The Cambodian Oral History Project recently published its 50th translation, which marks an important milestone for the project. Although COHP’s main focus has been collecting and preserving the oral histories of Cambodians in their homeland and heritage communities in the United States, the last couple of years have witnessed an unprecedented acceleration in translating and sharing these special stories with our English-speaking project supporters. As of December 2023, the project has now officially published 50 translations (20 of which were completed this year alone) and is looking forward to the publication of nearly 20 more in the next couple of months.
While this 50th translation has helped quantify the progress of the project, we also wanted to highlight it here because of how stunning this interview truly is. This story—shared by interviewee Kean Hun—chronicles an incredible account of risking her life over and over to keep her family members together and finding creative ways to survive everyday life during the Pol Pot regime. Her story comes to a climax when she describes watching her mother being taken away to be executed at the same moment the Vietnamese were invading her village to liberate the residents from the Khmer Rouge. In a fast-paced chase scene, she was able to rescue her mother and escape with her family––this time free from the clutches of the oppressive Khmer Rouge. She recalls her vivid feelings by saying:
“I ran! Oh, back then I ran, and I didn’t even feel tired. I felt so overjoyed! When the Vietnamese came in, the Khmer Rouge had nothing to do but run away and leave us behind, we had survived it all. Both my father and my mother survived, and they lived to celebrate their lives in this very generation. If there wasn’t Vietnamese intervention, then we wouldn’t have lived to this day.”
This interview stands out as one of the most compelling we’ve ever published since the inception of COHP’s translation efforts, and it perfectly articulates the reason we collect these stories—so that people everywhere can understand and appreciate the unwavering resilience and beauty encapsulated in the life stories that have been shared with each of us. We hope that you will take the time to read Kean Hun’s complete story, accessible through her interviewee page here: Kean Hun’s Interview
We wanted to express gratitude to all of our translation team members, namely Ethan Arkell, Devon Crane, and Thomas Barrett, as well as our many volunteer translators who have made this and other fantastic stories available to everyone! We couldn’t have done this without your diligent efforts.
We also want to acknowledge the generous, ongoing funding from Brigham Young University’s College of Humanities for translation and for general support.