Ming Hem Sim was born in Phnom Penh and is the second child of five siblings. While growing up, she did small jobs like cleaning houses and selling water bottles. When asked about her favorite music she said, “I like to listen to Sinn Sisamouth, his voice is so beautiful!” She smiles as she talks about her favorite activities, caring for her two grandsons, and making her delicious Khmer dishes.
She has many happy memories, but her early life was not always so happy.
Ming Hem Sim was about 13 years old during the Khmer Rouge Regime. During our recent interview with her, she shared a powerful example of how hard times can bring us closer to each other. She speaks about her family being forced from their home in Phnom Penh and being separated from one another. “They made us walk, we could not ride. When we got to a point, they separated my mom and dad. We took different roads, they said he was just going to work. Once we separated, I did not see him again.” She, along with her mother and siblings, were sent to a labor camp in Kampong Cham, while her father was sent to a camp in Battambang.
She recalls, “They made us leave everything––our clothes, our food, and we had nothing to eat. Many people died along the road, and we had to just walk past.” After about a year in the camp, she, her mother, and remaining siblings fled to Vietnam where they stayed until it was safe to return home. As she shared this story, she said, “After the war was over, we found our family again. We gathered together, hugged one another, and cried…my mom told me the news, that my father had died.”
When she described her feelings, she used the khmer word កំសត់ (pronounced komsat)––an adjective that means to be poor, sad, troubled, or destitute; having shared hardships. Even though Ming Sim and her family had suffered terribly during the Khmer Rouge Era, they were able to be reunited as a family. They became closer despite their own shared hardships.
To see the full interview (in Khmer), check out the link at the Project YouTube channel.
By Debra Williams, Project assistant