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

|Inform | Influence | Inspired|

What have you told the world today?

 Humanity: "Ability hits the mark where presumption overshoots and diffidence falls short." -Golda Meir
 confronting the past
 By Vorak Ny
Do You Have a Story to Tell? Don't You!

This could be You!




Kathen 2005

In 1984, while I was living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I firmed up my goal to write this book. By 1998 I was in Kirkland, Washington, where I began the project by gathering notes and collecting memories.

For years, I put these thoughts into words on scraps of paper and shared them with no one! Those notes have been the primary sources for this book. This work cannot be easily accomplished in days or months; it will take years to recollect my lost and obscured memories.

As I write, those notes and memories constantly remind me what I need to remember, including the possibility that those who committed the killings might someday read my book. Putting into words the lives of people who are engraved indelibly in the archives of my memory will be a long journey with many obstacles and uncertainties. But I am not in any hurry and I desperately hope that all my fellow Cambodians are following the same path.


I continued writing and sharing my stories with others, especially the survivors, people with different lives, backgrounds, and experiences.

In many ways, I discovered that when we are all sharing and in search for peace and love, we receive love in return. So gradually, this book became filled with conversations, arguments, and revelations from Cambodians, so that now, it is more than just my story.

It contains the very private thoughts of my people, and I hope to show my gratitude to them by reflecting their thoughts in the book. It seems that the book is a story without an end.

But there is a purpose for writing it. The stories it contains are not simply about names; they are the memories that are still alive our hearts.

It is not my intent write an autobiography. Instead, I want to focus on the recent past: on my generation at the beginning of what the Khmer Rouge called �Year-Zero�: Thursday April 17, 1975. The old way of life ceased to exist, and the Khmer Rouge began their quest to fulfill their revolution. I write about this not in the spirit of vengeance, but in an attempt to convey the reality of that era.

Family Residence in Phnom Penh

The story begins where the human spirit ends. It will tell of the struggle of living in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. As the author, I am not consciously seeking fame and glory.

For the sake of literature, I wish to write a good story about Cambodia for future generations, and for those who have touched my life and given it meaning.

The Khmer Rouge era was extraordinary. It was not an ordinary time for Cambodians to remember; it marked a time when ideology took a collision course toward self-annihilation.

After it ended Cambodia became known to the outside world by such terms as auto-genocide, Asian Auschwitz, Pol Pot, an Asian Hitler, Asian Holocaust, Echo of Auschwitz, Murder, the Nazi Style, Tuol Sleng, and as the Vietnamese publicly proclaimed: �A land of blood and tears, hell on earth� before its invasion in 1978.

In a May 9, 2003 interview on National Public Radio, actor John Malkovich (who was in the film The Killing Fields) called Cambodia a hollow proposition. Former US President Jimmy Carter characterized the regime as the world's worst violators of human rights. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once called genocide, the crime without name. That's Cambodia! Public opinion surveys paint a similar picture about Cambodia. Perhaps this book will help remind us of what actually happened.

Family Residence in Batambang

History does repeat itself. The world stood by silently as the genocide of World War II reoccurred exactly 30 years later in Cambodia. How did the world allow this to happen? The Nazi Germans and the Khmer Rouge were both were capable of brutal acts that altered the nature of trust and honesty in people. Ironically, Oscar Schindler (Germany) and cadre Koeuth (Cambodia) were two good people among many bad ones, and saved many lives.

Three decades later, the decision to prosecute a few aging Khmer Rouge leaders remains more controversial, especially if we are considering a post-World War II Nuremberg-style tribunal.

As for me, I read and reread the notes from my book. There is much that I have worked hard to forget, and recalling the Khmer Rouge regime is painful. I read my notes as though they could save me. And they probably did, in a way. My sister remembered little of what happened. In many ways, she is trying to forget and move on with her life.

The dam where the Mong and Chrey Rivers meet will serve as a constant reminder of the past and the future. It will stand as a solemn testimony for those who built it under the Bare-Hands Doctrine.

The world has changed in the 60 years since the Nuremburg trials. With the Khmer Rouge tribunal now in place, I can only hope that justice will find its place and a new chapter can open. My visit to Chrey helped me recall happy times, and above all, it preserves the voices and faces of my family who I dearly love. Writing helps me bring back those I lost. Also Read: To My Mother With Love

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

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