Wednesday, January 27, 2016

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

Vaddey Ratner basically writes about a young child Raami - the daughter of a minor Cambodian prince - and her family's sufferings during the Khmer Rouge's rule of Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. Although the book is a fiction, Raami's ordeal was, I understand, in most respects the author's. It is one of the most heart-rending books that I have read. I have read the book Killing Fields and watched its movie, but Ratner's is certainly more touching.

I first visited Cambodia in 1995 and was taken to see one of the regime's former torture chambers. Skulls were piled up and pictures of the victims were displayed for one to see. The impact was not as profound as the book is having on me now. The author made feel as if I was there to witness the cruelty of the regime with my own eyes! Loved ones died one by one, as a result of the regime's callous and misplaced Utopian ideology, and in spite of the race's Buddhist spiritual foundations over the centuries. A very powerful book indeed!

Her writing was superb, but it is not what I want to say here. I have never thought much of the atrocities that Khmer Rouge had inflicted on their own people. I had always be a little leftist or socialistic all my life. Since the Khmer Rouge victory was basically a peasant-driven initiative, and the fact that it had the support of China and ASEAN then, I thought they were the legitimate party to rule Cambodia. How wrong had I been!

Unfortunately, you are still seeing similar sad scenes being rolled out in West Asia today.

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