A Teen Refugee’s Flight to Freedom From Communist Cambodia

The Daily Signal | 4/22/2019 | Staff

For six years, the only luxuries Bopha Sayavong dreamed of were peace, quiet, food, and shelter.

It wasn’t until she landed in Little Rock, Arkansas, as a refugee from communist Cambodia on Oct. 31, 1981, that she began to imagine the luxuries freedom would bring.

US - Life

Even after arriving in the U.S., though, life was not easy.

“We just build it up from there, little by little, to figure it out,” Sayavong, now 59, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview from Marion, Illinois.

Anything - Years - Teenager - Work - Camps

Anything would beat the four years from 1975 to 1979 she spent as a teenager in work camps created by the oppressive communist regime known as the Khmer Rouge.

Cambodia fell to communism in April 1975 when an attempted coup by the right-leaning military failed to push King Norodom Sihanouk out of power. Sihanouk then joined forces with the Communist Party.

War - Khmer - Rouge - Land - Conflict

After a five-year civil war beginning in 1970, the Khmer Rouge had seized enough land to end the conflict. However, the communists didn’t restore power to Sihanouk, but to the ruthless leader Pol Pot, who historians hold responsible for the deaths of 2 million Cambodians.

Once the communists seized Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, they told all residents to evacuate to the provinces for three days.

Sayavong - Name - Bopha - Huot - Father

Sayavong, whose name then was Bopha Huot, was 13. Her father was a small business owner who, while in the Cambodian army, had helped Americans training during the Vietnam War. Her family was considered to be in the lower ranks of the upper class.

“The evacuation was supposed to be three days, leave your home and return back in three days, but actually it … was a false statement. It was a lie by the communist regime just to take people out of their homes,” Sayavong said.

Years - Khmer - Rouge - Reign

During the four years of the Khmer Rouge’s reign, the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: The Daily Signal
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