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KLVH-CSOKHOM Interview Part 3

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Moderator: What was the name of the labor camp? The... let's see. Trying to remember that time. Uh... uh... Osralau yeah. Osralau. That's the labor camp where I uh, was in. Moderator: So at the camp, Moderator: did you Moderator: you said it was better? Moderator: than most of the other camps? Right. But, I, at times have uh, you know, uh, having, put in a well, not enough but its, better, you know, a little more food than other camps. Moderator: Did people get sick and... Yeah people get sick. And... some people get executed for you know, not doing what they want us to do or or, or, doing little thing that they think that is wrong. That is wrong. Moderator: So did you ever see anybody get executed? Moderator: Or shot at? Sokhom: I've never seen but uh, I've heard. I've heard the screaming. Okay, because they are very, meticulous in killing people. You know? And they didn't want people to see. But, of course, there are occasion when you, happened to witness that. You know. So, I, hear screaming. That's one of the things I wrote, in my poet...poetry books. That one thing that I remember. Moderator: So, um.... Moderator: You just worked all day? Moderator: and then? Yeah. So we woke up like, 4 or 5 o' clock in the morning. And we just go to the field. To a... build you know. uh... the, the roads. And, irrigation system. You know? Uh.... build the dikes and ditches. And uh, to do the farming. To... do rice transplanting and you know, harvesting and all that. Moderator: What did they Moderator: the leaders like tell you... Moderator: you were doing this for? Yeah, they have like, uh, uh, they had a meeting like almost everyday. Every night. You know. The meeting, they just, they just talk like parrots talk, and you know, they just, tell from, whatever their boss said. You know? Tell that, "Okay," "the Angka" "the I, organization," "that rule the country," "wants you to" "uh..." "sacrifice," "to do all this." "For us." "For, for people," "Of the country." "For everybody, equally." You know? They just, uh, indoctrinate the, the communists, ideology to you. Uh... Moderator: So did you ever think of like...leaving? Moderator: Trying to escape? Moderator: Or was it just something Moderator: you had to think about? Sokhom: Yeah, I was... thinking about that, but I, come to the decis.... to the, you know, realization, that its almost impossible to escape. And a lot of people got killed along the way. Uh those, who, tried to escape. Yeah. Moderator: So, how long were you in that labor camp? Moderator: Were you just in one labor camp? Um... I stayed in.... different labor camps. So they moved us around, you know? After we build this roads and irrigation systems, after we finished that, then they move us to, another places. Of course, it, depends on the seasons also. Now you know, in a summer season, you know, they, made us, build a roads, or, ditch and dikes and all that. And then, after summer's over, well, cause, when the rainy season comes we gonna do, we were, we did different things. Like, you know, we did the, the rice transplants, and all that. Okay? We did the rice farming. And, when came the harvest, time, then we did the harvesting. In a hurry, you know? After done that, then they go on to build, the, irrigation systems. The ditch and dikes. Again, at different places. Moderator: So how long were you in the camps then? In other camps, we, I stayed there, for, until, 1979. Moderator: So, you were in camps for about 4 years? Yeah, in different places. Moderator: So, what, Moderator: ended or what happened? Moderator: That you were not, no longer in the camps? The Vietnamese army, came to a, a fight the Khmer Rouge. And they took over the country. In 1979. Moderator: So, do you remember that day? Moderator: Do you remember that time? Yeah, that was a, also a, a chaos day. You know? Its like, before the Khmer Rouge fell, we were, happy also. But at the same time, you were, kind of uncertain, what, what, is gonna happen. Because we know that, the Viet....Vietnamese, were also Communists. So you don't really ex...you know? Expect much. You know? To uh, you know? To be out of the one Communist and get into another Communist. See? But... there's always a hope in our minds that, "Okay," "you know..." "Well, maybe, better." Because, we...we knew this already. We knew that they... they were killing, us. You know? So, we, we're just hoping that, okay, the Vietnamese may, not kill us. Or, you know... Or maybe a little better, or something. Or at the time, that, they came, maybe we could, figure out a way to escape. Better, yeah. Moderator: So, did a leader, just say... Moderator: you guys are free now? Moderator: Or did you... Sokhom: Well, the leader, they, they run for their, their life. The Khmer Rouge leader at the time. Be....when...in the advance... of...of the... uh, Vietnamese army. So they run for their lives and they just, you know, leave peoples' alone. So people will figure out for themselves. Moderator: Do you remember a specific moment Moderator: of change for you, like... Moderator: you realized, oh, everyone's gone now... Moderator: so I can....leave? Sokhom: Yeah. Moderator: Or... Yeah, I was a, I was in a, I was actually on a, in a cottage, on a farm. And, before this happened, you know, we heard on a radio, we, kind of sneaked, you know, to listen to Voice of America and stuff. You know, we heard on a radio. We...we knew that it was coming. You know. So we were kind of happy. And on the day that the Vietnamese took over, so I was just, uh, uh, hang with my friends, and you know, uh, and the town. And we, we're just, survive for the days, you know, try and find food, so whatever, just, because, everything is, very chaotic. That day. You know? People go everywhere, look for food. People go to... a... remote places, to get the rice. You know? To collect rices. Um... people... uh went out on a streets, and, killed the pigs. And uh, chickens and... to make the meals and... its like chaotic. People do what they what they can to, you know, survive. And they are free to roam in the country, so, they roam about. Pretty much... of course, there are places, where, where the, Vietnamese don't.. didn't want the people to go into, but, Moderator: So...you, you just, Moderator: Hung out with your friends? Yeah. Moderator: and tried to figure out what to do? Moderator: Or? Sokhom: Yeah, yeah. Moderator: What about your family? Moderator: Did you see your family in those four years? My families, they were in the, my hometown. So... my brother and sister, they, uh, the Khmer Rouge, took them to the jungle. And I did not know. I did not know where they, they were. Kay. So, when the Vietnamese took over, I wanted to go back to my hometown. But, its, just happen that, a friend of my mom, she used to stay there with my my brothers and sisters, my mom. Okay? during the Khmer Rouge. And, she told me, she came to the town where I stay. When the Vietnamese took over. And she told me that, she said that, "While I, uh," "you want to go back there?" "But, there's nobody to go to." She told me that, "Your, your mom," "uh..." "was already killed." "They killed your mom." "And your," "grandparents," "they died of disease." "And your brothers and sisters," "they were with the Khmer Rouge." "Somewhere." She did not know. "But, they were not in your hometown." That what she told me. So, she, she was exactly, correct. So, I didn't well when she said that... You know? I don't know, you know, like she said, "Why?" "You don't have nobody to go to." That's what she said. And my brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncle and all that, they were, scared of the Khmer Rouge. Someplace in the mountains and stuff. During that time. Moderator: So did you... Sokhom: And also, there was also a fear that... if some Khmer Rouge that, was still around, in the count.. in...in the town... If they, saw me and, they, they knew, they knew me. If they saw me, they would, uh, get me too. They would maybe finish me off too. You know, kill me or... You know? And took me away too. Moderator: So, when did you, Moderator: find out, did...when did you reconnect, Moderator: with your brothers and sisters? Uh, not until I heard that they came back to the town. This is, uh not until, like 19... what? 1990...1989... 90... ....yeah, maybe 1989. 89. Yeah maybe 1989. Moderator: So, you, Moderator: for that amount of time Moderator: you didn't know Moderator: if they were alive or not? I did not know. Yeah. Moderator: So... Moderator: after um... Moderator: the Vietcong took over again, Moderator: um.. Moderator: or the Vietnamese, what did you do after that? Um... I uh, worked a little while and, uh, in the uh, province of Battambang, where I stayed. Yeah, I worked for the, uh, province electrical company. Worked there for a little while and then I, I did not see any future, so I decided to um, live, and, went to the, uh, refugee camp. In the border, of, with Thailand. Moderator: And what happened from there? I stayed there for a little while, and I see the situation is not you know, is not good, either. Cause, its like, people, shooting each other and, uh, Moderator: The refugee camp? Yeah. Cause in the refugee camp... there are different, uh, group of thugs, and you know, they call themselves the Army. Trying to fight the Vietnamese. You know? To get the country back. Moderator: How did you get to Thailand? Uh, I just walked. Took me, and a friend of mine, about let's see... How many days? It was like.... 4 days. Yeah. Yeah, about 4 days. Moderator: Just walk through the streets? Sokhom: Yeah. Walked through, walked uh, most of the time, at night. Because, we did not, well, you know, at that time, it's like, it so happen that, there, there is a group, from the refugee camp, they tried to um... They tried to uh... How you say it, without? They called themselves, the, uh, the army, uh, liberation army, or something, and then, they try to recruit people. Right? And, to join them. Okay? And they came with guns. Okay, they came with guns, to, uh, took me and a friend of mine. At that night. They, so therefore, we cannot walk in the daytime. We had to walk at night. Yeah. Because we, you know, carry guns. So, they pick up, some people here and some people there. And, people who walk, with us, is like, probably about 30, 30 of us. Yeah. Made that trip to the, uh, uh, refugee camp. Moderator: took 30 people at once? Yeah. Moderator: off to the refugee camp? Sokhom: Yeah. Moderator: Was this 30 people your friends or... 30 people.... Okay. me and my friend from this place, right? And they pick up other people from uh, another places in the same town. So like 30 of us, just walk, make that trip. Moderator: Did you have to go through the jungles at all? Moderator: Or? Sokhom: Yeah. Moderator: You did? Both through the jungles, and everywhere, that we, we, try to stay away from the Vietnamese. Cause we had guns. You know. Moderator: Did you know that there were landmines in the jungles? Moderator: Or... Well, this part, that we walked, this road, that we, we took... uh... its all the way at.. the center of, you know, count.. of the country. Its not at the, what the, the landmines is mostly at the, border. West... uh, western border of the country. So... uh, we knew its fairly safe. So, the, the danger, at the time was the Vietnamese Army. Because we carried guns. Moderator: You guys carried guns? Sokhom: Yeah...yeah... Moderator: Oh, okay. Yeah. Moderator: So, you spent, 4 days traveling, Moderator: to the refugee camp? Yeah. Moderator: Um... But in that time, they tried to recruit me, in the, that army also. But that's not what I wanted. You know. That I see the refugee camp, its just like, another, uh, another hell. Like people shooting each other and you don't have a purpose. You just carry gun and you want to liberate the country from the Vietnamese. And you, you, you just a bunch of, a, you know, small army or small thugs, you know? Those people, I heard, the, the one thing that turned me off immediately, I heard that, some of those people, uh, kill...those...kill people. That they went over there to the, camp to, buy some stuff and to sell. You know? Civilian people. They were trying to escape. Cause they rob those people. You know? So I heard that story. I heard that... I did not see it myself but, it was true. Cause, uh, lot of people said. And those people, they, that, call themselves the, Liberation Army, they, just, they not... They were not what they said. You know? They were just... Trying to get power, get gun and then, rob people. So, I said, "Forget it," "I'm not gonna join you." And just came here and...

Video Details

Duration: 18 minutes and 30 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Khmer Legacies
Director: Socheata Poeuv
Views: 85
Posted by: khmer legacies on Feb 17, 2009

Part three of six of an interview with a Cambodian genocide survivor. Carrollton, TX, 10/22/07

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