Today is the 42nd anniversary of the reunion between my wife and me (February 24, 1979 – February 24, 2021).
Last time I wrote a brief description of the meet-up and break-up then meet-up again. This time, I am trying to write a story about my son’s tragic death on November 10, 1976, in which I wrote an article entitled “Unforgettable Pain”.
I should remind you that after not being able to ask permission from the brutal commander to bury the body of my child and to take care of my wife, who had just given birth, I was forced to travel with this commander to Peam Chilaing commune, Tbong Khmum district (at that time They formed Peam Chilaing district). We rested and worked over there for one night and one morning. In the afternoon, we returned to the unit, passing through Memot District Hospital, where my wife stayed.
During the trip, I tried to ask the commander again to go and take care of my wife. But the same request, the same answer, I almost pull out a gun to shot that guy, but patience is necessary to ensure survival for a revolutionary struggle which has already set up through secret network.
At around 4 pm on November 11, 1976, when the motorbike arrived at the hospital, I stopped the motorbike without asking for permission because I was the driver. I walked to the room where my wife was resting and saw Rany’s body swollen. Since Rany was already a midwife, she told me that there could be a placenta left that the doctor could not remove.
My wife and I have nothing but tears in our eyes, tears of pity for our dead child, unable to take care of my wife who just delivered the baby, but Rany seems more robust than me and understands the work I had to do, even though I never told her.
I left with tears in my eyes and did not ask where my son was buried. When I returned to the unit, I took this to the unit’s political director, who have a good heart. He allowed me to take Rany to be treated at the branch located in Koh Thmor village, Tonlong commune, Memot district (then Tramoung district was formed). On the morning of November 12, 1976, I tried to get to the hospital early to bring Rany to the unit. Luckily for Rany, I brought her to the traditional midwife to remove the placenta in time, otherwise, she would get Eclampsia and die.
At that time, although in difficulty, I took care of Rany with my own hands. I take care of and serve Rany like an old mother, not only food, water, even clothes I also need to do the laundry. I have indeed served as a husband. I became an expert in combining Khmer medicine for my wife’s health. Everything I have to do by hand for about half a month. I always cry for my wife, who is trying so hard to follow her husband, but I do not want to see Rany’s tears, so I do not remind her about her child’s death or anything unhappy.
Despite the difficulties, this is the first time I have lived with Rany for more than a week after getting married. In January 1977, Rany became pregnant again, which was against my wishes because I should not have children in such circumstances. I was ready to fight Pol Pot crew while my wife was pregnant. If a fight broke out, what about my wife and children? I want to live with my wife, but I do not want to see my wife and children in danger when there is a fight. I asked the unit’s political director to send Rany to work at the Army Hospital, located in Samrong village, Dar commune, Memot district, more than 30 kilometers away from my unit.
Previous separations were organized by Angkar but this time I organized the separation to prepare to fight the Pol Pot genocide. I last met Rany on June 18, 1977, two days before I left to lead the resistance movement against Pol Pot. I have made a clear decision, but I did not tell Rany. Not telling does not mean I do not trust my wife, but the important thing is that I do not want to see my wife shed tears, I do not want my wife to suffer an immediate psychological attack for something that does have not happened yet.
Before leaving, I did not shed tears for Rany to see. June 20, 1977, was the most challenging day for me and it was the day I started to invest my life to save the Cambodian people’s lives. At about 2 pm, after ordering the army to open a barn to cook rice, I sat down to write a letter to Rany. At the beginning of the letter, it was tough to find the words to write. I finally used the words “to Rany, my poor wife, when you read this letter, I am so far away that I did not know where I am”. The hardest thing to tell Rany is where I am? Because nothing was clear for my life at that time. Written a letter and get shot? Or written a letter and then have to fight? We want to go east, but the situation forces us to go west. I wrote the letter and cried until I got blurry vision and finally finished it in two hours.
I want to remind you of a miracle that happened on the evening of June 20, 1977. At around 4 pm, after handing over some letters and materials through a messenger whose name is Noeun (now Brigadier General of the Bodyguard Command) to be sent to my wife. I then fell asleep waiting for my four other friends. I woke up at 8 pm, and I sat down to light a kerosene lamp. When the lamp was on, I heard people screaming from the oak tree with a spiritual hut, about 30 meters away from my house.
An older man’s voice shouting “get out immediately, get out as soon as possible” several times and loudly, almost breaking the eardrum. After the screams, colorful lights wrapped around me, I shouted so loud so that my neighbor can come and help. Then there were three soldiers came in, I asked them who was shouting? And did you see the light in the house? The three of them agreed that they did not hear and did not see anything. I shivered and thought to myself that my guardian angel had told me to leave.
I want to tell you that I saw the light at the giant oak tree with a spiritual hut shown twice before. The first time was around the late 1975, when I slept and dreamt of an old guy give me a silk sarong (it is a believed that I am going to have a wife) a few days later, I married Rany. The second time a shining light flew from a tree through the roof of my house, that night Rany had a morning sickness in January 1977, which was the birth of Manet.
The separation on June 20, 1977, was with little hope of ever being reunited. Tens of millions of tears flowed with indescribable pain but this tear helped strengthen my spirit to fight for the survival of the Cambodian people. (The history of the national liberation struggle is very well documented and there is no need for me to write in the article about the reunion between me and my wife).
From the time of separation on June 20, 1977, until February 24, 1979, I never received any news about my wife, and if I did, it would only be that my wife was dead. I even more believed that my wife is dead, since more than a month after the liberation on January 7, 1979, I could not find or have information from my wife or even from my father-in-law, my mother-in-law, and my brother-in-law. All of them were missing.
One thing to keep in mind is that around mid-February 1979, I had a dream that my wife, Rany, was on the other side of a creek of deep water and could cross. I was looking for a boat to fetch Rany, suddenly the clock rang at 5 am and woke me up from that dream. I woke up. I was sitting crying and could not understand the meaning of this dream whether Rany was alive or dead.
The joy of liberating the people from the Pol Pot regime has not ended my tears. If my wife died, where did she die? Has she died of disease or assassinated? And was my child born before my wife died? Or died during the pregnancy? If my child was born, was it a male or female? Is he/she still alive or dead? If my child were alive, where would he/she be? Many questions brought tears to my eyes with pain.
On the evening of February 24, 1979, while I was working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the riverside, the then Minister of Health Nou Beng told me that my wife, my child, and my sister had arrived home. I do not believe at all because there have been two such cases already. The first time a woman about my mother’s age came to me and told me she was a foreign minister’s wife. She asked me to call her husband to see her. She was confused because her husband had the same name as me. The second time at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, another woman also went to find her husband. I came to see her, he called me nephew and asked to see the minister. At that time, I told her that I was a minister, and she was very angry with me and shouted until I drove out of the ministry and did not know where she was going next. Because there were false stories, I do not believe it. However, at about 5 pm, I came home.
Excited to get out of the car, I immediately saw my wife Rany first, then my sister and a boy. My wife told me with tears in her eyes that this was our son. I tried to go to and hold him, but he ran away, hugged his mother, and cried. My wife and family hid and picked rice bunch for living in Tbong Khmum district because the situation was too chaotic, and they did not dare to come forward. My wife was informed that I was alive ever since, but she was willing to hide and endure hardships for the sake of happiness. The reunion between my wife and me ended the widowhood situation for both of us.
My son Manet called me “uncle” for two months because he never had a father to call. When Manet agreed to call me father for a few days, my wife and I had another misfortune: my wife had a miscarriage. It was my fault for not fetching the water in the jar. In Phnom Penh, at that time, there was no tap water. We have to find a bucket to fetch water from the Mekong River and store it in a jar under the house and find a pot to transfer water from the jar to the bathroom. I always do this work, but I hurried to work one day, unable to fetch water, then my wife carried the water herself to fill the jar, which caused miscarriage of my two months’ baby. My family tragedy is just a small part of the people’s grief across the country, most of whom have suffered more than my family many times over. Let the tragedy not continue on Cambodian soil.
Meeting 42 years ago, my family has only three people, me and my wife and one child which is Hun Manet. 42 years later, this family has up to 34 people including me, my wife, 5 children, 5 sons/daughters-in-law and 22 grandchildren. This also reflects the increase of population from about 5 million in 1979 to about 16 million nowadays./.