My mom was born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia but lived the first five years of her life in Chhloung, a small district on the Mekong in Kratié province. At the time, my grandfather worked as a manager of the Chhloung’s paper mill. Kratié is located in the northeast of the country and shares its southern border with Vietnam. Kratié had always been swamped with Vietnamese guerrillas, first the Viet Minh, later the Vietcong. By mid-1960s the Vietcong had put up their key bases all over Chhloung and its neighboring district Snuol. My family had never encountered them around that time, though they would have had their chance a little bit later in a much direr circumstance.
By mid-1970, the Khmer Rouge had moved into Kratié, and in Chhloung and Snuol in particular, life had become much more dangerous. By the end of that year, the entire workforce at the mill and their families had completely left, only my grandfather and a few management staff remained. My grandmother, a native of Kratié and who was pregnant with my aunt, Nimoul, at the time, also packed up and left with her younger sister, Sirun, my mom and my uncle, Meaneth, for her family home in Roka Kandal, a commune about nineteen miles north of Chhloung. Around early 1971, grandpa came to see the family. The situation at the mill had gotten even worse since the Khmer Rouge guerrillas had moved into the mill. Grandpa left the next morning. It would be awhile before they were reunited; upon arriving back at the mill, he and his coworkers/friends had to leave the mill. They were pursued by the Khmer Rouge guerrillas and had gotten lost in the jungle. It took them about a month, with help from villagers along the way, to reach Phnom Penh.More