My Volunteering with BYU Cambodia Oral History Project

Keo Somaly*

BYU Cambodia Oral Family Histories Project has made me realize that Cambodia has some great and sad histories. As Cambodian, I have been learning about Cambodia history through my work on the project. There are three important stories which I would like to share.

Firstly, the most stories I have heard from my parents or older people since I was young are about the Khmer Rouge Regime. I would like to tell the story about one of Cambodian tragedies related to the Khmer Rouge Regime, because it is one of the saddest moments in history. It happened between 1975 and 1979. At the time, Khmer Rouge had power over all of Cambodia. There were many people who were living in difficult lives. Many people were killed–––especially educated people. Educated people were the regime’s number one target, so almost all of them were killed by Khmer Rouge if they were found out.  “At least 1.7 million people were killed in the subsequent four years, before the regime was driven out,” according to CNN. Cambodia had to start a new life. The Khmer Rouge destroyed most of the important documents and family records. Some people––including my family and other, who went through that tragedy–––lost their loved one. The memories have stayed with them for more than thirty years now. These are really sad memories for my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and others, especially for those who have been living in a difficult situation

Decades later the country has still been unsuccessful in gaining justice for victims and healing from the genocide. Since production began five years ago, the television show, “It’s Not a Dream,” has reunited members of 54 Cambodian families shattered by the genocide. More than 1,500 people have sought its help. The series is just one example of the ways in which Cambodia’s traumatized society is beginning to undertake the painful business of reckoning with their history.” The scars of the Khmer Rouge are very deep and physical and present in modern Cambodia,” said Theary Seng, a human rights lawyer whose parents were killed by the regime, and who moved to the U.S. as a refugee before returning to her homeland as an adult (

Second, my main reasons for working on the project are to help myself become selfless and also to help my parents, and other Cambodian people. I would like to share some of my experiences from volunteering with BYU Cambodian Oral Histories project. “Cambodian Oral Histories are capturing stories of the generations of Cambodia. The project was formally launched in January 2016 in Cambodia. This project is seeking to document the lives and stories of the people in Cambodia and especially the generations that came of age in the 1950’s and 1960’s.” (

Concerning family history, I have had a great opportunity to volunteer as a peer leader, and because of all my work and cooperating with other leaders, both local and international, I received a promotion as a Cambodian coordinator for Oral Family History Project. My duties for this project include working with the full-time project interns in day-to-day management of the project activities and for assisting the project leaders and family specialists. I also help with recruiting and training local volunteers, as well as handling interview data. I have this opportunity to work directly with the interns and write details of weekly reports to the project leader. Besides this duty, I continue to interviewing family, non-members, and members in my church. I especially like to help Cambodia families to keep their family records. I also keep doing my own family history. I love listening to people’s stories and I hope this work will get more and more people to share their family histories. I am also thankful for the people who are kind and willing to spend their precious times to be interviewed and share their stories. It is great to be part of this project and it has been a good experience.

Finally, it has been exciting to visit some peer leaders around Cambodia. I have been learning to use my leadership skills, and to corporate with one another, and make decision for some of our activities. I also have experienced some challenges in the project.  Some of our peer leaders with whom I work with are young, from different situations and with different customs. Most of them are working or studying, or both and as such they are really busy. Some have taken a break from working with us because for various reasons and many peer leaders have continued to with us throughout the process. Our BYU interns and I have strived to be friends with them and have enjoyed some activities together–––set up new training, planned new promotions, and visited them as we could. Now there are many peer leaders and potential peer leaders that keep attend our training. They have enjoyed and gained benefit from the project. I feel impressed with our success with the growing number of recordings and transcription. These miracles happen because we have faith and we are working as hard as possible.

All in all, this project has provided opportunities for our team to develop multiple. It is important to show the benefits of oral family history for the next generation. My work helps me become the kind of person I want to be. I can better understand the meaningfulness of life in this work. I always continue to learn through stories, improving some skills and pursuing my future educational goals. I have achieved some success in completing some certificates at local training centers and international organizations. These achievements inspire me to press forward to gain more experiences from an international university. Last year, Brigham Young University-Hawaii began to allow Cambodian members to apply for scholarship and I have set my goal to attend BYU-Hawaii. I have been working hard on my application and preparations to become qualified to be a student there. It is a brilliant dream which I have dreamed my entire life.


*Keo Somaly has served as the Cambodia project coordinator since April 2017. She lives in Phnom Penh and has studied at Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia (PUC). She was active as a project peer leader during the last year and works with interns to advance the aims of the project. She has personally interviewed many members of her own family.



គម្រោងប្រវត្តិផ្ទាល់ខ្លួនរបស់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋកម្ពុជាធ្វើឱ្យខ្ញុំយល់ដឹងកាន់តែច្បាស់ថាប្រទេសកម្ពុជាមានប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្រដ៏រុងរឿងមួយចំនួន និងប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្រដ៏គួរឱ្យឈឺចាប់ផងដែរ។ ក្នុងនាមខ្ញុំជាប្រជាពលរដ្ឋកម្ពុជា ខ្ញុំបានសិក្សាអំពីប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្រប្រទេសកម្ពុជា។ មានរឿងសំខាន់បីដែលខ្ញុំនឹងចែករំលែក។

ជាបឋម ភាគច្រើននៃសាច់រឿងដែលកាលពីខ្ញុំនៅក្មេងបានស្តាប់ពីឪពុកម្តាយរបស់ខ្ញុំ និងពីចាស់ព្រឹទ្ធចារ្យ គឺរបបខ្មែរក្រហម។ ខ្ញុំចង់ប្រាប់រឿងមួយអំពីសោកនាដកម្មរបស់ជនជាតិខ្មែរដែលទាក់ទងនឹងរបបខ្មែរក្រហមពីព្រោះវាគឺជាគ្រាមួយដ៏គួរឱ្យសោកស្ដាយបំផុតនៅក្នុងប្រវត្តិសាស្រ្ត។ ដែលវាបានកើតឡើងក្នុងកំឡុងឆ្នាំ 1975 ដល់ 1979 នៅពេលនោះខ្មែរក្រហមមានឥទ្ធិពលមកលើប្រទេសកម្ពុជាទាំងមូល។ មានមនុស្សជាច្រើនដែលរស់នៅក្នុងស្ថានភាពយ៉ាងលំបាកលំបិន ហើយក៍មានមនុស្សជាច្រើនត្រូវបានពួកគេសម្លាប់យ៉ាងរង្គាលជាពិសេសអ្នកដែលមានចំណេះដឹងខ្ពស់(សមត្ថភាព)។ មនុស្សដែលមានការអប់រំខ្ពស់គឺជាគោលដៅទី 1 របស់របបខ្មែរក្រហម។ ដូច្នេះមនុស្សដែលមានចំណេះដឹងស្ទើរតែទាំងអស់បានសម្លាប់ដោយខ្មែរក្រហមប្រសិនបើពួកគេត្រូវបានរកឃើញ។ យ៉ាងហោចណាស់មនុស្ស 1,7 លាននាក់ត្រូវបានសម្លាប់នៅក្នុងរយៈពេល ឆ្នាំ ៨ខែ និង​ ២០​ថ្ងៃ មុនពេលរបបនេះត្រូវបានដួលរលំ។ ប្រទេសកម្ពុជាត្រូវចាប់ផ្តើមជីវិតថ្មីឡើងវិញ។ ខ្មែរក្រហមបានបំផ្លាញឯកសារសំខាន់ៗ​​​​ និងកំណត់ត្រាគ្រួសារទាំងអស់។ មនុស្សមួយចំនួនធំ រួមទាំងគ្រួសារខ្ញុំ និងអ្នកដទៃទៀតដែលបានឆ្លងកាត់របបដ៍គួរឱ្យសោកនាដកម្មមួយនេះ។ ពួកគាត់បានបាត់បង់សមាជិកគ្រួសារ ហើយអនុស្សាវរីយ៍ទាំងនោះបានដកជាប់នៅជាមួយពួកគេអស់រយៈពេលជាង 30 ឆ្នាំមកហើយ។ ទាំងនេះគឺជាអនុស្សាវរីយ៍ដ៏ក្រៀមក្រំចំពោះឪពុកម្តាយ ម្តាយមីង ឳពុកមា ជីដូនជីតានិងអ្នកដទៃជាពិសេសចំពោះអ្នកដែលធ្លាប់បានរស់នៅក្នុងស្ថានភាពដ៍លំបាកនោះ។ រាប់ទសវត្សមកហើយដែលប្រទេសកម្ពុជានៅតែមិនទាន់ផ្តល់យុត្តិធម៌ពេញលេញ និងការព្យាបាលដួងចិត្តសម្រាប់ជនរងគ្រោះពីអំពើប្រល័យពូជសាសន៍នៅឱ្យឡើយទេ។ ចាប់តាំងពីផលិតកម្មមួយបានចាប់ផ្ដើមផលិតខ្សែភាពយន្តមួយកាលពី 5 ឆ្នាំមុន។ ការចាក់ផ្សាយតាមទូរទស្សន៍ថា “វាគឺមិនមែនជាសុបិន្តបានបង្រួបបង្រួមសមាជិកគ្រួសារចំនួន 54 គ្រួសារ ដែលគ្រួសារទាំងនោះ ត្រូវបានបែកបាក់ពីសមាជិកគ្រួសាររបស់ខ្លួនដោយអំពើប្រល័យពូជសាសន៍នេះ។ ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋជាង 1500 នាក់បានស្វែងរកជំនួយ។ ខ្សែភាពយន្តនេះគ្រាន់តែជាឧទាហរណ៍មួយនៃរបៀបដែលសង្គមសម័យនោះត្រូវបានរងការប៉ះទង្គិចមកលើប្រទេសកម្ពុជា ហើយវាកំពុងចាប់ផ្តើមដិតដាមដោយការឈឺចាប់ក្នុងដួងចិត្តនៃប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្រដែលពួកគេធ្លាប់ជួបប្រទះ។លោកស្រី សេង ធារី មេធាវីសិទិ្ធមនុស្សដែលឪពុកម្តាយរបស់គាត់ត្រូវបានសម្លាប់ដោយរបបនេះ ហើយដែលបានផ្លាស់ទីលំនៅទៅសហរដ្ឋអាមេរិកជាជនភៀសខ្លួន។ មុនពេលវិលត្រឡប់ទៅស្រុកកំណើតរបស់គាត់វិញបាននិយាយថា “ស្លាកស្នាមរបស់របបខ្មែរក្រហមមានលក្ខណៈ ជ្រាលជ្រៅនិងប៉ះពាល់មករាងកាយហើយវាបន្តដក់ជាប់មកដល់ពេលបច្ចុប្បន្ននេះ” ។

  ជាបន្ទាប់ ទាំងនេះគឺជាហេតុផលចម្បងរបស់ខ្ញុំ ហើយវាបានជំរុញទឹកចិត្តខ្ញុំជួយខ្លួនឯងឱ្យក្លាយជាមនុស្សមិនគិតពីប្រយោជន៍ផ្ទាល់ខ្លួន ហើយបន្តជួយឪពុកម្តាយរបស់ខ្ញុំ និងប្រជាពលរដ្ឋកម្ពុជាដទៃទៀត។ ខ្ញុំសូមចែករំលែកបទពិសោធមួយចំនួនរបស់ខ្ញុំពីការស្ម័គ្រចិត្តជាមួយគម្រោងប្រវត្តិផ្ទាល់ខ្លួនរបស់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋកម្ពុជានៃសាកលវិទ្យាល័យព្រិកហាំយ៉ង់(BYU)។ “គម្រោងប្រវត្តិផ្ទាល់ខ្លួនរបស់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋកម្ពុជាបានចាប់ផ្ដើមប្រមូលសាច់រឿងរ៉ាវពីជំនាន់មួយទៅជំនាន់មួយទៀតនៃប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្រកម្ពុជាកាលពីអតីតកាល។ គម្រោងនេះត្រូវបានដំណើរការជាផ្លូវការនៅខែមករាឆ្នាំ 2016 នៅកម្ពុជា ហើយកំពុងព្យាយាមចងក្រងឯកសារអំពីជីវិតនិងរឿងរ៉ាវរបស់ប្រជាជននៅកម្ពុជានិងជាពិសេសប្រវត្តិឬ ជំនាន់ដែលមានអាយុកាលតាំងពីទសវត្សរ៍ឆ្នាំ 1950 និងឆ្នាំ 1960 ។នេះជាវេបសាយរបស់គម្រោងយើង( ដែលទាក់ទងនឹងប្រវត្តិសាស្ត្ររបស់គ្រួសារ។ ខ្ញុំមានឱកាសស្ម័គ្រចិត្តធ្វើជាអ្នកដឹកនាំមជ្ឈវ័យ (Peer leaders) ហើយដោយសារតែខ្ញុំបានធ្វើការយ៉ាងសកម្មសហការជាមួយអ្នកដឹកនាំដទៃទៀត ទាំងក្នុងស្រុកនិងអន្តរជាតិ។ ដូច្នេះកិច្ចខិតខំប្រឹងប្រែងរបស់នាងខ្ញុំបានទទួលជោគជ័យនៅពេលដែលខ្ញុំត្រូវបានតម្លើងឋានៈជាអ្នកសម្របសម្រួលជាតិសម្រាប់គម្រោងរបស់យើង ភារកិច្ចរបស់ខ្ញុំសម្រាប់គម្រោងនេះរួមសហការជាមួយអ្នកស្ម័គ្រចិត្តពេញម៉ោងសម្រាប់ការងារគម្រោងដែលមកពីសាកលវិទ្យាល័យព្រិកហាំយ៉ង់(BYU) ហើយលើការងារគ្រប់គ្រងសកម្មភាពប្រចាំថ្ងៃផ្សេងៗដែលទាក់ទងនឹងការងាររបស់គម្រោង និងការជួយដល់អ្នកដឹកនាំគម្រោងនិងអ្នកឯកទេសពិសេសទាក់ទងនឹងគ្រួសារ។ ខ្ញុំក៏ជួយក្នុងការជ្រើសរើស និងបណ្តុះបណ្តាលអ្នកស្ម័គ្រចិត្តក្នុងតំបន់ទាំងអស់ ហើយព្រមទាំងដោះស្រាយបញ្ហាមួយចំនួនដែលទាក់ទងទិន្នន័យសំភាសន៍ផងដែរ។ ខ្ញុំមានឱកាសធ្វើការដោយផ្ទាល់ជាមួយអ្នកស្ម័គ្រចិត្តពេញម៉ោងសម្រាប់ការងារគម្រោងដែលមកពីសាកលវិទ្យាល័យព្រិកហាំយ៉ង់(BYU)និងសរសេររបាយការណ៍ពីព័ត៌មានលំអិតដែរជាទម្រង់របាយការណ៍ប្រចាំសប្តាហ៍ទៅកាន់អ្នកដឹកនាំគម្រោង។ ក្រៅពីកាតព្វកិច្ចនេះខ្ញុំនៅតែបន្តរក្សាសម្ភាសន៍គ្រួសារខ្ញុំ អ្នកដែលមិនមែនសមាជិកព្រះវិហាសាសនាចក្រ និងសមាជិកព្រះវិហារសាសនាចក្ររបស់យើង។ ជាពិសេសខ្ញុំរីករាយជួយដល់ក្រុមគ្រួសាររបស់ប្រជាពលកម្ពុជាទាំងអស់ឱ្យរក្សាពីកំណត់ត្រាគ្រួសារផ្ទាល់របស់ពួកគេ។ ខ្ញុំក៏បន្តធ្វើប្រវត្តិគ្រួសាររបស់ខ្ញុំផងដែរ។ មេរៀនមួយដែលខ្ញុំបានរៀនពីគម្រោងនេះគឺជួយមនុស្សឱ្យរកឃើញសាច់រឿងដែលទាក់ទងទៅនឹងរបស់បុព្វបុរសរបស់ពួកគេផ្ទាល់។ ខ្ញុំចូលចិត្តស្ដាប់សាច់រឿងដែលទាក់ទងនឹងបទពិសោធ និងប្រវត្តិគ្រួសាររបស់ចាស់ព្រឹទ្ធចារ្យ។ ខ្ញុំសង្ឃឹមថាការងារនេះនឹងទទួលបានការចូលរួមពីមនុស្សកាន់តែច្រើនដើម្បីចែករំលែកប្រវត្តិគ្រួសារផ្ទាល់របស់ពួកគេ។ ខ្ញុំក៏សូមថ្លែងអំណរគុណផងដែរចំពោះសមាជិកព្រះវិហារសាសនាចក្រដែលមានទឹកចិត្តល្អ និងស្ម័គ្រចិត្តដើម្បីចំណាយពេលវេលាដ៏មានតម្លៃរបស់ពួកគេដើម្បីធ្វើការសម្ភាស និងចែករំលែករឿងរ៉ាវរបស់ពួកគេ។ វាពិតជាអស្ចារ្យណាស់ក្នុងការចូលរួមក្នុងគម្រោងមួយនេះ! វាជាបទពិសោធដ៍ល្អមួយសម្រាប់ខ្ញុំ។

នៅចុងបញ្ចប់! វាគួរឱ្យរំភើបសម្រាប់ការចុះទៅសួរសុខទុក្ខ Peer leaders) នៅទូទាំងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា។ ខ្ញុំបានរៀនដើម្បីប្រើជំនាញ ភាពជាអ្នកដឹកនាំរបស់ខ្ញុំ និងសហការជាមួយមនុស្សដទៃទៀត ហើយចេះធ្វើការសម្រេចចិត្តសម្រាប់សកម្មភាពមួយចំនួនរបស់គម្រោងយើង។ ខ្ញុំក៏ធ្លាប់ជួបប្រទះឧបសគ្គខ្លះៗក្នុងការគ្រប់គ្រងលើ អ្នកដឹកនាំមជ្ឈវ័យ (Peer leaders) ទាំងអស់ ក្នុងគម្រោងរបស់យើងផងដែរ។ Peer leaders ដែលខ្ញុំបានធ្វើការជាមួយគឺពួកគាត់នៅវ័យក្មេង ហើយពួកគាត់មកពីមជ្ឍដ្ឋានផ្សេងៗគ្នា និងកម្រិតវប្បធម៍ផ្សេងគ្នា។ ភាគច្រើនពួកគេកំពុងធ្វើការងារ ឬកំពុងសិក្សា ហើយមួយចំនួនខ្លះទៀតកំពុងធ្វើការងារផង នឹងកំពុងសិក្សាផងដែរ។ វាហាក់ដូចជាមានភាពមមាញឹកសម្រាប់ពួកគេ។ Peer leaders មួយចំនួនបានផ្អាកពីការធ្វើការជាមួយពួកយើងមួយរយៈសិនព្រោះពួកគេមានមូលហេតុចាំបាច់ផ្ទាល់ខ្លួន។ Peer leaders ជាច្រើនបន្តការងារជាមួយពួកយើង និងបន្តការអភិវឌ្ឍក្នុងការងារជាមួយពួកយើង ។ អ្នកស្ម័គ្រចិត្តមកពី (BYU) របស់យើង ហើយនិងខ្ញុំបានព្យាយាមធ្វើជាមិត្តជាមួយពួកគេ ហើយើងក៍ព្យាយាមបង្កើតឱ្យមានការធ្វើសកម្មភាពមួយចំនួនរួមគ្នា ការរៀបចំវគ្គបណ្តុះបណ្តាលវគ្គថ្មី ការរៀបចំផែនការរួមគ្នាថ្មីទៀត និងបានចុះទៅសួរសុខទុក្ខពួកគេតាមដែលយើងអាចធ្វើទៅបាន។ ឥឡូវនេះមាន Peer leaders និងPotential Peer Leadersជាច្រើន បានចូលរួមក្នុងវគ្គបណ្តុះបណ្តាលរបស់យើង។ ពួកគេបានរីករាយ និងទទួលបានអត្ថប្រយោជន៍ពីការស្វែងយល់ និងធ្វើការងារជាមួយគម្រោងរបស់យើង។ ខ្ញុំមានអារម្មណ៍ថាយើងទទួលបានជោគជ័យ និងកំពុងរីកលូតលាស់នៅលើការសម្ភាសន៍ និងការវាយអត្តបទនៃការសម្ភាសន៍ ។ អព្ភូតហេតុទាំងនេះកើតឡើងដោយសារយើងមានជំនឿ ហើយខិតខំធ្វើការយ៉ាងខ្លាំងតាមលទ្ធភាពដែលយើងអាចធ្វើទៅបាន។

សរុបមកគម្រោងនេះបានបង្កឱ្យមានភាពងាយស្រួលក្នុងការអភិវឌ្ឍន៍ជំនាញជាច្រើនក្នុងកំឡុងពេលធ្វើការងាររបស់យើង។ វាចាំបាច់ក្នុងការបង្ហាញពីអត្ថប្រយោជន៍នៃប្រវត្តិគ្រួសារផ្ទាល់ខ្លួនរបស់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋកម្ពុជាសម្រាប់ក្មេងជំនាន់ក្រោយ។ គម្រោងមួយនេះបានជួយខ្ញុំឱ្យក្លាយជាមនុស្សម្នាក់ដែលខ្ញុំចង់ធ្វើជានាពេលអនាគត់។ ខ្ញុំកាន់តែយល់ពីអត្ថន័យនៃជីវិតកាន់តែច្បាស់នៅពេលខ្ញុំចាប់ផ្ដើមធ្វើការងារមួយនេះ។ ខ្ញុំតែងតែរៀនសូត្រតាមរយៈសាច់រឿងតំណពីជំនាន់ មួយទៅមួយជំនាន់មួយទៀត ។ហើយវាបានធ្វើឱ្យខ្ញុំអភិវឌ្ឍនូវជំនាញខ្លះទៀតឱ្យមានភាពកាន់តែមានភាពប្រសើរឡើង និងបន្តឱ្យខ្ញុំមានឆន្ទៈខ្ពស់ក្នុងការកំណត់គោលដៅសិក្សារបស់ខ្ញុំនាពេលអនាគត។ ខ្ញុំក៏ទទួលបានជោគជ័យខ្លះនៅក្នុងការបញ្ចប់វិញ្ញាបនប័ត្រមួយចំនួនទាំងនៅក្នុងស្ថាប័នសិក្សារបស់ក្រសួងអប់រំ និងស្ថាប័នអន្តរជាតិផងដែរ។ សមិទ្ធផលទាំងនេះជម្រុញឱ្យខ្ញុំបន្តឆ្ពោះទៅមុខដើម្បីទទួលបានបទពិសោធបន្ថែមទៀតពីសាកលវិទ្យាល័យអន្តរជាតិ។ កាលពីឆ្នាំមុនសាកលវិទ្យាល័យព្រិកហាំយ៉ង់ហាវ៉ៃ(BYU-Hawaii )បានចាប់ផ្តើមអនុញ្ញាតឱ្យសមាជិកកម្ពុជាដាក់ពាក្យសុំអាហារូបករណ៍។ ខ្ញុំបានកំណត់គោលដៅរបស់ខ្ញុំដើម្បីចូលរៀននៅ BYU-Hawaii ខ្ញុំបានខិតខំប្រឹងប្រែងយ៉ាងខ្លាំងក្នុងការដាក់ពាក្យសុំនិងបានរៀបចំរបស់ខ្ញុំដើម្បីក្លាយជានិស្សិតនៅទីនោះដែលគឺជាក្តីសុបិន្តដ៏អស្ចារ្យមួយដែលខ្ញុំបាននឹកស្រមៃសម្រាប់ជីវិតរបស់ខ្ញុំនាពេលអនាគត។


*តាំងពីខែមេសា ឆ្នាំ ២០១៧ កញ្ញា កែវ សុមាលី បានបំរើការងារជាអ្នកសម្របសម្រួលជាតិសម្រាប់គម្រោង ហើយនាងរស់នៅក្នុងរាជធានីភ្នំពេញ និងជានិស្សិតនៅសាកលវិទ្យាល័យបញ្ញាសាស្ត្រនៃកម្ពុជា។ នាងធ្លាប់ជាអ្នក project peer leader ដ៏សកម្មម្នាក់កំឡុងពេលឆ្នាំមុន ហើយក៏រួមធ្វើការងារជាមួយអ្នកស្ម័គ្រចិត្តដទៃទៀតដើម្បីរៀបចំគោលការណ៍ជាពិសេសសម្រាប់គម្រោង ។នាងបានធ្វើការសម្ភាសន៍ផ្ទាល់ខ្លួនជាមួយសមាជិកគ្រួសាររបស់នាងជាច្រើនផងដែរ។




New Volunteer Coordinator

On the departure of Thomas Anthony to Cambodia to serve as intern, the project has brought on Sarah Collins to handle the volunteer efforts and to help coordinate media efforts.  Sarah grew up in Lindon, Utah, and has been attending Brigham Young University for two years. She served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 18 months in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. There she learned to speak the Cambodian language of Khmer. Sarah enjoys working on this project and has been personally inspired to continue to do her own research in order to progress this work and contribute to the Khmer people’s history.

Welcome Sarah and bon voyage Thomas!



A Deeper Understanding

Samuel Osborne*

When serving as an LDS missionary in Cambodian, a young boy approached my companion and me during a church meeting, asking us to teach the gospel to his mother. I had no idea of the relationship that was about to form. This boy had recently been baptized a member of the LDS church and felt the excitement and happiness that the gospel brings to those who abide by its teachings. He wanted to share his joy with his family, especially his mother who had played such a supportive role in his life.

His mom was an outgoing and bubbly lady. She was always happy to have visitors in her home, especially the missionaries. Being raised a practicing Buddhist, she was hesitant at first to accept what my companion and I were teaching but soon she became interested and–––like her son–––was baptized. Getting to know her was a tremendous blessing for me. For months, we would meet at her house and chat and exchange stories. To this day I still call her mother and she calls me her son. But even after all those meetings there were some things about her past that I didn’t know because they never came up in our conversations. It wasn’t until I joined the Cambodian Oral History Project that I was able to hear stories about her childhood that gave me and even deeper understanding of this great friend of mine.

I learned about her experiences in the Pol Pot regime with her family and how lucky she is to be alive right now. I learned about her inclination towards Christianity as a young girl but also how her parents wouldn’t allow her to associate with Christians. I learned about her wedding, which occurred at the same time as 20 other couples as they all lined up and grasped the hand of a person they had only met seconds before. Knowing this information changed my view dramatically of a woman I deeply cared about.

The history recorded by this project will surely give the world a better broad understanding of Cambodia. But for me, what I am most grateful for about this project is the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the lives of the people I loved so much while serving them for two years.

*Sam Osborne is a former Cambodia LDS missionary and COHP assistant. 

June 2017 Project Updates

In the two and a half years since the formal launch of the project in January 2015, we have seen amazing progress. Bellow are some of the progress by the numbers:

Benchmarks and accomplishments 

* 512 audio interviews in Cambodia
* 18 video interviews in Cambodia
* 2 US refugee video interviews
* 5 student interns (4 BYU Cambodia RMs and 1 other RM)
* Approximately 100 local Cambodian LDS peer leaders
* A local Cambodian LDS church member assistant
* 30-40 RM volunteers (BYU and outside)
* Creation of Youtube channel
* Creation and development of project website (
* Outreach to  and involvement with BYU faculty and students interested in personal histories (e.g., folklore, family history, and anthropology,), including use in writing classes.
* Coordination with Cambodia Family History missionaries

Current Project Foci

* Continue with interview collection (2017 interview goal of hitting the 900 mark)
* Transcriptions
* Translations
* Increase number of video interviews
* Tagging for topics and search functions
* Improvement of website
* Adding a second intern in Northern Cambodia
* More cooperation with US refugee/immigrant communities (SLC and Long Beach, CA)

Thanks to the many project supporters and volunteers!

Dana S. Bourgerie
Project Director
June 23, 2017

New Project Staff



Our current intern, Wesley Crump, is returning to the U.S. and to his studies at Brigham Young University. During his tenure there the project collected around 100 interviews, toward the current number of 314. We are grateful for his hard work in Cambodia and as a volunteer coordinator on the BYU campus. He will continue to be involved in the project.

Beginning late this month, Bryan Brittain will take Wesley’s place in Cambodia as an intern. Like Wesley, Bryan is a former Cambodia LDS missionary. ] He is currently a BYU student from Camus, Washington studying Pre-Business Management (Entrepreneurship). He has worked as an intern with the Cambodia Job Foundation, has taught art and piano, and has started on on-line publishing company.


Cambodian Volunteer Coordinator

This month we also brought on board a local Cambodian Coordinator, Keo Somaly. Somaly lives in Phnom Penh and has studied at Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia ( PUC ). She has been active as a project peer leader during the last year and has worked with interns to advance the aims of the project. She has personally interviewed a number of her own family members.

What We Can Learn from the Histories

McKall Harris
Project Volunteer
Brigham Young Univeristy

I have loved being involved with the Cambodian Oral History Project. I think it’s really easy for us to view other people and cultures as completely different than ourselves. We often forget how much we really have in common.

As a former missionary in Cambodia and now as a volunteer for this project, I have come to love the Khmer people. It’s easy to make large, overarching generalizations about specific countries. When people hear about Cambodia, they first think of the Khmer Rouge. Although that is a major part of Cambodia’s history and of the lives of the Khmer people, there is also so much more to these people than just that short period of time in their history.

As I have listened to the stories of Cambodians, I have come to realize that there is much more to them than just memories of the Khmer Rouge. They tell stories of their childhood and their parents, of their studies and their friends. It surprises me how much we really have in common. Many of these people experienced incredible stress in school and spent endless hours trying to learn other languages. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Many of them experienced heartbreak when they had to move houses or when the person they wanted to marry didn’t want to marry them. Hasn’t that happened at least once in our lives?

Within these oral histories, there are definitely sad, heart-wrenching stories. But there are definitely an equal number of heartwarming and happy stories that speak volumes about the resilience and positivity of these people. These stories have allowed me to look beyond broad generalization and have allowed me to really see people. People with lives and families, and yes, a very difficult past. But people who have many of the same fears and stresses and problems as I do. As I have learned more about them and about each of their individual stories, my love for them has grown. I have found greater strength from seeing their commitment and strength. Many of these stories have never been heard before. The Khmer people are willing and anxious to share their experiences and the things they have learned throughout their lives, and this has been an amazing opportunity for me to learn from the things they have shared. This has been an immensely valuable and touching project for me to participate in. I hope that as more people are able to view and read these stories, they will feel an increased love toward and understanding of the Khmer people as well as increased strength to face their own problems.


New Volunteer Coordinator

We would like to introduce a new project team member, Thomas Anthony, who will be coordinating volunteer work. He is studying geospatial intelligence at Brigham Young University, with a minor in Asian Studies. His hobbies include sports, hiking, learning Cambodian, and music. He served an LDS mission in Cambodia from 2013-2015. Please contact him if you are interested in volunteering. We have a critical need for both transcription and Khmer to English translation. Any level of help would be greatly appreciated!

Mentoring Grant and Positions Available

We are pleased to announce that the Cambodia Oral History Project was recently awarded a Brigham Young University “Mentoring Environment Grant (MEG)” for the year 2017. The Office of Research & Creative Activities sponsors these annual grants to facilitate undergraduate work with faculty on research, field studies, or creative projects. This grant, along with a generous anonymous private sector grant in 2016, will allow us to expand collection of interviews by involving more students in the process. We now have approximately 220 interviews that need transcription, translation, and editing. If you are interested in volunteering–––whether it be for one interview or many––please contact our volunteer coordinator.

In addition to the volunteer opportunities, there are several position opportunities for current Brigham Young University students:

  1. Webmaster.

Web development and maintenance; Knowledge of Word Press preferred, but we will consider training if you have technical aptitude and related skills. Knowledge of Khmer helpful.

  1. Technical editor

Video/audio editing and technical enhancement; Managing digital archive; Video sub-titling.

  1. Transcription/Translation Assistant

Managing transcription and translation process. Advanced Khmer language abilities.


For more information contact Project Director, Dr. Dana Bourgerie.




Some Impressions on Remembering

Wesley Crump

As project assistant to the Cambodian Oral History Project, I have had the opportunity to listen to many of the interviews on this website. I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing the stories. Having served two years in Cambodia as a volunteer missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the voices and stories I have listened to bring back many memories of my time there. I have chosen to share a few brief thoughts that I have had while listening.

One of the first things that I noticed in the interviews was a theme of remembrance. They recall things like the name of their primary schools, but often not the age of their parents, or even the names of their grandparents. I have wondered why the difference.

I think that Cambodians don’t remember birthdays because culturally it isn’t very important to know exactly what day they were born. Many, if not most, Cambodians still count age according to the Khmer New Year–––on New Year’s Day, they are one year older–––simple as that. I think that because of this way of reckoning birthdays, many people–––especially the older generations–––don’t remember exactly when they were born.

With respect to the names of their grandparents and other relatives, I think that a good number of them might not have ever known their grandparents’ names because Cambodian culture requires that you call everyone, and especially kin, by their title—whether that’s brother, sister, older aunt, grandma, or grandpa. I believe that this practice of using kinship terms affects whether they remembered family names or not.

What fascinated me was that most people seemed to be able to recall the name of their first school, but not granddad’s name. As to why they, almost unanimously, remember the name of their primary school, my thoughts tend to wax a little more abstract. I believe that as children, we do not really know what worrying is like. We do not yet understand true anxiety. Most of us haven’t been introduced to real evil as little children. I think that the interviewees are no exception to these general statements. But for many of the interviewees their childhood was interrupted or cut short by the events of the Khmer Rouge period. During that time, they all came to know what worrying was. They all came to understand true anxiety, and they all came in very close contact with true evil. Because of these experiences, I tend to believe that those seemingly carefree days as youth became even more vividly burned into their memories. Having seen both sides now, they are quick to recall those memories from the days of light before the darkest of times came.

While all the interviews have essentially the same set of questions, the responses vary greatly in both subject matter and detail. Some interviews include funny snippets of their lives, like But Lumang, who tells the story of how he first met his wife because he dialed the wrong telephone number. Others include sentiments of true love, like Nou Vary’s, who tells of her husband stealing shoes from a Khmer Rouge guard on their wedding day so that his wife could get married in shoes. While many went through terrible ordeals during the Khmer Rouge era, Chea Raet’s story stood out to me as particularly horrific. She was told that her children were being taken away “to learn”, but after seeing their clothing and belongings on other children, she knew they had been killed. She cried out that she didn’t want to live if her kids died, and the guards told her that her day was coming. The day they planned to kill her was the very day that the Vietnamese troops came in and freed the Cambodian people. The Khmer Rouge guards had already taken and tried to kill her and toss her into a hole of other victims, but she regained consciousness in the hole and cried out until some Vietnamese soldiers heard and pulled her out.

Stories like these are not easy to forget.

Despite, and maybe because of, the many terrible things that these people went through, a common theme in the interviews, and in my experience with the Cambodian people in general is that of a longing for peace. Because of their war-torn history, their greatest desire, both nationally and personally, is simply to be sokh and sabbay—‘healthy’ and ‘happy.’ I find this desire both simple and admirable. The “essentials” can indeed be the luxuries.


*Wesley Crump is a former COHP project assistant and Cambodian intern. He also served as   a volunteer LDS Cambodia missionary.