Uk Tat, Second Lieutenant

Uk Tat, Second Lieutenant

My father Uk Tat was a soldier. He was the only one in his family to be educated; he went to school at a pagoda and transported vegetables and fruits to the market to help his family. Then the French government recruited him into the army.

My mother Chhim Ret used to sell cakes in the market when she was young. My father saw her and followed her to her house near Phnom Penh. He proposed to her himself, but my grandmother rejected his proposal because he hadn’t brought his parents along. So, he brought an older person to the house to propose for him and my grandparents accepted.

During the Sihanouk regime when his office was looking for candidates to enter a sports competition, my father volunteered because he was both a bicycle racer and coach, and had won the national cycling competition. He traveled to Indonesia three times to race. The first time he competed, he lost, and the second time he took a simple medal. My mother told him he had lost because he was a naughty man. He apologized to her for not winning, saying that he had lost his concentration because the Indonesians had sent pretty girls around to flirt with his team.

The next time he was prepared mentally and took second place. He was so delighted that he displayed his silver trophy in our house. His boss demanded a share of the prize money; he also wanted the trophy. When my father refused, the boss became angry. Later, this boss had my father transferred to Banteay Meanchey Province to fight.

My mother sold boiled eggs and rice soup to my father’s soldiers so she could earn extra money to support our family. My father’s friends and their wives praised her, saying that she was a model wife and not like the other wives, who gambled a lot. Some of my father’s relatives in this province had important positions in the military and helped my father; they had him transferred back to Phnom Penh to work as an accountant in the military office, although he didn’t really know anything about accounting.

Around 1970, he was made a second lieutenant and held this position until 1975. After he returned to Phnom Penh he only wore his uniform at the office; he put on civilian clothes on his way to work and when he came home at night.

My father was a very friendly guy, he wasn’t really handsome, but he had a very good way of talking. He was also naughty, and had a secret wife or two. On the day before we were evacuated from Phnom Penh, he brought his second wife to meet my mother. That lady was on her knees, begging forgiveness from my mother. My mother had thought she was just a simple girlfriend and that my father wasn’t serious about her. But then she learned that my father had given her a lot of his salary and that she had two sons by him. There were two girls in my family, but my father loved sons and he wanted it all; both boys looked like my father. 

On the day the Khmer Rouge made us leave the city, my father knew that the Lon Nol soldiers would lose, so he threw away all his military uniforms and put on a simple white t-shirt. He also put all the money he had saved in a sack. He told us not to tell people what his profession had been. He also changed his name to Kung Tieng; his real name was Uk Tat. Last, my father brought his second wife and children along; both of our families traveled together.

At first we went not too far from Phnom Penh to our house in Kein Svay District, but when we arrived, we found that other evacuees were already living there. We had to sleep on the ground underneath the house. Then the Angkar told us to leave. My father decided that we should go to his grandmother’s district in Prey Veng because there was plenty to eat in that province.

After staying with my grandmother for a while, we were evacuated to a cooperative where my father cleared bamboo, dug trees, and grew rice. They discriminated against the new people there; the base people got 13 ladles of rice, but not us, we only got rice once in a while. They were also given fish soup first, and after they finished, there was no fish left for the new people.

My mother and my father’s second wife worked hard together, and never had an argument. I even looked after his second wife’s children. 

Around the end of 1977, the Angkar transferred a man named Sum to work in another cooperative and he disappeared. My father thought he was next because he had often spoken in French with Sum. A few days later, he was told to leave and transport salt to other cooperatives. But there was no salt in our cooperative to transport. Before my father left, he told my mother to look after all the children. My mother replied that if he felt something bad was going to happen, he should try to run away. Perhaps they arrested my father because he spoke French and they thought he was the enemy.

The next morning, I woke up too late to say goodbye to my father; he was already gone. The base people in the cooperative whispered to my mother that she should not wait for him; the Angkar had already sent him to be killed. Later that day, a man named Huon, who was the cooperative chief’s brother, saw a picture of my father and accused him of being a colonel and me of being the enemy’s daughter. He said “This is a relative of the colonialist enemy. He told the villagers he was a cyclo driver, but actually, he was an official.” We have had no news of my father since then and I haven’t had the chance to bury his remains properly.

Uk Tat’s confession from Tuol Sleng is five pages long. It says he was accused by a man named Yin Sum who had been captured. He accused Uk Tat because they had met along the road during the evacuation and discussed King Sihanouk, Hou Nim, and Khieu Samphan

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