Friday, May 11, 2012

News From Cambodia

Dear June, family, and friends:

      I have just arrived in Siem Reap on my way to Poi Pet,Cambodia,  and then to Aranyaphratet, Thailand..

      I rented a bicycle this afternoon, and went biking around the city. Bike rental is only US$1 for half a day.  It's cheaper than riding a "tuk tuk". Tuk tuk drivers charge you US$2 per trip on short distance, and more on long distance, say more than 5-kms.

      But if you know how to bike around, then you save a lot as you see the scenic and historical spots.

      I biked to the house of King Norodom Sihanouk. He has a mansion in front of the plaza. Hotels are plenty here, including new and grand ones. I biked to the Royal Angkor Hotel which I visited in 2008.

       Angkor Wat is not far away from where I am. But it is closed at night. It opens from 9 AM t6o 5 PM. I don't think I can go there tomorrow because the bus which would take us to Poipet, a city border to Aranyaphratet, Thailand, will leave at 8 AM. Anyway, I visited Angkor Wat twice in the past, once with my wife in 2006, and then with my old friend Romy Lapuz in 2009. If I stay here for another day, I may have very little time in Burma, and that's my destination now because I have never been there yet.

       I want to write a novel about my trip to Burma.

       On my way to Siem Reap from Pnom Penh  in a bus, I had a sitmate named Mok Phealey, a Cambodian. We had a talk about the time when Pol Pot ruled Cambodia. He told me that he was born in 1979, the last year of the communist rule (Khmer Rouge). He said they lost his elder sister during the rule of the Khmer Rouge due to starvation and sickness.

        "My parents related to me how she died. She was starving to death, together with all of us. Then, she got sick, and she died," he said.

         They were three siblings - two girls and him. He is the youngest.

         " I and my other sister almost died,too, because we had little to eat, just the pooridge given by the Khmer Rouge. How my parents manage to keep us alive was a miracle. If  the Khmer Rouge soldiers caught anybody eating what they did not supply, the person is immediately put to death. It is their rule that nobody should eat what they did not give,"he said.

           I asked him : "You mean if someone was caught climbing a mango tree for the fruit, and he ate the fruit, he would be killed?"

           "Yes," he replied.

           "Why?" I asked.

           "Because to the Khmer Rouge (Red Khmers)  everything is theirs. If you eat even the grass of the field or the leaves of the tree and they caught you eating, they would execute you at once because you broke their rule and you stole the grass which is theirs," he replied.

           "The Khmer Rouse also issued just one uniform to everyone - black uniform. Nobody was allowed to wear clothes which were not issued by the Khmer Rouse. Anyone who dared too do  so would be killed at once," he said.

           Last 2010 when I was in Takeo, Cambodia, I was able to interview the wife of a pastor - Mrs. Routh Ratha. She told me this story:

           " I was only six years old when the communists took power in Cambodia in 1975. All children were given work. The work the Khmer Rouge gave to all children was to pick up all the dungs of the workers in the fields. There were 12 children in each team - 6 boys and 6 girls. All the boys in our team died, and three girls died. Only three of us survived. One is living in Takeo until now. The other girl married an American when she grew up, and they are living in the US today. We would scoop dung from the fields and forests where thousands of forced laborers defecated. We started  working at 6 AM after breakfast. The Khmer Rouge soldiers were very young. They would wake us up at 5 AM, and have breakfast. Then, we started gathering dung until 12 PM, rest for lunch, and gathered dung again at 1:00 PM until 6 PM. Then we rest and sleep early because we would wake up at 5 AM and do the same thing every day, non stop."

         "What did you do with the human dungs you gathered (tae ng mga tao),"? I asked her..

          The Khmer Rouge told us to mix the human dungs with the pooridge (lugaw,in Tagalog) which the workers assigned to cook were cooking. They asked us to taste the pooridge because the Khmer Rouge did not want to taste the pooridge with human dung. The cooks would give the pooridge as food to the thousands of workers," she explained.

          "There was little food to eat. So, we would secretly eat leaves and grass. Anyone caught by the Khmer Rouge eating leaves and grass or any fruit would be killed," she said.

           From 1975 to 1979,)when the Khmer Rouge( i.e. Red Khmers of communist Khmers) ruled Cambodia, three million (3,000,000) Cambodians, died out of the total population of 7-million in April 1975 when they took over.. They died of bullets, bayonets, starvation, diseases and epidemics, snake bites  and other causes.

          "There is hardly a family that did not have a dead member, except the families of the communist leaders because they had plenty of food  and medicine," Mok Phealey, my sitmate in the bus to Siem Reap, told me., SO, IN ACTUAL PRACTICE, THE PARTY LEADERS AND THEIR FAMILIES ARE MORE EQUAL THAN THE REST OF THE POPULATION IN A COMMUNIST COUNTRY.

Thursday, March 15, 2012 10:44 PM

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