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A Shattered Youth - Sathavy Kim

A Shattered Youth - Sathavy Kim

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This is the rare testament of one of the few survivors of the Pol Pot regime, under which the Khmer Rouge killed 1.7 million people.

Sathavy Kim recounts the treacherous days in 1975 following the invasion of Phnom Pen by the Khmer Rouge. She and her extended family fled together, working the black market until they had not a single possession to trade for food. They were rounded up with the other non-peasants, identifiable by their lighter skin and soft hands as upper-class, and forced to live with a family of workers until further word.
The villagers took them in reluctantly, and there was much resentment. They had to work the rice fields where they suffered the cuts and backache of harvesting rice. Soon after that the internments began and the camp system was ready to receive its first victims. Deported at age 21, Savathy Kim spent four years of her life as prisoner of a “Korngchalat”, a forced labour camp.

In 1998 she finally went back to the place where the camp stood, and the memories returned. She remembered her life as Borgn Tha, the name she was forced to use under Pol Pot, and began to write.

Purchase your copy here... http://www.maverickhouse.com/book.html?bid=112&title=Shattered%20Youth,%20A%20&no_cache=1

Coming soon to Kindle and e-book formats
This is the rare testament of one of the few survivors of the Pol Pot regime, under which the Khmer Rouge killed 1.7 million people.

Sathavy Kim recounts the treacherous days in 1975 following the invasion of Phnom Pen by the Khmer Rouge. She and her extended family fled together, working the black market until they had not a single possession to trade for food. They were rounded up with the other non-peasants, identifiable by their lighter skin and soft hands as upper-class, and forced to live with a family of workers until further word.
The villagers took them in reluctantly, and there was much resentment. They had to work the rice fields where they suffered the cuts and backache of harvesting rice. Soon after that the internments began and the camp system was ready to receive its first victims. Deported at age 21, Savathy Kim spent four years of her life as prisoner of a “Korngchalat”, a forced labour camp.

In 1998 she finally went back to the place where the camp stood, and the memories returned. She remembered her life as Borgn Tha, the name she was forced to use under Pol Pot, and began to write.

Purchase your copy here... http://www.maverickhouse.com/book.html?bid=112&title=Shattered%20Youth,%20A%20&no_cache=1

Coming soon to Kindle and e-book formats

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Published by: Maverick House Publishers on Mar 21, 2011
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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12/08/2012

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A Shattered Youth

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A ShAttered Youth
Surviving
the

Khmer rouge

Sathavy kim

Every effort has been made to contact the copyright holders of material reproduced in this text. In cases where these efforts have been unsuccessful, the copyright holders are asked to contact the publishers directly. First published in French in 2008 as Jeunesse Brisée by Actes Sud. This edition published in 2010 by Maverick House Publishers. Maverick House Publishers, Office 19, Dunboyne Business Park, Dunboyne, Co. Meath, Ireland. info@maverickhouse.com http://www.maverickhouse.com ISBN: 978-1-905379-70-5 French language © Sathavy Kim/Actes Sud, 2008. English language translation copyright © Mary Byrne, 2010. The publisher acknowledges the financial assistance of Ireland Literature Exchange (translation fund), Dublin, Ireland. www.irelandliterature.com info@irelandliterature.com The paper used in this book comes from wood pulp of managed forests. For every tree felled, at least one tree is planted, thereby renewing natural resources. The moral rights of the author have been asserted. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for insertion in a newspaper, magazine or broadcast. A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library and the Irish Copyright libraries.

Photographs reproduced with kind permission of DCCam (Documentation Centre of Cambodia)

Contents
Acknowledgements Preface 1: Return to the Light 2: En route to a Shattered Youth 3: Deportation, 17 April 1975 4: The Exodus Over, the Tragedy Begins 5: Pooling Everything 6: The Angkar ploughs the Land and Reaps its Living Souls 7: Khmer Costume in this New Theatre 8: Rabbit Droppings Cure All 9: Neither Mothers nor Wives, Women don’t exist anymore 10: Union by Couple under the Angkar 11: The Education of Children 12: The Sombre destiny of Buddhism and the Khmer-Islam or cham minorities 13: Angkar Festivals and the Mutilation of the Khmer language 14: The Big Works Projects of Democratic Kampuchea 15: The Destruction of Human Dignity 16: The Joy of Seeing my Family and Being Free Again 17: Return to the Village 18: 28 Years later Glossary of Vocabulary used by the Khmer Rouge, and everyday words Overview of the Administrative Organisation of Democratic Kampuchea in the Provinces Bibliography Constitution of Democratic Kampuchea; 5 January 1976 11 15 25 32 42 67 80 92 116 128 135 146 155 161 169 177 190 195 211 225 243 251 257 259

Acknowledgements

A

Shattered Youth is the result of a labour that has been buried within me for almost thirty years. Digging it up was made possible by the encouragement of my close friends and relatives. My first thoughts are for Vanny, korngchalat survivor, for her friendly and constant availability to talk with me about our memories. Without my fortuitous meeting with her in 2000, this story would have remained a family document only. My thanks also go to Marie, my colleague and faithful friend, who, eleven years ago, encouraged me to make my first pilgrimage to Phum Thmey. That visit allowed me to resume contact with the villagers of Phum Thmey, and by means of dialogue, to rediscover the traces of my youth. My gratitude and affection also go to Ta Chourp and Yeay Pheap, who took me in, to their children, and to the villagers of Phum Thmey. I owe them all my life; they supported me and warmed my heart during those four black years without my family. I wish to express my gratitude to the Cambodian Documentation Centre, which gave me access to the
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archived documents from this period and allowed me to reproduce them. I especially thank my husband Borng Do, for his affection, advice, and constant support. This book wouldn’t have seen the light of day without his constant presence. I wrote A Shattered Youth by projecting myself into his eyes: putting his soul beside mine made writing this personal narrative easier.

Preface

Victory breeds hatred The defeated live in pain The peaceful live happily Giving up both victory and defeat. Buddha, Dhammapada, “Sukha Vagga”

M

y name is Sathavy and I am the eldest of seven children. My father was a teacher but his real passion was for the land, and from the time I was small he taught me how to grow rice and traditional crops, such as salad and tomatoes. Ours was a very united family, and both my parents were hard workers. They wanted to make sure my siblings and I would one day go to college, in spite of our provincial isolation. My mother was a seamstress and worked ceaselessly because she couldn’t bear the idea of any of us ever being in need. I spent much of my childhood watching her work, and from an early age it was clear to me that she dreamed of a better life for my sisters and me. So, to prepare me for an improved city life, I was sent to secondary school in Battambang,
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S at h av y K i m

the second largest town in the kingdom, and then on to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city. In 1975 the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, took control of Phnom Penh by force and my family and I, along with every other citizen of the city, were forced to evacuate. What followed was four years of genocide and unimaginable horror, which left over 1.7 million of my people dead. Although we were undoubtedly relieved when the Khmer Rouge were overthrown in 1979, during the ten years of Vietnamese occupation that followed, we continued to live in constant fear of being suspected of treason. Danger was still all around us, and the countryside was riddled with Khmer Rouge soldiers trying to regain control of the country. But no matter how much the threat of danger remained, it was still more bearable than the four years of oppression and genocide we had just lived through. It was as if the Khmer Rouge had completely desensitised us, and we no longer recognised how appalling our circumstances still were.

In 1997 Hun Sen, leader of the Cambodian People’s Party, overthrew Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh in a bloody coup. I was forced to live through the same scenes all over again: smoke in the sky, panic in the streets, people fleeing their homes with only a small bundle over their shoulders. I began to have vivid nightmares, and night after night they invaded my sleep: the bloody arbitrariness of the Khmer Rouge regime; being brutally awoken at three in the morning to go to work; the fear
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S h at t e r e d Yo u t h

of going down into the water in the paddy fields; being hungry and exhausted; being scared they would take me away; seeing soldiers take other people away with their hands tied behind their backs. I had been working as a judge for almost fifteen years, when, in 1997, I was given an opportunity to spend a year working and studying at a law school in The University of Michigan in the United States. The coup took place just a couple of days before I was due to leave and the administration where I worked had doubts about letting me go. They were afraid that if I left I wouldn’t come back, but I decided the opportunity was too good to miss, and I was glad of the chance to distance myself from the country. My family was happy to let me go; an important lesson we had learned from the Khmer Rouge regime was that it was better to be separate than to stay together in one place; if something happened, at least some of us would be safe. Two months after my arrival in Michigan, however, I still couldn’t sleep at night and continued to have nightmares. At the law school, I was asked to give a presentation on the post-conflict situation in Cambodia after the withdrawal of the Khmer Rouge. I was so moved to tears during the presentation that I lost my voice. It took me a long time to regain my composure after that and for months afterwards I felt unsettled. I was very fortunate, however, to have a job which gave me opportunities to meet people from non-governmental and humanitarian organisations. I found I liked being around others and I sometimes told parts of my story
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S at h av y K i m

to friends and acquaintances. In my family too, we often referred to our daily life under the Pol Pot regime. Talking about the past in this way convinced me that things had really changed, but it still wasn’t enough to free me of my nightmares; they continued to rise to the top of my mind, like fermenting bubbles in a glass of beer. Some of my friends encouraged me to write about my past, but I was so damaged by everything that had happened that for a long time I couldn’t bear to deliberately relive those experiences. I’d spent 20 years trying to evade my past, but I began to realise that there was a void in my life and I needed to fill it. I knew that if I was ever to move on I would have to make a break with those close friends who were now long dead, but continued to haunt me. I began by filling in the blanks in the history of my family, and in doing so I was able to recollect my stolen life. With the support and encouragement of my husband Borng Do, I went back to the places where I had been held. I made several trips to the village of Phum Thmey to see the family who’d been my safe haven under the Khmer Rouge regime, and I even met the leaders and members of the labour camp where I was forced to work. I visited places that still bear the scars of the atrocities committed there, and by naming them I hope to help heal the wounds that still remain.

My story is a genuine personal account, and one that could have been told by thousands of other women who
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S h at t e r e d Yo u t h

are no longer here to tell it for themselves. My intention, therefore, in writing this book was to move beyond the idea of a personal chronicle. Instead of merely documenting my own life, I wanted to document the daily reality experienced by so many women during those three years, eight months and twenty days we lived under the Khmer Rouge regime. I spent most of that time in the korngchalat, a forced-labour camp in Kampong Cham, the province most completely permeated by the influence of the Khmer Rouge. Working in the labour camp became our domestic reality, and we spent each day in submission. We were forced to work as prisoners, and to search each day for water and food. We were obliged to sit through criticism sessions each evening, and every minute of our lives was spent in the repression of our identities, our religious traditions, and all our cultural references. In our daily life in this open air prison, the aspirations of the Angkar, the political organisation behind the Khmer Rouge, began to appear little by little. Although a distant and removed institution, the korngchalat acted as a constant reinforcement of the most radical of the Angkar’s philosophies and procedures, and went completely against everything human dignity demanded. Later we learned that the final objective of the Angkar was to create a “New” being, one who was totally subject to the concentration-camp system and possessed no sense of individuality. My personal journey is, therefore, also a social chronicle and a testimony to the substance of Khmer
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S at h av y K i m

women, who, to their great honour, managed to retain their humanity even throughout those dark years. This book is a homage to the great majority of them, who courageously defended their dignity, even to the death. It is also a homage to those female survivors who, after the fall of Pol Pot and his regime, were the first to give back meaning to our existence by rebuilding the family unit, and weaving a social network around our national identity. This book is organised according to the rhythms of the universe of female korngchalat workers, furnishing their labour to the Angkar without limit, and often without purpose. It is also punctuated by chronological stages in the concentration-camp system until it collapsed in early 1979. A glossary completes this account, with a translation of all the words in the Khmer language which were used frequently during that period, and their specific meaning inside the system to which we were subjected. The Khmer language, which is rich in ancient sources such as Pali and Sanskrit, is a language of refined subtleties, of tales and legends. But it had become an instrument of combat. To support the domination to which we were subjected, each word was carefully weighed up to best measure the gravity of an order or situation. I felt it was useful to give this permanent linguistic reference, not only as an indication of the violence of the words themselves under Khmer Rouge ideology, but also to highlight the Khmer language of today, which still carries its traditions within it—as well as the red brand of violence.
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S h at t e r e d Yo u t h

This is the story of how I, and Cambodia’s women, struggled to survive under the Khmer Rouge.

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