My Understanding of Myself







Kosal Phat



I was born on 5 October 1974 in Prasat Village, Kampong Kdey Sub-District, Che Krech District.  My native village is part of a region liberated by the Khmer Rouge since 1972.  My father was the only son in his family that completed his baccalaureate in Siem Riep Province.  Because he loved and missed his parents so much he searched for a way to leave the provincial town that was still under the control of the government and returned to his native village.  My father was the son of Khmer peasants and my mother was the daughter of wealthy Chinese who had a stone house and a large business and worked as creditors. 


My parents were the very last couple the communist Khmer Rouge forced to marry according to village custom.  After they were married, their belongings were removed and placed in the collective.  On 17 April 1975, my mother told me that in the village there was a broadcast in the speakers, congratulating the victory over the Lon Nol army and the U.S. imperialists.  They said that the entire country had been liberated.  My mother told me that everyone in the village was very happy, because our country was no longer at war.  We would no longer have to flee or hide in the trenches from the B-52 bombs or the warplanes. 


Not long after that day, even emotional sentiments, belonged to the collective.  My father went to raise the dam and plowed the fields.  The Khmer Rouge forced my mother to sew clothes in the cooperative.  My mother knew how to sew because she was a well-known seamstress in the old regime.  My mother’s family was evacuated to work in a cooperative far away because they had light skin.  At that time, I was not even one year old.  The old grandmothers in the village looked after me.  She told me that I drank a lot of milk when she breast-fed me.  I drank as if I had stopped breast-feeding for a long time.  She was only able to breast-feed me in the evening when she returned from sewing in the cooperative.  My mother told me that every day she worked hard at sewing, without rest, in order to fulfill the cooperative quota.  It is her luck that she was still young and strong.  She was only nineteen years old and she was able to endure the difficult work.  She told me that the old grandmothers told her that when I cried, I cried until my jaws became stiff, because I cried for so long.  But when I reached my mothers arms I stopped crying immediately.  Through my mother’s vivid descriptions, all my senses return to the period 25 years earlier when I witnessed the misery and suffering. I keep thinking that the grandmothers certainly did not take care of me who was screaming for my mother. 

17 April 1975 was the day in which peace was stolen from my family and it was the day in which I, who was not even one year old, had to sacrifice the love and care of my parents. I did not even have nutritious food to eat.  But this is also the day in which I thank my parents for caring for and protecting my life and allowing me to live and for loving me in such a difficult circumstance.  I thank especially my mother who was forced to endure so much after she had barely given birth. 








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