Today is the 37th anniversary, when my wife and I reunited (24 February 1979 – 24 February 2016) after we parted in suffering and tears for the sake of national liberation from the regime of Pol Pot’s genocide on 20 June 1977. My wife then was five month pregnant, after my first child died in pain on 10 November 1976. Since our parting, I never received news whether my wife was alive and that had led me to believing that she was dead. After the liberation on 7 January 1979, for over one month, I could not account for or discover any news about my wife, my parents in law, brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law. They all disappeared.
Joy of liberating people from the regime of Pol Pot had not stopped tear from coming into my eyes yet. If she were dead, where would she die? How did I go about setting up my life onward? I would be a widow in my age of 27 years old.
In the afternoon of 24 February 1979, I was working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, located along the river at the time. Then Minister of Health, Nou Beng, came in and told me that my wife and child, and sister arrived at my house. I did not believe it. There had been two cases already. Firstly, there was an old woman, as old as my mother, came to see me and said she was wife of “grandpa” Minister. She told me to go find her husband for her. She confused because her husband’s name and my name were the same. Secondly, there was another woman too who came to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to look for her husband. She called me “nephew” and asked for permission to see the Minister. When I told her “I am the Minister,” she rose in anger and yelled until I had to drive my car out and did not know where she went later. It was because of the two incidents and the new account was that there were also kid and sister, I had not dream of it was true. However, it was about five in the afternoon. I left for home.
It was an exciting moment. As I stepped out of the car, I saw my wife before anyone else and then my sister and a young boy. My wife told me in tear he was my son. I quickly went for him but he escaped to embrace his mom and cried. In fact, my wife and her family kept low profile and picked broken rice stalks in Tbong Khmom to feed themselves. The situation was troublesome and they decided to keep a low profile. My son, Hun Manet, addressed me as uncle for over two months. When he got used to calling me dad, another unfortunate thing happened to us. My wife lost our third child. It was my mistake that I did not carry water to fill jars. In Phnom Penh those days, there was no running water. We had to carry buckets and fetch water from the (Mekong) riverfront to fill jars at home. We then take water from downstairs with buckets to jar in bathrooms upstairs. I did that regularly. One day I failed to do so for urgency at work, my wife had to do so herself. That had resulted in the sad development. What happened to my family was just a tiny bit compared to tragedy and suffering encountered by most in the whole country.
We must unite to protect peace, and resolutely prevent the return of Pol Pot’s style neo-politics./.