Kang Nan, Soldier

Kang Nan, Soldier

This picture was taken during the Lon Nol regime in Phnom Penh. I had moved there to live with my younger cousins because I didn’t want to join the Khmer Rouge. I’m not sure why my friends and I decided to have our picture taken, and we didn’t dress properly. I was wearing a pair of baggy trousers and flip flops.

My wife Ven Sam was selling cakes, fruits, and sweets in Phnom Penh when we met. I often bought her sweets, but didn’t really take much notice of her. One day, my godmother brought me her picture and asked me to take a look. I recognized her as the woman I bought cakes from at the market, so I went to ask her hand in marriage. We were married at the end of 1970. Sam didn’t have much education because her family was poor. Besides, the sons were given the first chance to attend school.

I didn’t volunteer to become a Lon Nol soldier. People were being caught and forced to join, and I could not escape. When I became a member of the army in 1973, I was sent to study military tactics. I ran off from the military office, but they caught me and forced me to join them again.

After I finished training, I was sent to work in Kandal Province as a soldier’s assistant. They said they would send me to the front line only if other units needed help. But they sent me to the Tuol Krasaing battlefield anyway.

My wife’s uncle then asked us to live with him, and we accepted. He was a colonel. After we moved into his house, I never went to the battlefield again. Instead, my wife and I took care of his children. 

I brought the same clothes I was wearing in the photograph along with me when I was evacuated from Phnom Penh. Later, I exchanged them with the base people for food. They really liked my t-shirt.

During the Khmer Rouge regime, I lived with my wife, parents, siblings and other relatives, although we were separated most of the time. The Khmer Rouge came to search our house many times, but never found anything and never accused me of doing wrong. Of the seven children in our family, only two survived the regime.

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