This is a story of how out of two hundred fifty-six rebels, only four made it alive...survived and actually thrived in the West... however with severe PTSD and a serious bout of "survivor's guilt."
Mr. Peth Doeum was in tears
Associated Press, Buriram Refugee Holding Center, June 1978
Mr. Min Moeun, a former rebel leader, was most elated and in happy tears to be reunited with his fellow escapees and fellow rebels, including Ran Yimsut, Peth Doeum, and Chea Sek (linked via video Skype from France) in June 2008--after 30 years.
A reunion circa June 2008
Min Moeun (left) & Peth Doeum (right) reunited for the first time after 30 years...
Mr. Chea Sek in June 2008
Mr. and Mrs. Chea Sek & three children now living in Trappe, France circa June 2008
Ven. Ran and Ven. Moeun entered the monkhood at Wat Sovankiri in San Diego, California in December 2010 to fulfill their solem pledge made with two others (Mr. Chea Sek & Mr. Peth Doeum) in February 1978 before attempting their perrilous border crossing to escape Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Regime.
The "little skinny boy" Ran Yimsut is now a big man 49 (left) with aging Min Moeun 76 (right)
And here's the actual and true story...
It was early February 1978. The mass starvation and systematic killings were already in place under the Khmer Rouge Democratic Kampuchea regime's reign of terrors. Some 1.7 millions Cambodian have either already starved to death or have been butchered by the KR's security aparatus all across the country.
At a place called, "Kok Ta Source," near Krobei Riel Commune, Puok District in Siem Reap Province, it was at the center of this little known rebelion against the KR's regime-except to the locals. After three long days of fighting, those who survived the KR's initial onslaught on the rebel's hidden position and subsequence counter attacks, the rebels were order to scatter and escape for their lives by the three leaders--Min Moeun, Peth Doeum, and Chea Sek. Among the three (scared) leaders was a skinny boy who recently survived a botch massacre by the KR's soldiers just the previous two weeks.
The skinny boy simply "went along for the ride," so to speak, and stuck with the leaders as he was told. He, too, was involved in a massive attack against a KR's position on Kok Ta Source hill with other rebels earlier. Pitch and deadly battles were fought here, mostly hand-to-hand combats. Sticks and stones against machine guns, RPGs, and motars. Just imagine the subsequence carnages ensued. Not a pretty scene, for sure.
The "three and a half men" managed to escape the crushing attacks by government forces and barely made it to Thai-Cambodian's border. There, at the foothill of the majestic Dongrek Range, marking the border, they began to pray and made a solem pledge. If they survive this ordeal, they shall enter the monkhood for a week as a payment to Lord Buddha, whom they sent their prayers toward.
All four made it safely into Thailand and then Thai's prison. The rest of their rebel forces, some 256 in all, were assumed perished, butchered by the KR's soldiers and executioners. Todate, there are only four known survivors and I was one of them! Indeed, I am that little skinny boy-the "A Half Man."
Read more about this event and a lot more in the up coming book "Facing the Khmer Rouge" published by the renown and prestigious Rutgers University Press. It shall be vailable on November 15th, 2011 at a major book outlet near you and/or online. Or contact: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org for ordering details and your very own "autographed" copy or two.
Ran Yimsut, Author and Activist... Promise Keeper.