By Samnang Shawn Vann
My name is Samnang Shawn Vann. I am currently live in San Diego, California. I came to the United State of America during the beginning of 1986. My first home state in America was Wichita, Kansas. I live there for about six months because in mid-summer, my family and I decide to moved to San Diego, California. I live here since we moved down here. I have sever people in my family. I got three brothers which is four including me. I also have one sister. I am currently attending San Diego State University. I major in Multiple Credential and Minor in English. I came from Cambodia and I am a citizen of Cambodia. I am not an American citizen yet, but I will apply for my citizenship later in the future. I am also among those people who suffered from the torture during the year 1975-79. I used to live in fear and pain because those outlaw brainless Khmer Rough. I was about five year old when the Khmer Rough took over the Khmer Empire in 1975. I was born in Kompong Speue Privince, Srok Somrong Thong, Poum Kook Pnov.
My parents, one of my big brother, and I still live in the same place when the Khmer Rough gorilla took over. At that time, they did not start to do their killing yet. However, they make all my family work for them every single days and nights without giving us a chance to rest. When I was a little bouy at the age of five, I use to get up one o'clock mid-night to go to the barn and herd the cows, to the rice field and pick up losen crop after harvest, to the barns and take out the cow manuever to the gardens, to the barns and feeds the cows, to the barns and grine the rice, digged the pitt to make a water run way, to the garden and plant the flowers and fruits, to the forest and fetch fire woods, to the rice field and cut out the grass that grow in the rice fields and harvest the rice, and digged dirt to build the road. These are part of the work that I have to performed for them. At that time, I worked and work, and I never had enough sleep. Each day, I slept at least one or one hour and a half which is the most. I always work from one or twelves mid-night until eleven mid-night depending on their time. I remember those time, my healthy is as worst as a dying human whom partly alive and partly dead. I suffered from mousquito and other insects bits every single day because I was forced to work without any break. There is never a single day or time that I have to rest in peace. I always slept with horror and a terrible nightmare everyday. I never get to eat a full meal eventhough I work hard for them. My healthy was so bad that I always suffered from all kind of maleria, diarrea, malnutrition, and more. Almost all the time, I never get to eat a full meal which I sometimes, have to eat plants and dirt to stopped my hunger. Sometimes, when I refused to work, they would torture me by wipping me and making me worked over time without rest of drink. I work like an animal during a hot sunny day which the temperature sometimes reached up to 120 degree. Sometimes, I never got to eat because they told us that they ran out of food for us to eat. I remember, I use to sneak out and when into the forest to hunt for lizard and birds and animals to kill for food. Then when we sneak out, and they caught me, they took me back and over work me without letting me eat anything for that whole day or sometimes up to two days and a half. I used to eat all kinds of insects and animal like grass hopper, cricket, scorpion , tarantula, rats, snake, porcupine, wild baor, rain deer, water beetle, and more. Like I mentioned before, these are just part of the kind of food that I ate to try to survived. I used to eat all of these things just to keep myself alive so that I can survive and maybe lives another day hopping the war was over. Because my life, and not just me, but my whole family's life was complicated, we wish that would find our freedom soon. Sometimes, I wish I wake up and open my eyes and pretend that my suffering life was just a dream, but when I actually look at it carefully, it's not a dreams at all, it's become real. There is never one day during those year that I had to celebrate any ceremony. I always prayed to Lord Buddha that my nightmare will end soon, but my called to him never been answered because my people continued to suffered until this day.
At that same time, I am not the only person in my family who suffered, my parents and brother also suffered this pain. My father and mother used to eat leaf and roots as well as my big brother and me. At one time, my mother went out to the rice field and work, and she caught one big fish. My mother took the fish back home to cook for the family, especially for my brother and I, one of the Khmer Rough leader whom lived in the same Poumm as us almost took my parents away to execute. At that time, they find out from their fellows group that my mother had caught a fish and used it as a personal property and did not share with everyoen in the groups, and that my mother was greedy, therefore, they threatening my mother and father that the next time they catched my family cheating on them, they will execute our whole family. I remember my mother and father never get to sleep too, especially my mother because she always sit a cry through out every night worried about her family. At the same time, she always pray to my ancester and grandfathers and grandmothers who had passed away for so long to look after us.
At that time, we really wanted to get away from that area, but we cannot escaped because we try to do so, they will try to killed us and called us trator whom does not care about our country or care about others. I remember one of the leader who lived next door to us have two son whom always causes trouble and beat my brother and I up for pleasure. The two kids always come under my straw house which made out of palm leaf and used the area under my house as their restroom area. They would do it under my house and my brother and I always be the one who picked it up after they leave. We can't never do anything to them because if we did, they will killed us all. One of the Khmer Rough leader which I don't remember the name, always get to eat good foods and never work that at all, while my family worked to death and ate only roots and leaves. Since the Khmer Rough ruled, we never get to eat rice, we only get to eat liquid rice[bor-bor] which hardly any rice in it mostly water.
Then, at the end of 1975, after we worked so hard for them and they decide that they have enough of my family and other nine family in the area, they decided to forced us out of the areas which in their mind was to execute us all. We gather about ten family together and forced us out and told us that we will go to other area which called Thaa-genh, in the Battambong Province. And when we arrive there, they plan to execute us all, but luckily, the non-communist allies arrived and the two forces fought each other there. While they were at war, my family and five other family got a chance to escaped the tragedy. Eventhough we escape the execution, however, that's only the beginning of our escape, the nightmare has not end yet. From then, my parents decide to take us back to Kondall Province. There in Kondall Province, we decide to settled in Chbaa Ompov near Phnom Penh. We lived there a while and again still live in fear. I remember each evening I went to use the bathroom, [we never have a real bathroom, we go to wherever area available for both emergency] I use to when I'm in an emergeny and the bullet would flew above my head tenths or fifteen, but unfortunately, I was so lucky that the bullet never struct me.
Soon, after a while, my parents figured that it is not going to be safe to live there because soon, the large groups of Khmer Rough going to marched into Phnom Penh and took over the capital. So, we decide to travel across from Phnom Penh back to Battambong so that we can stay in Thailand for a while until this raged war over. Between 1976-79 we travel across many Provinces. At the same time, we incounter many other problems because when we get to a place called Srok Baa-runk Tlaegg, we ran into another Khmer Rough allies. We travel from Chbaa Ompov to Sraa-Keo camp which is in Thailand by feet across many land mine and pitt and many other dangerous weapon that the Khmer Rough hidden underneath the ground. Many people still die because those unthinkable animal Khmer Rough killed them. At the same time, my family and I suffered from malnutition and lagged of food. I, on the other hand, suffered from many kind of diseases. When we travel, we traveled with about twelves family, four family die from starvations, and disease, and executions at the same time. We're not only lagged of food, but also lagged of water. My family and I as well as other family used to drink water from a pond where the water buffalow laid in and at the same time, used the same water to cooked rice or roots or whatever food we can find to stay alive. I also use to used a water in a pond where the Khmer Rough killed the innocent and throw their body into the pond. We drink all kind water because sometimes, we can hardly find water to drink beside drinking whatever water we can find. We also drink water where people shower in it and body hang on top of a tree by the Khmer Rough above that water. We use to eat left over rice after a week and more; also eat roots and leave which we sometimes don't even know what's we're eating. We ate leaves and roots and insects or whatever we can find because it is the only resources that keep us alive. I saw many body dies and float over the river floor and body dies in a huts, or palm leave cottage. I've seen people dies with their body swallon and rotten. I seen people dies in a pitt with sharp bamboo stick cut through their body and from mine explosions. I seen baby, men, women, elder people left behind in places without any helped. I seen people fought over food and other sources of nutrition to keep themselves alive.
One of the shockest thing of all is when we travel across each provinces to Thailand and faces river full of blood. The Khmer Rough killed not just scholars, farmers, teachers, monks, men, elder, women, but they're also killed babies and animals. These rudeless and man eating man never choose it's victims, just like the wild animals, they killed anyone, anythings that they can get their hand on. They don't choose faces or think whether you are human, cat, or dog, they killed everythings. I remember on time late evening around four or five evening, my parents and brother get together to eat our dinner when all of a sudden, a loud voice flew across the groups of people and said, "Old man, go to hell and die. We'll blow your head off". [However, they don't called the old man nicely, they called him in their rudess way "Thaa kanh jaa tov slaap thaan no-roukke ouy butt tov, arnh nieng som-lupp thaa ang, anh neing baanh kball thaa ang jaoll"] My whole body shocked like a thousand bullets flew across my chest. My tear was all of a sudden swept across my cheek as though I was just taking a shower. The Khmer Rough didn't killed my father, but they was killing an old man who's family now have only two people. I didn't even know the reason why they killed him, because I didn't dare to asked any question and beside I was too little to asked question. Beside this reason, I was too scare to open my mouth and speak. I was eight when this happened. The old man was about his seventy when they took him away. Before they takes him away, he asked them if he could give his lighter away to his niece and his wife, but the Khmer Rough didn't even allowed that, instead, they threatening him more. They took him away into the forest about 500 meter away from where we reside and shot him away with his hands tied behind his back. I didn't even hear his voice when he got shot because they probably close his mouth before they shoot him. The only niose I heard was the niose that come from the gun that they used. I heard two shot and that's was all I hear. My family and I still shocked after they return, escpecially me, because I never faced anyone that killed an old man before. I have seen dead body along the way, young, and old from all kind of suffering. But at that time, I saw the old man got killed with my own eyes. I saw an AK pointed at his head as they took him away.
If I have a chance, I will try to finished this painful memory
more for you. You probably think that it's pocus focus because
I still haven't forgetten about the past. But it's true because
the past still haunt me until today. I still have some nightmare
about it and it's not easy to talk about something like this
after what I have been through. Many of my relative die because
the Khmer Rough. Until today, these people still continued
to haunt me whenever I read your the new you send me. Beside
the Khmer Rough whom one of the major killer, we still have
a new governments today. Even the non communist governs still
make the people suffered because the poor still poor and the
richer still become richer. Especially Hun Sen allied who
is so damn crooked and does not think about his people and
only think about himself. Please forgive me if I said anything
to upset your feeling or touch anyone's feeling. I didn't
mean to be offended, but I speak the truth. If Hun Sen or
any other government in the city help the people, they wouldn't
let the vietnamese people continued to come into our land
and threaten the people. Beside, the last time I went their,
I seen many poor people live on the street without selter
or food to eat. Many people still suffered today and it look
to me like no one do anything about it at all.