The story of this family is told in the book “If on this Earth there are Angels”, which tells the story of Addheka, and her older (bong) cousin, Soern.* The family had been living in Phnom Penh since the early 1950’s but their roots were in Touk Meas, near the Vietnamese border in Kampot province. Soern was sent back by his family in 1971 to take over and run farming land owned by Addheka’s parents.

He was not there long before he had to flee with his wife and two children who had to negotiate their way through roadblocks, avoid fighting around them and bombs from above, and push their bikes all the way back to the capital. It took them three days. When he returned he joined the Military Police of Lon Nol and did this until April 1975.

Soern was with Addheka’s family when they evacuated south to Prek Eng, not far from the capital. He sensed immediately the danger his policeman’s role placed his family in. He made a decision to leave everyone and ride his bike to Tuok Meas alone.

His father arrived there sometime later but was taken away soon after and executed in a forested area outside the town. Soern was arrested, accused of being a ‘three-star’ and taken to a prison, in a jungle area “somewhere in Takeo”. At this prison a truck would arrive every Friday and deliver prisoners there, and take others away.

 

Addheka with her cousin Bong Soern (taken 2016)

Soern survived he believes as there was a change of prison cadres and the new replacement was not convinced of his guilt. After eight months he was released to work on a plantation near National Road # 2. His wife and three children did not survive, succumbing to starvation and sickness.

Soern was one of the only males in the extended family to survive. Addhekas father, and brother-in-law were executed in the first wave of repression in mid 1975. Addheka’s older sister, Vanna, and her family were forced to separate from the extended family and she and her two sons died.

Addheka’s family were heading for relatives near Koh Thum (Kandal province) when they were forced to relocate to the north-west. They waited ten days in the rain and heat for a bus to take them north.

On the way the bus detoured and dropped them at a pagoda near Prey Veng Pong Tek where her father was taken away soon after and executed. It was some weeks before they were taken to Pursat, where Addhekas mother and three brothers were dead by January 1976 of starvation and sickness. Against all the odds, she had a disability caused by polio when she was young, she survived with her older sister. 

* - Soern was interviewed in 2016 so memories have faded somewhat.

  1. Seng BouAddheka, If on this Earth there are Angels, Vivid Publishing, Fremantle, 2016