California State University, Long Beach

Life in Cambodia, 1979 to 1993


In contrast to most oral histories of Cambodians that focus either on the Khmer Rouge period or the immigration experience, this mainly Khmer language series documents life in Cambodia in the post-Khmer Rouge years, up to the time of the 1993 national elections. The interviews were conducted as part of a research project by a CSULB student who went to Cambodia to work with CANDO (Cambodian American National Development Organization) in preparation for the elections. All the narrators were living in Phnom Penh at the time. However, some had returned to their provincial villages after the defeat of the Khmer Rouge and only later moved to Phnom Pen to advance their education or their careers. The narrators generally were more educated than most of the population. Chum Danh, Lung Ung and Vath Man were all practicing professionals, ranging in age from forty to fifty-two; while Bun Ich, Seth Rany, Heng Sophat and Sophorn Tith, aged eighteen to twenty-seven, were university students. Phat Man, Samath Pin and Leng Tang were working at NGOs: the latter two as word processors and the former as a general domestic worker at CANDO. (Note: pseudonyms were used for all the narrators.) Regardless of their relatively privileged status at the time of the interviews, like the rest of the population, these narrators also had to start from scratch after the routing of the Khmer Rouge. And although nine of the ten interviews are in Khmer, the English language segment summaries provide valuable insights into the ways that people went about the process of rebuilding their lives. Attitudes toward the Vietnamese - both the Vietnamese regime that followed Pol Pot and the Vietnamese settlers - figure prominently in the interviews, as well as the narrators' expectations and hopes for the future of their country.

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