I was hanging out at one of my friend's houses recently. I was in her neighborhood and it was rainy, so she invited me to come inside for a little while. I sat in the hammock while she was organizing things. She gave me a photo album to look through. It was full of pictures of her over the past 10-15 years. And as I thought about it, thought about her, I realized more how different her life has been from mine.
She's not too much older than I am, but there's enough of an age difference that she lived through some of the darkest times in her countries history.
She's one of the children born during the Khmer Rouge Regime which governed Cambodia from 1975-1979. When the Khmer Rouge came into power they turned the country upside down. The city people were forced to migrate from their homes into the countryside in an attempt to cleanse the nation and create an agrarian society. The Khmer Rouge, however, were anything, but kind in their treatment of the people. The educated were killed. The doctors and medical professionals were killed. People affiliated with the previous government were killed. Anyone who the Khmer Rouge believed to have been contaminated by the seeds of capitalism was viewed as a threat and was there for at risk of being murdered. The masses were forced to harsh labor and mostly horrific working conditions. They worked long hours, but were fed minimal portions. Starvation was very real. Disease stole other lives. The elderly, women and children were particularly vulnerable to sicknesses. Children were forced to be soldiers and indoctrinated with a new political worldview, to spy on their parents, to kill. The result was a genocide of approximately 2 million people.
When the Khmer Rouge fell out of power there began close to two decades of guerrilla warfare. People trying to escape to neighboring Thailand were faced with acres of mine fields. Mines that still come uncovered and blow up today.
And my friend lived through this though I don't know how much she remembers. I'll have to ask her some day. So I looked through her pictures of her as a teenager and as a young mom. She is strong and courageous and I am so glad I know her.