferocious in Chrey region.


Ny Chantho Reth as bridesmaid (fifth from left)

My brother left Chrey village as he lived in it, fearless of death. His fate was determined by the immutability of his character, which came predictably to one who was defiant and confident in his judgments, knowing there was no hope of success against such overwhelming odds.

Over the years, I began to speak out more about him. Recently, two men, one in his fifties and one around my age, claimed to have had lived in Chrey village in those years and knew the area quite well. But no one knew or heard of my brother's whereabouts.

His days with us were short, and I hop that his disappearance from our life would justify the cause of freedom and the life he sought to live. My brother Omarith was just seventeen years old.

Soon after the Vietnamese invasion, my father went back to the village in Kampong Cham where he stayed during the regime. His hut was left untouched; the banana and papaya trees nearby were ripe, and the grass around the hut was about knee-high.


My father late King Sihanouk

Looking from a distance, he felt convinced that someone was still living there and waiting inside the hut! The door was ajar so he stepped inside, where he saw writing on the wall: I love you father. It appeared to be the writing of my sister Chanthou Reth. My father sat there recollecting for a while, and moved on.

The Khmer Rouge robbed me of a father during my childhood. My father loved us unconditionally, and family bonding was most important to him. Although we have been apart since I was a child, because of war and many unfortunate circumstances, I have always had a sense of him being with me.

He taught us to love and to support your country, its purpose, its past, and its destination. His wonderful sense of optimism gave me the greatest challenge in life, but the fear of growing up disappointing him always weighed strongly in my heart and mind.

My father shared with us his love of public works, and I obviously have inherited the same way in a sense. All my conscious life, my father seemed involved in public life. He handed Cambodia down to me as though it was my inheritance alone. His commitment to Cambodia has given me a reason to continue.

He left Cambodia, only to pursue new projects working with the Humanitarian Relief Project, International Red Cross, and working earnestly with the Cambodian Communities. I can think of no more honorable act than his current deeds, helping the rebuilding process in his former war-torn country.

Cambodia has always been a "Distant Land of My Father." To him, leaving Cambodia for France was abhorrent to every instinct in his body. He has seen war and destruction in his life, and I think this experience affected him greatly, now my life; I intend to do my part so that my children and future Cambodians may live in peace.

My parents' love and affection has been the most prevalent thing in my life, and they gave their children unconditional love, and let us chart our own path in life. That's the greatest gift a parent can bestow upon their children.

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About the Author: Vorak, Ny is the founder of www.khmerwriter.com. A survivor of Democratic Kampuchea and a reader of Searching for the truth

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