A Memory of Aunt Peung Buoy

Posted by khmernews on August 7, 2008

Chea Phalla
The “3 years, 8 months and 20 days” Khmer Rouge regime took as many as almost 2 million Cambodian lives due to overwork and lack of medicines. The people who have gone through the regime are still traumatized and cannot forget it. For instance, my aunt Peung Buoy became a widow living with her sister after her husband and three children died during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Prior to 1975, my aunt and her husband Chheu Song Heang lived blissfully with their three children (2 daughters and 1 son) in Sangkat Lek Pram behind Chenla Theatre in Pnom Penh.

At around 7 am on April 17, 1975, my aunt’s family set off to Daeum Kor Market to sell dried fish as usual and took the second 6-year-old daughter Hong with but left two other children at home. Arriving at the market, they saw a lot of Khmer Rouge’s papers put on the market gate. They were written, “No enter to sell or to take stuff in the market.”  After that the Khmer Rouge told people to leave the city and that those who refused to go would be shot dead. Seeing the situation no one dared to oppose. Worrying about the two children at home, my uncle secretly walked home to take them. In the mean time, my aunt and her second daughter loitered with the crowd first because it might be slow if she waited for her husband. On the other hand, she thought that she would return in three days. Unfortunately, 3 days, 3 months and now 30 years have passed but her husband and the two children never return to her.

My aunt and her daughter were evacuated from Phnom Penh. After around a fortnight she arrived at Saang Prek Cheu. Having spent two months there, her daughter Hong fell ill due to malnutrition. Several days later, her daughter’s health got worse and she could not speak anything. Seeing her daughter’s condition, my aunt was so worried and heart-broken since she was helpless to her daughter. Two days later, her daughter died while she was evacuated to Battambang province. The Angkar assigned her to work almost without rest. She had to work from dawn to 12:30 am when she was given watery porridge. Sometimes, she could not have even porridge because she arrived late.  However, half a month later, she was given thick porridge because she worked faster. Then she had to transplant rice until 5-6 pm when she was allowed to rest and get her porridge-share. To fulfill her hunger, she always looked for bindweed and small edible plants to mix with the porridge. It was very risky because sometimes she got diarrhea, eating those plants.

One day, the Angkar held a meeting chaired by Comrade Hay, who reminded people to work hard for the Angkar and not to be lazy. Meanwhile, a female comrade, aged around 20, complained about the work. Before she could finish her words, Comrade Hay took a knife and drove into her chest. He pulled out her heart and put it on a plate to threaten others not to follow her. No one dared say anything. They dared not even show that they felt sorry for her.
After the meeting, my aunt met her former neighbour who had lived near her before 1975. She felt happy because she thought her husband and children might be somewhere around. My aunt asked her for their information, but the neighbour told her that her husband and children had died 6 months ago due to lack of food. My aunt was very shocked hearing the news. She became speechless as she thought there was nothing for her to live for. However, the neighbour tried to console her to forget.

Several days later, the Angkar moved my aunt to a new place again. There, she met her sister and brother-in-law, whose tasks were to feed and look after ducks. They were quite lucky because the work was not very difficult. However, they had to take turn to guard ducks at night since any duck lost would cost their lives. Sometimes, my aunt was assigned to shoulder 40 tubs of water per day, which was a very hard work for her as her limbs had become swollen due to lack of food.

In early 1979, Vietnamese troops entered and liberated some regions. My aunt returned to her home. Presently, my aunt lives as a widow with her sister.

Unofficial Translation
-Extracted from Seeking the Truth Magazine, pages 56-57, vol. 101, May 2008.


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