I want to share a unique and special moment from my Cambodia trip when we visited Phnom Penh. Pictured here with me is BOU MENG. Bou Meng was a prisoner at S21 during the Khmer Rouge regime. He was just one of 7 to survive improsenment.
Today, Bou Meng, aged 83, sits at the site of the prison which is now the Genocide Museum. He revisits a place where he was tortured, his wife was executed and he was held prisoner. He sells this book about his life to share his story with the world.I couldn’t walk past this man and I purchased the book, he welcomed me to sit with him and have a photo. I had begun to cry and was wearing my sunglasses – I didn’t want to take the photo but could not disrespect this brave and gentle man. I sat beside him and we bowed to one another as I said “akun” (Khmer for thank you). I tried not to cry and to put on a smile for the photo, and for him. We turned again to one another and I could only mutter “thank you. Akun. Akun” as he held my hands in his. I was sobbing by now. He reached for a drawer on his desk and pulled out a box Of tissues. I let out a laugh and cried even more! He was consoling me in the place where he had suffered so much. He held my hands and we just took a moment together. My friends watched on and said he too shed a few tears as we sat together.
This man has suffered atrocities and traumas that none of us can ever imagine, yet he sits here and shows love and compassion to others. He’s spreading the word of what happened and sharing his story.
I will never forget his sweet smiling face, his kind manner and his courage!
Cambodia is an incredible place, through all their difficulties, it’s people like BOU MENG who carry on and persevere that they continue. It’s amazing.
Thank you Bou Meng. Akun. Thank you.