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  • Writer's pictureS. Peou

The Story of My Father

Hello everyone. Thank you for reading. There have been many inconsistencies with the story of my father and I wanted to post this video to clear these up. Thank you for listening. It means a lot to me.

- Sorpong

Transcript below:

"Good morning, my name is Sorpong. Today is the beginning of *MAY* 2021, and as you can probably see it is a rainy day, a cloudy day, but I wanted to do something that I have not done before, and that is to create this video to talk about something dear to my heart. I don’t seek publicity or attention - I’ve never made any videos, but this is the first time that I have felt the need to do it.

We live in the Internet age that exposes us to the world over which we have little control. This is a good thing; it is a good thing in the sense that we can learn a lot about things on the internet that we can’t find elsewhere, and I think the Internet is a fantastic thing. But at the same time the Internet can also be a place where false or incorrect information are posted – even my date of birth for instance is not correct – quite a few things that are published are incorrect, even false I would say. But today I just want to talk a little bit about my father.

Let me start by saying that my father was a wonderful man, a very gracious person, an amazing husband, a great father and very compassionate, very loving, very kind, but unfortunately, he was taken away from us when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. We first had been driven out of our home and into the jungles, we went from village to village in remote areas in the jungles, finally we settled into a place, a village, where my father was taken away from us. At first, we were told that he would be allowed to return in a week or two – We thought that because of my father’s knowledge that he would be needed to help out the new government. But of course, after weeks, he never came back. My mother kept waiting, looking, staring into distance waiting for his return, weeks months turned out to be years, and during the period of the Khmer Regime, my mother and her 7 children were also put in forced labour, and we had to perform hard labour and that was painful and hard especially without my father around. My youngest brother was so young he could not remember what my father looked like. I was barely alive, and I fell ill. I was close to death several times, I could not even walk or get out of bed. It was a painful time for my family, especially for me. So, it was around 1978, my family and my mother and her 7 children were put on the list among those to be executed. So, we didn’t know about it until later but because it didn’t happen for some reason – the execution didn’t take place and so we were alive and when the Vietnamese came to Cambodia in 1978-1979, we were free and life was returning to normal but we still kept thinking about my father, our father – that he might return, and so we always kept an eyes on things around us to see if my father would show up. So, the hope was there – the feeling, the deep love for him was always there. But obviously he didn’t come back - and one day when I was a piece of doing something I didn’t know, I was fined for being part of a national liberation movement, something I did not even know. I was told to leave town, to run for my life. And I was a young teenager, I still didn’t understand what was going on, all I could think of is that we were free from the oppression of the khmer regime. And maybe perhaps we could have a chance to meet my father again. That was the hope at the time. So, it was just painful for us. I ran for my life and I went to the Thai-Cambodian border, and roaming around the Thai-Cambodian border with little food and several months later, my mother and brothers joined me and went to Thailand. It is a long long story I cannot tell you, I am thinking of writing a book about the journey of my life and my family, but that will come later. So, finally, many twists and turns, we were sponsored by the Canadian government and we arrived in Canada in the early 1980s and we started our new life from scratch and it was very painful for us not having our father with us. We wish he could be with us and start a new life together.

But I went on to university and finished my PhD in Political Science in 1994 and went on to work in Singapore and japan and then came back to Canada but during those years we, my brothers and sisters and my mother, always talk about my father and how much we miss him. We get emotional each time that we talk about him; all the fond memories of him will never go away. One day in around 2010, my youngest brother went to see a psychic for his business - restaurant business. He had some trouble and so he wanted to talk to a psychic. Let me just say I do not believe in psychics, I will never believe in psychics. So when he went to see this psychic, the moment he entered the house she started to ask him “Do you know where your father is?" My brother was taken aback telling her that “No, no, I am not here to talk about my father, I am here to talk about my restaurant business.” And so he was a bit taken aback, but she kept telling him that “Your father is not dead, he is still alive, you need to go and find him”. And so my brother said “No, no, no my father was taken away and executed and died a long time ago, but the psychic insisting that he was still alive and that he would be reunited with the family in the future and so we must go and look for him... and when we heard that, he came back and told my mother and my mother told all of us - and we were excited and you know thinking about the possibility of this family reunification. It would be a dream come true. We were confused, we were happy and excited, we didn’t know what to do actually, where to find him. Finally, we decided to dispatch one of my brothers to Cambodia to start looking for him – and at the Thai-Cambodian border. Because my father was very knowledgeable about Thailand, Thai politics, and he spoke Thai very fluently, he was educated in Thailand - in Bangkok - all of that stuff, and my brother spent months and months and months and months along the Thai-Cambodian border going from village to village from place to place, walking through the jungles, asking people if they could recognize or if they know where my father was. Fortunately, we only have one photo of my father left, and whenever he showed the photo to folks, they would say “Oh we saw him, he’s staying there” but it didn’t turn out to be true, because it was a long time ago and, so my brother gave up and kept going and going, and talking about looking, and asking people if they would know my father. Eventually, he met an elderly man who resembled my father, and he was excited, you know, getting into a conversation with him. His story and our story seemed to match in terms of where we used to live and his personality, his attitude, his behaviour, the manner of his speaking, and things like that. We were excited, my brother was excited about it and he didn't want to push too hard. He reported back to my mother, and my mother asked him to do a few personal tests – asked the typed of food he liked or didn’t like, and the names - sort of because he was an elderly man - he could not remember everything – we understood that.

After going back and forth, we came to the conclusion that he was probably our father, and you know, the elderly man, his behaviour, his way of speaking, just matched my fathers and so we threw him a big party, and it was reported in a lot of places; the family reunification. It was an amazing story to a lot of people got a lot of congratulations from friends and family members.

Unfortunately, after a few medical tests, the result came out did not confirm the fact that he was our biological father and that was a big blow to all of us, especially my mother who had lived in pain with a broken heart for so long, and she thought she got her husband back, but it turned out to be not the case. As for us, the children, it was painful confused to say the least because we thought that the elderly man was our father and he was so sincere, he was so kind, just the way my father treated us. And I remember when I first met him and I gave him a hug, and he was weeping for half an hour, he kept weeping because he was so happy that he found his family, and me, and so I hugged him, he hugged me, he kept weeping, uncontrollably, and so it was a very, very, emotional moment for the elderly man and me. But the medical test results did not confirm that later, and so we sort of lost hope and we were confused, and it was a big blow to us, and after months of talking and thinking and sharing, we concluded that he was probably not our biological father and my mother was broken hearted for the second time, and she still lives in pain.

My mother still has the photo of my father beside her bed, every nigh she would look at him and she would cry and feel depressed and so I have wonderful parents, my mother loves her husband and her children, and I just feel sorry for her that she had to look after 7 children and her hope was gone once again.

So I Just wanted to clarify that this is the story of my family – this is the unfortunate situation – I miss my father today, we have not contacted this elderly man for eight years after the party – we realize that he probably is not our biological father – I am still confused, I still don’t know what to do but we have not been in touch with him since the party and it is just painful for me, not a day goes by that I don’t think about my father. That is why this is the first video, and I wanted to talk about my father. I miss him very badly, I think about him all the time but that gives me the courage to keep going, to do the best I can, to live my life in a wonderful way, as best as I know how to make my gather proud of me,. But again, I feel so sad, I feel depressed at times, but I just wanted to share the story and what happened after that and what is happening now. Because whenever I go to a conference, some people ask me, because they knew about my father, the story, they would ask me how my father is doing, and I was speechless. I had a hart time answering that question. On the one hand I thought that it could be a true story, on the other hand, the story turned out to be the way that I have described. So, I have decided today to make this video, just to clarify, just to tell friends and family that know about the story, that this is what has been happening over the last 8 years or so, and I am sorry, and I just wanted to let people know about the situation in our family. Thank you very much for giving your time and attention to my sharing. Again, this is the beginning of *MAY* 2021. As you can see it, the party for my father, for this elderly man was organized in around 2013, so 8 years ago – almost 8 years ago - and I feel that what has happened since needs to be told because I cannot keep pretending anymore.

Thank you very much."

- Best Wishes,

Sorpong Peou


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