Monday, March 14, 2011

Facing the Khmer Rouge: A Cambodian Journey

Hot off the press!!!
Author Ran Yimsut proudly display his "proof" book copy.

Human Rights / Memoir
Facing the Khmer Rouge
A Cambodian Journey
Ronnie Yimsut
Foreword by David P. Chandler, PhD
Afterword by Dan M. Savin, MD

As a child growing up in Cambodia, Ronnie Yimsut played amongst the ruins of the Angkor Wat temples, surrounded by a close-knit community. As the Khmer Rouge gained power and began their genocidal reign of terror, his life became a nightmare. Teenaged Ronnie was left orphaned, literally buried under the bodies of his family and friends.

In this stunning memoir, Yimsut describes how, in the wake of death and destruction, he decides to live. Escaping the turmoil of Cambodia, he makes a perilous journey through the jungle into Thailand, only to be sent to a notorious Thai prison. Fortunately he is able to reach a refugee camp and ultimately migrate to the United States, another frightening journey to the unknown. Yet he prevailed, attending the University of Oregon and becoming an influential leader in the community of Cambodian immigrants.

Facing the Khmer Rouge shows Ronnie Yimsut’s personal quest to rehabilitate himself, make a new life in America, and then return to Cambodia to help rebuild the land of his birth.

RANACHITH (RONNIE) YIMSUT is an author and activist and has been the subject of independent documentary films and reports by CBS News, NBC News, and PBS, among others. His many written works include Journey to Freedom and In the Shadow of Angkor. A senior landscape architect for the USDA Forest Service, he is also involved in national and international NGOs, through which he is working on Bakong Technical College in his native Siem Reap.

A volume in the Genocide, Political Violence, Human Rights series, edited by Alexander Laban Hinton, Stephen Eric Bronner, Aldo Civico, and Nela Navarro.

288 pages * 1 table, 2 maps * 6 x 9
978-0-8135-5152-4 * Paper * $26.95s
978-0-8135-5151-7 * Cloth * $72.00ss

To order: Available in a major book outlet near you on November 15th, 2011 or go online to order your copy. For autographed copy, please send e-mail inquiry to:

REVIEWS: By Khmer Rouge experts, researchers, and scholars on genocide

“Ronnie Yimsut’s story is the reaffirmation of the human spirit!”

Brian T. Ellis,
Senior producer and reporter (retired), CBS News and ABC News
* * *

“Ronnie Yimsut’s absorbing and passionate memoir deals with his life before, during, and after the Khmer Rouge era (1975-1979). It fits neatly into a genre of survivor narratives that have emerged from Cambodian authors since the 1970s, but it surpasses many of them in terms of its breadth of focus, its depth of feeling, and the clarity of its prose.”

David P. Chandler, PhD
Professor Emeritus of History
Monash University, Victoria, Autralia
* * *

“Compelling, riveting, and inspiring! Ronnie Yimsut's deeply moving account of his life before, during and after the genocide embodies what it means to suffer, survive, heal, forgive, but never forget. “

Wayne E. Wright, PhD
Associate Professor and Editor
Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement
University of Texas at San Antonio
* * *

“I have finished reading Ronnie Yimsut’s sobering book within a night without falling asleep. I wept and laughed alone in the bed while reading it. Great, sad, emotional and good story teller!!!!”

Mr. Reach Sambath
Director, Public Affairs Office for the United Nation Khmer Rouge Tribunal (UNKRT) Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC)
* * *

“Heart-wrenching, tragic, and riveting—Ronnie Yimsut’s testimonial about his experiences before, during, and after Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime will bring you to tears and to greater understanding of this genocidal period of history. Ronnie Yimsut guides the reader though dark and chilling moments (a brutal war, a mass execution he survived, a world of enormous cruelty and terror, the constant threat of death) into the light of his escape from, and eventual return to Cambodia. In the end, his story is one of triumph over horrors none of us should have to endure, a story that you will find difficult to stop reading and hard to forget.”

Alex Hinton, PhD
Author, researcher, and professor
Rutgers University
* * *

“Anyone who wants to know and to understand the plight of Cambodian people during the Khmer Rouge atrocities must read this extraordinary eyewitness account. He describes in depth his suffering and the inhumane treatment of innocent people by the Pol Pot regime. His remarkable story moved me tremendously because it is my story as well. I strongly recommend this book be taught in schools so the next generation will not allow genocide to ever happen again.”

Dith Pran
The New York Times photographer & founder of the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project Inc. The man whose story is told in the 1984 movies, “The Killing Fields.”
* * *

“Facing the Khmer Rouge is beautifully written, informative and heartbreaking. Ronnie Yimsut’s prose reads like poetry, vivid and captivating; and chock full of crisp details and imageries. With each turn of the page, Yimsut pulls readers deeper into his emotional and spiritual journey through his years of war and horrors. Yet, his story of love, family, and country, told in a soft, meditative voice—also breathes of forgiveness and healing. Facing the Khmer Rouge is a courageous memoir, and one that undoubtedly will leave Yimsut’s readers believing in the best of man’s humanity to man.”

Loung Ung
Renowned Activist, Best Selling Author of “First They Killed My Father” and “Lucky Child”
* * *

“Facing the Khmer Rouge reflects the way many Cambodian genocide survivors feel, but are often reluctant to express. His vivid recollections are full of passion – the passion of a man who is angry at the injustices done to so many innocent people – and a longing for an idyllic childhood that has been lost to him. Mr. Yimsut, who I have been proud to call my friend for over a decade, has the courage to express his fears, anger, and love of Cambodia in this vivid biography. Young Cambodians should read his book to help them imagine what it is like to lose one’s parents and relatives to the Khmer Rouge, whose promises of equality and prosperity for all were never fulfilled. His book is a call for understanding and a bridge to reaching out to the future.”

Youk Chhang
Renowned Activist and one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 “Most Influential People” in the world for 2007, the Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia (
* * *

“Facing the Khmer Rouge addresses a topic that is both timely and immediate. Indeed, as the U.N./Khmer Rouge Tribunal (or Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia) moves toward sentencing the first Khmer Rouge official charged and convicted of crimes against humanity, Facing the Khmer Rouge speaks to both a genocidal past and its aftermath. Within the emergent field of Cambodian memoir, Yimsut’s text is unique with regard to its approach and its timeframe. Whereas most memoirs adhere to a triptych narrative (before the Khmer Rouge, during the Democratic Kampuchean regime, and then a brief retelling of experiences in refugee camps), Facing the Khmer Rouge is much more expansive. Further, Facing the Khmer Rouge is significant with regard to its geographic focus. While the majority of Cambodian/American memoirs begin in Phnom Penh, Yimsut’s story makes visible another significant site: Siem Reap. This would be an ideal text for courses focused on Southeast Asian/American Studies, Asian American Studies, and Ethnic Studies. Facing the Khmer Rouge’s engagement with migration and immigration (which is both personal and includes mention of specific procedures) makes it relevant to multiple fields. The writing is accessible, often moving, and the book would be appealing to a non-academic audience.

Further, Facing the Khmer Rouge takes the reader from Cambodia to the United States, from childhood to adulthood, and from revenge to reconciliation. In so doing, Yimsut accesses a largely untold story of the Khmer Rouge era, and the book will no doubt serve as an important text within an Asian American and Cambodian American archive. In particular, the majority of memoirs are published by women, focus more on “growing up under the Khmer Rouge,” and very rarely involve extensive discussions about life in the United States and return to Cambodia. Loung Ung’s /Lucky Child/ (2005) is focused on life _after_ the Democratic Kampuchea era, but Yimsut’s text breaks away from what has become a “stock” narrative. “

Rutgers University Press Book Review and Publication Committee
* * *

“Some two dozen books have been published by survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide, recounting their experiences in the catastrophic effort by Cambodian communists to build an agrarian utopia in the late 1970s. Many of those books are breathtaking feats of power and passion. None of these existing works, however, embody the immediacy, range of experience, raw emotion, and drama found in a new offering by Cambodian-American Ronnie Yimsut.

In his “Facing the Khmer Rouge,” Yimsut summons from his personal darkness all of the terror that ordinary Cambodians suffered during the Khmer Rouge regime, and casts the mayhem onto the printed page before our eyes. In so doing, he reveals important new dimensions of the Khmer Rouge genocide that were beyond the experience—and the descriptive powers—of previous Cambodian memoirists. For example, Yimsut was rounded up, along with much of his extended family, and marched to the shores of Cambodia’s Great Lake for a mass execution. But by pure chance, he happened to survive the savage blows meant to kill him, waking to find himself surrounded by the corpses of his loved ones. Yimsut describes the sheer, unimaginable horror of this shocking event in spare, gut-wrenching prose that can never be forgotten.

In another episode of Yimsut’s gripping saga of survival, he describes how he made common cause with other survivors of the Khmer Rouge terror, joining together in a small band to attack a heavily armed Khmer Rouge encampment with nothing more than sticks and stones, wreaking a small measure of vengeance on their tormentors. A morass of contradictory emotions washes over him as he realizes that like those who had murdered his family, he too has become a killer. Few would be willing to so candidly expose such inner anguish, and fewer yet would be capable of communicating these kinds of memories with the clarity and raw intensity brought to the challenge by Yimsut.

The tale of personal quest to rehabilitate himself, make a new life in a new world, and then return to help rebuild the land of his birth, is a vividly inspiring story of struggle and redemption. There is no finer first-person account of what it means to be a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide.”

Craig Etcheson, PhD
Special Investigator, the UN Tribunal Office of Prosecutor, author, researcher, and one of the foremost world experts on Khmer Rouge’s genocide regime
* * *

And a few hearth felt letters and snipets (from the generation whose and why this book was born/written in the first place):


I loved your book. I couldn't put it down. I read it in two sittings. I'm familiar with all the torture, escapes etc. but you wrote so emotionally and from the heart. ( A cliché, but true in your case ). I'm so sorry for the loss of your family members who were killed in front of you. ( Sorry is completely inadequate. ) A horrible and never-ending nightmare. I've heard of others in similar situations that have crawled from beneath the bodies and out of mass graves, after pretending to be dead. I hope you managed to get some counselling. Most Cambodians need psychiatric help, as they've all buried their KR experiences deep inside themselves and aren't aware that they are passing on their trauma to their children. TPO is an excellent organisation to help with this.
I loved your expression, Bamboo in the Wind. Very meaningful to me but too personal to explain.

You have worked so hard to get your qualifications. I love the fact that you are using your education to better the lives of Cambodians who are still struggling to survive. I did get out to see The Bakong Technical College. It's a huge enterprise for you to complete. Just amazing. When will it open? I like the fact that it is out in the country where there are so few opportunities.

Gaye Miller, Australia

"Mr. Yimsut's memoir was just the book I needed.  I cried so much while reading it.  I just kept thinking about my mother and how she lost most of her family during the Khmer Rouge and her anxieties as an immigrant."

Molly Trinh Wiebe
Doctoral Student
Language and Literacy Studies
Department of Curriculum & Instruction
The University of Texas at Austin
"I’ve been meaning to contact you to let you know that your book/personal story is…  I don’t have any words.  What an experience, global travesty and tragedy, and what a beautiful example of strength and resilience you are.  Like I said—can hardly begin to put words on this…  But thank you so much for sharing your story and Cambodia’s story.  It has and will continue to have a strong impact on me.  At some point, hopefully, we can come over and help with the Bakong Tech College project" J
Schmidt, Jaime
Idaho, USA

"I just finished reading Ronnie Yimsut’s “Facing the Khmer Rouge: A Cambodian Journey”
This book was on my personal summer reading list so I’m glad I finished it before classes started back up!

This book was amazingly emotional as well as informative to the politics of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge. Poetically written with raw and shocking honesty, if you’re looking for a new book to read, I’d suggest this one! Yimsut’s story is one that shouldn’t be forgotten."

A Well Told Story. An Important Book. We Can All Learn From It. July 19, 2012

"This book is a reminder of the atrocities and genocide committeed by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from 1975-79. It is a reminder of the depths to which humankind can sink.

It is also a book about the strength, resilience and goodness of humans.

Ronnie Yimsut, at the age of 15, was the sole survivor of a Killing Fields Massacre in which most of his immediate family were slaughtered.

His resilience and help from others enabled him to survive. Ronnie has continued to fight with the Khmer Rouge and the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders. This fight and reaching out to others through the creation of Bakong Technical College has helped him deal with the post-traumatic stress disorder with which he was left.

The Rotary Club of Toronto and other Rotarians, through money and sweat equity, are proud to be a partner with Ronnie to hel him fund and build the school located outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia. This school will provide much needed vocational training to local Khmer with a large focus on landmine survivors.

This is a well told story and an important book. We can all learn from it."

Chris Snyder
Co-Ordinator, Sweat Equity
District 7070, RCT
"This story has reminded me so much of those people like the author who had survived the killing field, similar to those who lived through the regime. I am in the States now, however Mr. Yim has the courage to record this sad journey. I lost my parents, grandmother, three bothers and two sisters. We, Cambodian share a similar past.Again, many thanks Mr. Yim for published this book. "
Great and sad story July 1, 2012
"As a fellow survivor, I was reluctant to read another painful story. But when I started this book, it soon captivated me. I grew up in Phnom Penh as a city girl and lived a very cosmopolitan life until my family and I were part of the mass expulsion of April 17, 1975. "Facing the Khmer Rouge" provided a very different perspective to me as it is the honest story of experiencing the Cambodian Genocide as a child brought up in the countryside where the KR impact was much earlier.

This intensely personal story riveted me to my chair as I lived every moment with the author. Unless you have been in his situation, it will be hard for the reader to believe that every word and every ghastly experience is absolutely true and just the way it happened. This powerful biography reveals the darkest depths of man's inhumanity to man as the KR fanatics imposed their evil on the innocent. But much more important, it also reveals the strength and power of the human spirit and the human will to survive. Readers who are facing challenges in their own lives will gain perspective on what challenges really are and how people survive them.

The courage of this very young man was remarkable. This book is remarkable. It is a must read. "
By Bora S. Matarazzo
Author of "Bamboo Promise"

"I've worked with Cambodian refugees for years and have heard every horror story they had to tell. Three years ago I visited Cambodia with a young fellow we sponsored and saw the places I'd heard about. I am amazed by the resilience, industriousness and commitment of refugees to learn and adjust to life in an entirely different world. Facing the Khmer Rouge: A Cambodian Journey is a testament to the human spirit, not to return evil for evil, but compassion, instead. This book is absolutely riveting and inspirational, despite the unbelievable depravity of the period. I was left with many questions not only about myself, but the nature of humankind. This was a book I could not put down! "
From Horror to Restoration, June 22, 2012

"What an amazing and compelling story of personal struggle and triumph. Very well written despite his trauma. As I was reading the stories and struggles Ronnie went through, it made feel like I personally knew him. Nothing felt like it was exaggerated but instead felt so real and heartfelt from the author's view. This world is a much better place with Ronnie in it. Do read this book! JD "
Extraordinary story and man!, June 22, 2012

"As a refugee who fled my homeland to make it to America, I thought my journey was treacherous and my experience was too horendous for anyone to endure, but Mr. Yimsit's Facing the Khmer Rouge gave me a brand new perspective on life. What a compelling story he told. His stories are a depiction of strength, courage, family, loyalty, and love. I laughed and I cried throughout the book. If you need a new-found appreciation for life in general, read Facing the Khmer Rouge. "
WOW!!!, June 21, 2012

"This is a provocative book that is a must read

This is the true story of Ran (Ronnie) Yimsut that covers his Cambodian Journey focusing on 1975 through 1979 at the time the Khmer Rouge are killing thousands of Khmer. He faces death many times and sees his family slaughtered for no reason. He finally makes it to safety becomes an American citizen and to this day returns each year to help the Khmer. I was totally amazed on what this young man accomplished and continues to accomplish as an adult."
"Dear world:

I had the privelege of meeting Ronnie Yimsut who lives right here in Milwaukee.

He wrote the book: Facing the Khmer Rouge, A Cambodian Journey

It is an excellent book. In my photo journal I make the statement that I know every child (and adult) I saw had a story.  And I just finished reading Ronnie’s book ~ and he truly has a story.

After meeting Ronnie and reading his story, I realize how important it is to make people aware of this tragic time in history.  We continue to repeat war ~ and the horrors of war continue. Ronnie Yimsut took his pain and vengeance and turned it around to victory and promoting peace in his country.
His book is a must read!"
Sister. Ann CatherineVeierstahler
Sister of Charity of St. Joan Antida

"Dear Ronnie

I picked up your book and just finished reading it this morning. It has affected me deeply to both read your story and marvel at your strength and courage to share your pain with the rest of us. I simply cannot imagine how you have managed to deal with the trivia of daily life and complaints of those who have never had good reason to complain. "
Nancy Ross-Milwaukee, Wisconsin

"My Dear Ronnie

Thanks indeed for encouraging us to spare a thought for your old comrade-in-arms and companion, Min Moeun -- after reading the articles in the link you sent us, I just took your book from my shelf to refresh my memory and re-read the Prey Roniem and Barefoot escape chapters (I was recently up there visiting Preah Vihear and Banteay Chhmar -- no more sun bears, elephants, tigers... or even much forest left, but still mightily beautiful -- I was thinking of your perilous journey as we drove along some back roads and looked at the cliff face from up close) -- I wish him peace at this hour of need.

Ronnie, your question in your earlier email of "How did you find my "Facing the KR" book?" shocked me as I was sure I had written to you earlier, as soon as I had finished reading it, but I do not see my message in my sent or drafts, so I think I must have imagined it -- I know I thought a lot about writing to you but was not sure how to put my feelings into words --

I think Reach Sambath's message to you sums up my feelings about what you have given us all. I can only add that I am profoundly grateful that you found the strength within to tackle the task of revisiting and articulating all that pain and even finding some moments of joy to recall.

In addition to your direct and challenging account of the harrowing 3 years, 8 months and 20 days, which forms the main focus of your book, of particular importance I think, because they are very undertold stories, are your account of the suffering and destruction caused before 17 April 1975 and also your recounting the existence and struggle by the chau prey of Prey Roniem.

It was my honour to be with you in the public gallery of the court on 21 November 2011 when the International Prosecutor spoke of your courage and your achievements, and it was an even greater honour the next day for me to be the fourth person to receive a copy of your book, inscribed with your kind message to me. "
Dr. Helen Jarvis, PhD
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
One of the "key scholar" who had worked long and hard to establish
and create the UN khmer Rouge Tribunal (aka ECCC) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

"Dear Ronnie

Perhaps I've mentioned this in earlier messages to you, but what really stood out for me in your book was how you dated events. I remember reading about a New Year's celebration in the late '70s and I began to think back on my life as a teenager. My worries were so insignificant compared to what you, your family and your friends were enduring. Personally, I am so grateful that you wrote the book because it put so much in persepective for me."
Angela Miccinello
Editorial Professional
Branford, CT

"Dear Ronnie

It was a very touching and moving book and well written considering the circumstances. I don’t know how you lived through that but it shows what a strong and dedicated person you have become. You are such an awesome guy who does good for so many disadvantaged. "
Julie Dunaiskis
Toronto, Canada
* * *

"Dear Ronnie,

I finished reading your book. I have read 7 books about the Killing Fields. Your book was the most graphic and brutal I have read. Very compelling and revealing of your inner turmoils.

You book was also impressive in the following manner: The Chronology, Notes, Glossary, and especially the Index are the most extenstive that I have read in a book about The Killing Fields.

Your Friend,"
Charles C. King
Portland, Oregon
* * *

"Dear Ronnie,

I finished your book last week and just wanted to compliment you on doing such a great job. I'm sure it wasn't easy. It certainly wasn't easy to read. But I think it's really important to tell these stories as widely as possible.

I get the sense that Asians are reluctant to open up about these traumas -- whether in Cambodia, North Korea, Mao's China, etc. It's a real contrast to my experience at the Holocaust museum. So I think your book is going to be doubly valuable. Someday my kids are going to be reading it, as well as many, many others.  Thanks!"
Jack harris

* * *

"Dear Ronnie,

I have just finished your book this evening, a harrowing read. I have read about ten survivor books by now, and surely this is the most difficult, along with Haing Ngor's. Fortunately, through your indomitable spirit and courage, your story has a happier ending, or should I say, continuing.

It is a page turner, in spite of the horror you describe. I wept with you at the Tonle Sap Lake gravesite, and in your epilogue. You virtually take your skin off in sharing with us the pain and suffering beyond the words, which surely only partially reveal the reality you experienced. I understand that the only effective treatment found for PTSD is talking about the traumas, over and over again, until they lose their power, their tight grip on you, little by little. Your story, I trust, will do that not only for you, but for the many survivors who read this book, and who find the courage to tell their stories.

Like the shell-shocked soldiers of the two world wars, many Khmer survivors in Cambodia still hold in silence the pain and anguish they experienced, whichever side of the genocide they were on. I see it in the faces of the old, especially the mothers of my two adopted sons. And I know that the young people born after the civil war know little or nothing of the history of the Sihanouk/Lon Nol/Khmer Rouge era. Only this year have the high schools introduced history books that tell some of the story. I shared one of the survivor books with my son, now attending PUC in Siem Reap, and he was clearly shocked to learn of this history. But it must be told, as you say, if the past is not to be repeated. The remnants of the atrocities rumble just beneath the surface at times, threatening the sense of peace and recovery so vital to Cambodia's future. I myself felt unease as I passed through Pailin en route to Thailand from Battambang, and I'm just a barang.

I am also grateful for your sharing Tavvy's story and that of so many others, along the way. I was especially moved by your reunions with those brave country people who helped you survived and escaped. I wept.

Thank you!"
David Biviano
Seattle, Washington

* * *

"I had the pleasure and honour of spending 2 weeks in Siem Reap with this wonderful man, he was such an inspiration to me - through him I was able to experience a Cambodia that tourists never get the opportunity to see. I read his book on the long plane ride back to Canada and it touched me to my very core. Choum reap lia dear friend - until we meet again!"
Dana Rennie
Toronto, Canada

* * *

"Have to say your book was wonderful, and awful at the same time! I'm so grateful to Chann for taking me to Cambodia, because I could so easily identify with the places you talked about, places and experiences I'll never forget. Interestingly, my first impression of the smell of Siem Reap were not of flower blossoms, but a vague smell of sewer, instead! Love the description of your idyllic childhood. I must have been wonderful.

I heard all the horror stories of the refugees I settled here, and of course, Chann's in great detail, which made your experiences seem even more traumatic and terrifying. I shall never forget that tree near the pit where so many were killed, the clothing piled there, nor the Tole Slang (?) prison, filled with pictures of those tortured to death there. Next to me was a young woman, caressing a photo of a handsome man with her fingertips, perhaps her father, as she spoke and sobbed. I so much wanted to embrace her, but knew this was her sacred moment not mine to intrude upon. That was an absolutely ghastly place. Cambodia was and I'm sure still is, a country filled with so much sorrow and hope at the same time.The face of nearly everyone I met is indelible in my mind. And I met SO MANY wonderful people, it was hard to believe the terror all must have felt under the Khmer Rouge. It truly is a miracle you, Chann, and so many others I've met and known ever escaped from that hell. As someone in your book mentioned, your retelling was enough to make one's hair stand on end. Mine certainly did, and having been to so many of those places, the book couldn't have been so appreciated by someone who'd never visited. And thank you for turning your feelings of revenge into something positive and good.

Some places in your book I thought I couldn't go on reading. But like chewing on a sore tooth, I'd pick the book up again and read on. I'm proud to have met you, just as I've always been of Chann. Thank you SO much."

* * *

"I read all your book on the flight home. If I respected the man you are and what you have done, before, I respect you more than ever now. What a dreadful ordeal you went through. I see how it would colour your whole life. My heart hurts for the pain you experienced and the vulnerability and sensitivity of the youth you were. You were stronger than you should have had to be at that age. I am so proud of you for how you cared for your family. Ronnie you are more than an inspiration and I am blessed to know you and to have shared time with you.

Thank you for the book. I will treasure it. Thank you also for all the good times and memories you gave us while we were in Cambodia. I will be back in Cambodia to support you in what you do. Stay strong and keep your dream alive."
Shirley Johnson
Toronto, Canada
* * *

"I am almost through your book. I am absolutely amazed at what you endured and what you experienced. You can't make up this stuff. I am also amazed that you have turned your feelings into doing good for others. What an example for all of us. "
John Meek
Toronto, Canada

* * *

"I don't know when my librarian usually buys books, but I think Facing the KR is an excellent testimony of survival to have in any library. The name of the school is Milwaukee Academy of Science, I will talk with the school's president. I've volunteered some GIS work for the school, and I know she would love this book too! I love Ronnie a lot. He is so genuine."
Kimberly Thomas-Britt
Milwaukee, WI

* * *

"Dear Mr. Yimsut,

Your story is truly amazing. Being in a cultural voices class has really benefited me in the way that I have heard your story, just like millions of others, which has helped me see a little bit of what the outside world can be like. As an American born and raised in southern Pennsylvania, I have never given the topic of genocide much thought, other than what we have learned in school about the holocaust and what you have experienced in Cambodia. But your first person account of this crime against humanity is truly inspiring. Your story has really made me aware of some of the happenings in today’s world.

To be completely honest, I have never really heard about the Cambodian holocaust, other than on TV and when our social studies class learned about Pol Pot. Your story taught me a lot about something that isn’t in the common media and made me realize just how hard this situation must have been for you. To know that any day that it might be your last has to be a horrendous feeling. Watching friends and family being killed and being lied to day in and day out by your fellow Cambodian must invoke some sort of strong feeling of deception. But from your experiences you could tell the world what it is like, since I’m am sure you have felt this way at some point. And from these experiences, educating the world on how to prevent things like this from happening, and in turn generally make the world a better place.

Dear Mr. Yimsut,

Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve learned so much about genocide from your letter. When you described all of the events that happened in the Tonle Sap Massacre I sympathized you. Before I read the article I had no idea there was events like this that happened in other places besides Germany.

When you described how the people with you were told you would all go to a new camp where you get to fish and eat, it reminded me of the Holocaust. The Jews were told they would be taken to a better place, just as you were.

At the massacre you said people were killed one right after another. This image horrified me. I hate to think that innocent people were murdered. You told us that your sister-in-law was pregnant, and they killed her. She and her unborn child did no harm to the world. They did not deserve anything that happened to them.
It was unbelievable that you were taken and clubbed as an example to the others. I also remember reading a Jewish story similar.

The thing that amazes me most is that someone survived from this. That someone is you. It is great that you can share your story and help teach people about what happened. You story not only makes us sympathize you, but it teaches us. Thank you.

Dear Mr. Yimsut,

I wanted to write you to tell you that I commend your courage and I greatly appreciate you sharing your story with the rest of us. I cannot possibly imagine what a traumatizing experience it must have been for you. I have gained a much better understanding of the genocide that took place in Cambodia, and I feel like we all should be better educated on the events that occurred there. I never quite understood what had happened there and I never had it as a major subject in any of my classes until now.

I was wondering how these events affected you in your life now. Seeing the things you saw in the killing fields, being threatened by someone who was much younger than you, seeing them slaughter that poor little boy. I couldn’t possibly overcome these things the way you have, and then be able to talk about it openly with the public. Your story helped me personally understand genocide better by showing me that there are people who try to fight back and escape, like when you escaped to the jungle and hid out. I was deeply moved by your story and could not possibly comprehend how one group of people could commit such atrocities against another group.

I would like to thank you for publishing your story for everyone to read and learn from. We have all heard about the Holocaust and the Five Year Plan’s, but I believe we should all be better informed of the struggle you and your people went through in that horrible time. Your story is an inspiration for people who are in similar situations elsewhere.
Caitlin Bastien

Dear Mr. Yimsut,

After reading your story, “The Tonle Sap Lake Massacre”, I have realized how cruel history can be. I have always heard about the holocaust and other events but you never can really grasp how bad something is until you read a detailed story, such as yours.

The images you receive from hearing or reading about an event such as this is just life changing and very vivid. I’m here in my nice little town in Pennsylvania and there are people out there fighting for their lives every day. It makes you realize how lucky you are and how good you have it. I could have never imagined going through something like that. I know that that experience has made you stronger and now, you can face anything which is very admirable. After I read this story I began to further educate myself and look at genocide as a whole. It is unbelievable how many times this has happened. Millions and millions of people have been killed, for hardly any reason at all. That is such a foreign and crazy idea for me.

The story you wrote not only helped me realize the bloodshed that was experienced in Cambodia, but it also led to me realizing how many times it has happened and how many people it has affected. It has opened my eyes to a world of things, and for that I thank you.

Dear Yimsut,

I recently read your story. I sympathize for what you had to go through but I know you don’t need sympathy. After what you’ve been through shows how strong you are, to be able to go through such an occurrence and write a story of those happenings. I would like to know which experiences affected you the most and in what way. Also if they still affect you now everyday being such a long time after the events spoke of in your story.

After reading your story my class and I learned a large amount about genocide. I saw a tremendous amount of graphic images. These images impacted me a great deal and those are just images. I can’t imagine seeing it in person and being a part of it. Genocide is a horrible thing.

I wouldn’t necessarily say I was entertained when reading your story due to the fact it was graphic and created horrific images in my head, but I enjoyed how it taught me an incredible amount about genocide. I think everyone should take the time to read your story. If only they knew what some go through and are able to recover from, just makes some problems not seem as big. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and encounter with us.

Dylan Probst

Dear Mr. Yimsut

I first would like to say thank you for writing your story. It was very informational and I learned a lot from it. I’m sure others besides myself have taken in and absorbed your story as well. I think the main thing I got out of it is a better understanding of genocide. Not just how horrific it is from the point of view of those who are committing it, but also what the victims are going through as well.

One thing that really made me cringe is when you said about the young boy that was killed right in front of you. This made me realize just how savage people can be. Also how sick they can be for taking the life of a child.

Another thing I noticed that was very brave of you was when you helped Oum. I feel like most people would have been selfish and worried only about themselves, but you valued her life as well as hers and tried to help her. People need to be more unselfish in all situations.

Your perseverance never seizes to amaze me either. Walking for that long distance through the terrain is just amazing. Also aside from the physical stamina was your mental. Keeping a clear and calm mind must have been near impossible.

The thing that I found the most touching was a quote I saw under your picture in our text book. It reads “Cambodia will always be home to me despite that I have nothing left there anymore.” That is very powerful because most people who witness horrific events try as hard as they can to forget them completely. You however are still proud to be called a Cambodian even though there are so many terrible memories along with nothing left in it for you. I feel like this is very influential to people who have experienced anything even close to this, as I have not and can only imagine. So I again I think you for the literature you have provided and I have taken as much out of it as possible so I can be more knowledgeable as person, and a student.

Dear Mr. Yimsut,

When a person mentions the word genocide, I always think Holocaust. When I read your writing, The Tonle Sap Massacre, I got a whole new idea of genocide. It’s the same idea, but I feel like the Tonle Sap Massacre was more brutal and was swept under the rug; hushed. Why was I not taught about this happening until my senior year in high school? Maybe because when I was younger I do not think I would have understood or appreciated what people like you went through in hostage-like genocides.

I think the Holocaust is more widely known because Hitler made it known what he was doing. The Tonle Sap Massacre, from what I understand, is more of a surprise attack and not many people know that this is going on; only the people involved. The images engraved in your mind must be horrible to bear with everyday; unless you are able to think of other things, which would probably be more beneficial to your health.

I can say right now I don’t think I would be able to survive how you survived in your story the Tonle Sap Massacre. That might be a bit of a downer thing to say, but it just sounds horrible to me. If more people read your story, more people would understand and appreciate what you went through. Maybe we could discover more of these happenings and put an end to them or find out who is responsible and serve them the right punishment. How did you keep your composure to survive like that? The chances of survival are slim, but you did it.

Dear Mr. Yimsut

The other day I read your story “The Tonle Sap Massacre” and it had an impact on me in many ways. It showed me how much wrong there was on this planet. I am not writing this to show my sympathy even though you do deserve some. Instead I would like to thank you for opening I new aspect that I haven’t seen before. Genocide has taken place in more places around the world that I would have ever thought. The only one most people know about is the Holocaust in Germany and I don’t believe it should be that way.

Genocide is a horrible thing. In your story you talked about them taking innocent people and beating them to death. Even women and children were killed. That shouldn’t happen no matter what the reason is. Your story showed me courage but at the same time how horrific people can be. I didn’t know too much about Genocide. I had no clue that people were actually beaten to death with clubs. I knew that people were shot and worked to death and that all of them were innocent. It is amazing how you were able to survive. I myself would have given up hope. But I am glad you didn’t because I wouldn’t have learned the things I know now.

I think it should be mandatory for people especially you to learn about Genocide. People need to learn from mistakes of the past and not repeat history. Many people choose not to learn about these things. They believe that if they act like they don’t know and don’t educate themselves on the subject that it didn’t really happen. But it has happened all of the world, not just Tonle Sap. It has happened in so many different places. Each time it is the same outcome. Thousands of people died and their death was unjust. I want to thank you again for everything. Because of you story I now know so much more.


Robert Hammer

Dear Mr. Yimsut,

After reading your story, The Tonle Sap Massacre, I went on to read more about genocide and I was never aware of the numbers of deaths that were involved in specific incidents. Mao Ze-Dong in China killed up to 49-78,000,000 people. I can only imagine what it would be like to be in that kind of situation. Never knowing when it’s going to be your last day, your last night, your last breathe. I don’t think I could have ever endured what you went through. Seeing people being killed right beside you must me an image forever engrained in your memory.

Not only seeing the murders but the dead bodies all around you must have really taken its toll on your faith to continue through your rough times. I don’t feel like I could have been as strong as you and preserved through it all. I think by reading your book some people may be able to grasp a better understanding on what genocide really is. I’ve learned that genocide seems to always have a specific target. People with power seem to be afraid of the unknown. People who aren’t like them and that don’t think the same way they do, seem to worry them. People are afraid to go against those with the power. Who wants to stand up to the bully? No one, because then you become to target. So people just let mass killings happen when individuals’ lives are at stake.

You have really impacted me in how surviving for your life comes at a price but it indeed has a sweet reward. You kept fighting even when times got tough. You kept fighting even when your friends and others around you were being murdered. You have inspired me to never give up even when it seems like there’s nothing to live for.

Lindsay Peiffer

288 pages

* 1 table, 2 maps, * 6 x 9

978-0-8135-5152-4 * Paper * $26.95s

978-0-8135-5151-7 * Cloth * $72.00ss

To order: Available in a major book outlet near you on November 15th, 2011 or go online now to order your copy. For autographed copy, please send e-mail inquiry to:

Please contact Ronnie Yimsut, Program-Coordinator, at (414) 377-8257 or

1 comment:

  1. I loved your book. I couldn't put it down. I read it in two sittings. I'm familiar with all the torture, escapes etc. but you wrote so emotionally and from the heart. ( A cliché, but true in your case ). I'm so sorry for the loss of your family members who were killed in front of you. ( Sorry is completely inadequate. ) A horrible and never-ending nightmare. I've heard of others in similar situations that have crawled from beneath the bodies and out of mass graves, after pretending to be dead. I hope you managed to get some counselling. Most Cambodians need psychiatric help, as they've all buried their KR experiences deep inside themselves and aren't aware that they are passing on their trauma to their children. TPO is an excellent organisation to help with this.

    I loved your expression, Bamboo in the Wind. Very meaningful to me but too personal to explain.

    You have worked so hard to get your qualifications. I love the fact that you are using your education to better the lives of Cambodians who are still struggling to survive. I did get out to see The Bakong Technical College. It's a huge enterprise for you to complete. Just amazing. When will it open? I like the fact that it is out in the country where there are so few opportunities.

    Gaye Miller, Australia