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Revolutions Destroy My Father

My father was born before the end of World War II in Kampong Chhnang, Cambodia on February 1, 1945. His motherland remained under the French Protectorate since 1853. Laos and Vietnam also lived under France’s iron fist. The subjugation, repression, discrimination, and exploitation of Cambodge, Laos, and Vietnam incited the leaders of these three nations (coined by French as Indochina) to rise against France.

Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese leader who founded the Indochinese Communist Party in 1930, saw communism as a mean to overthrow colonialism. Russia and China, the communist hegemonic forces, acted as its mother and father. As the saying goes, the rest is history.

Due to humiliating defeat by the Vietcong and North Vietnamese, strong oppositions from leaders of these three Southeast Asian Nations, and a global shift from colonialism to communism, France granted them independence. Cambodia officially received her independence on November 9, 1953.

While Cambodia became a constitutional monarchy dominated by the Sangkhum Reas Niyum Party, which was autocratically ruled by Prince Norodom Sihanouk, and slowly advanced on her own, North Vietnam and South Vietnam fought each other to unite as either a communist or democratic country. Prince Sihanouk responded with strong repression against those who disrupted and caused chaos to his rule and peace in Cambodia, sending the left-wing and right-wing groups to hide out in the jungle. The leftists found alliance within the Vietnamese communists.

After the Vietcong and North Vietnamese had obliterated France militarily, the United States swooped in to guard against the domino effect of communism in the region.

The Cambodian’s right-wing found alliances with South Vietnam and then with the United States of America. Unhappy with how Prince Sihanouk’s handled the situation with the Vietcong and North Vietnam, General Lon Nol and Prince Sisowat Sirik Matak, the Prince’s trusted man and cousin, led a bloodless coup in 1970. The country saw another change in government, known as the Khmer Republic.

America found itself in a rut and was loosing the war badly to North Vietnam. Its people wanted their soldiers to return home. In his presidential campaign, Richard Nixon vowed to bring the American troops back. He won the election. Henry Kissinger became his Secretary of State.

Under the Nixon and Kissinger’s administration, the United States and South Vietnam indiscriminately bombed Cambodia and its civilians, young and old, into smithereens. They contented the Vietcong was using Cambodia as its hideout. Some Western historians estimated from twice to three times the bomb drops than those in Japan during World War II. The “Breakfast,” “Lunch,” “Snack,” “Dinner,” and “Dessert” bombing campaigns destroyed more than 500,000 Cambodian lives and the country’s infrastructure.

The United States and South Vietnam did not defeat or destroy the Vietcong; instead, it routed them to go deeper into Cambodia. The bombing campaigns and instigation and infiltration by Vietnamese communists gave rise to the cambodian left-wing radicals that had already been reduced to a small number by Prince Sihanouk.

Western leaders’ arrogance against the Prince sent him straight to China, which supported the Cambodian communists, for assistance. Chinese leaders acted as the mediators between Prince Sihanouk and the Khmer Rouge, the force that he reduced. Anger, hatred, revenge, infiltration over the American’s bombings and the current government’s corruption pushed the fed up people to side with the beloved Prince and the Khmer Rouge.

After five years of civil war with the American-backed and corrupt Khmer Republic, the China-backed and disciplined Khmer Rouge emerged as the victor. From 1975-1979, the communists ruled the people and country with an iron-fist, killing and torturing former Republican soldiers and civilian supporters of Lon Nol who were seen as traitors to their country for siding with the United States. They executed educated and city people and those who were seen as a threat to the regime. They ruled the country based on suspicion and personal revenge in their attempt to create an equal and classless society.

My family lived under the Khmer Rouge regime. Like millions of other citizens, we lived in constant fear and torture. Segregated from his beloved parents and siblings, my father had seen things that were incomprehensible in the human world.

The back and forth provocation and political aggression by the Khmer Rouge’s former ally, Vietnam, resulted in the latter invading the country. Under Vietnam’s occupation, unaccounted Khmer citizens were tortured and killed by the Vietnamese communists or using the hands of their puppet regime to kill more Khmer men. Those men who were left over from the killing by the Khmer Rouge regime were sent to the land mine infested jungle to clear the forest, purportedly to protect the country against Pol Pot and his followers, died in great numbers. It was known as the K-5 plan. Anyone refused was threatened with bodily harm and execution.

As for those of us who were displaced in the refugee camps, we suffered human rights abuses by the hands of the Thai soldiers. For some of us, we got off easy. For the unfortunate ones, they suffered more than we’ll ever know. Men were tortured, buried alive, robbed and killed; women were raped and killed; and children disappeared.

Lastly, the current government, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, consists of former Khmer Rouge members. Their corrupt ways and relentless human rights abuses against the poor and weak continue to destroy the fabric of Khmer society and the country's advancement.

Cambodia went through many changes, none of them had worked out for its people. The power may have switched from one hand to another, but the destruction and pain remain the same.

My father saw what revolution did to his country. He lost nearly all of his family members. It caused him to be sleepless and emotionally traumatized. Every day and night, I watch my thin and frail father chain-smokes to suppress his pain and haunting memories. He was only a civilian. I can’t imagine what is going through the minds of those who were in the front line.








6 Comment count
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So deeply saddened

I find myself saddened after reading your story, and letting it remind me of a very dear uncle who, because he was a soldier, was sent to Vietnam during the war. Upon returning home he was never right in his mind again. He turned to drinking and two decades later finally put a shotgun to his chest and pulled the trigger.

I wonder, so often, if governments really think about the effects of war. I was a soldier during the cold war and lived in both Okinawa and the Philippines. I count my lucky stars to this day that the proverbial "button" was never pushed.

Yet, as I write these words, I know that governments all around the globe are deciding on war strategies like they are playing a chess game. Unfortunately, it's the pawns on that chessboard that will have to carry with them the effects of war forever. Their families will be destroyed. They will live with nightmares, until the day the die. And all of this over oil, land, what some call terrorism and others call religion, etc.

Sambath, I wish that your father wouldn't have the memories he does. I wish people would put aside their childish war-games and finally come to the realization that mankind could do so much more in a state of peace than they ever will in a state of war and revolution.

May you be well. You are a terrific writer. Keep driving forward!


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Thank you!

Dear Raymond:

You are very kind. Thank you so much for reading my blog. The story of your uncle is tragic. I am sorry.

Much to our family's dismay, my father believes smoking will knock a few years off of his "misery" life. I know he loves my mom, my sister and me too much to do something more dreadful than that.

I am glad that The Immortal Seeds is cathartic for him. He got to unleash his pain and suffering.

Peace to you and your loved ones!


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So sorry.

I am so sorry this happened to your family and country.

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Thank you!

Thank you, Sue.



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a ray of hope

I have had the wonderful pleasure of visiting Cambodia twice in the past 16 months and I am saving up for a longer journey there in the near future. What I experienced was surreal. Before my very eyes was the first generation since the killing fields (they were children , many had fled to Thailand) to be in charge. They were simply amazing. I have never met more gentle people in my life. They welcomed me like I was a long lost relative. Treated me so well and taught me so much. They probably suffered humiliation not only from the Khmer Rouge but from those who were supposed to help them as well .But they bore no ill will. When I go there next I will hopefully come out with something that the west can learn from. Nothing will ever take away the tragedy of what happened but I think Cambodia may be on the verge of something great.

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Positive Thoughts

Hello, Joshua. Thank you for sharing that spirit of confidence. I hope and pray that Cambodians will have more good people like you bringing in positive influences into their resilient lives.