Cross Post: Jim Rose When two refugees from the Khmer Rouge found paradise on Earth

When a Cambodian man and his pregnant wife, having fled the Khmer Rouge, were on the bus from Sydney Airport, they quickly concluded that they were in paradise. They slept on top of the blankets of the neatly made bed at the migrant hostel in 1978 because they did not want to get into any trouble for messing up the bed and be sent back to hell. Such was their ingrained fear of arbitrary power and victimisation.

After a few weeks, they stopped stealing the sauces and other condiments from the dining hall at the hostel because they realised that the food would keep coming and there was no need to hoard. They then started to act as mentors to incoming refugees assuring them that they could sleep under the blankets, and the food would arrive three times a day, every day.

When the Salvation Army helped them and their new baby into a house in suburban Sydney, the Salvos were very embarrassed about the furniture they managed to find for them.

The Cambodian couple thought they were in paradise again. The house and furniture were better than anything they had seen in a middle-class home in their own country.

After a few years of hard work, the father saved enough to open an electrical retailing franchise store in the suburbs.

The mother went to the store one afternoon to fill in for an absent worker.

She did not come back for 7-years.

She was great at bargaining with fellow refugees. She knew that her fellow refugees only had a certain amount of money, and she bargained to find out what that was. She wrapped the goods up tightly because she knew that they took public transport home.

The word spread that her store was a good place for a bargain, and the store prospered.

Their daughter grew up to be a lawyer and wrote one of the best autobiographies I have read.

I had some Cambodian friends at graduate school in Japan in 1995 to 1997. Friendly, kind people despite growing up in hell.

They also gave me great insight into the blinding power of nationalism.

Two Cambodian friends, educated urbane people, referred to the time after the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia as when they were a Vietnamese colony.

Another Cambodian, who no one liked, when he annoyed his Vietnamese class mates too much, they would say, “Remember 1979.”

This taunt would throw this Cambodian into a fit of nationalist pique. He raged against the invasion.

If any country would have benefited from an invasion from hell, it would have been Cambodia under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge by 1979. At least, the Devil waits for you to die before he torments you.

Original posted here.

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35 Responses to Cross Post: Jim Rose When two refugees from the Khmer Rouge found paradise on Earth

  1. Jannie

    And they named their son Tim and sent him to a private school.

  2. J.H.

    “The blinding power of Nationalism”

    Wrong. The blinding power of Socialism…. Not Nationalism. The Khmer Rouge were a Communist movement, not a Nationalist movement. While all political movements within a nation state are essentially “Nationalist”, they are ideologically diverse.

    So the common thread of Nationalism is not the cause of violence, it is the power structures of the political ideologies that use the ready made alliances and affections of national identity that are.

    Socialism is the ideology of deceit. It promises Freedom, Equality and Plenty…. but instead subjugates the individual to be subservient to the State, promotes inequality for political purposes and fails the population with famines, dispossession and forced migration.

    Everytime Socialism rears its ugly ideological head within the nation state….. disaster follows. Venezuela is just the latest example. Another Nation to embrace Socialism….. another failure.

  3. lotocoti

    J.H. you seemed to have missed the point entirely.

  4. jupes

    They also gave me great insight into the blinding power of nationalism.

    Yeah because who wouldn’t rejoice at becoming a communist Vietnamese colony.

    If only this country had a good dose of nationalism. Imagine having leaders and a populous who are proud of and willing to defend Australia.

    Instead not only do we teach our kids to be ashamed of our history, but we encourage barbarians to come and live here.

  5. Cradock's Choice

    And the same let-wingers who always lie about ‘socialism has never been done right’ put teh Khmer Rouge down the same memory hole as they do now with venezuela and Zimbabwe.

    They are all cases of socialism doing exactly what it is designed to do.

    Socialism is lazy, bone-idle losers deciding to vote themselves the ability to kill you and steal your stuff.

    Nothing else.

  6. dweezy2176

    I really, really enjoy all this feel-good reading about migrants warms the cockles of me ‘eart! Probably, ‘cos I may be the only cat reader who lives in one of the multicultural cess-pits that litter the city landscape …. never mind .. keep ’em comin’ .. rose-coloured glimpses of the real world to keep me amused!
    Of course, there are make good tales for every cultural background but when you live in this demograph rest assured there are more, lots more bludgers, rorters and welfare hand-outs than genuine make goods. Singling out the, occasional, rags to riches episode doesn’t change the broad pitcher!

  7. dweezy2176

    Should have asked the question ……. Bing Lee ?

  8. Driftforge

    I really, really enjoy all this feel-good reading about migrants warms the cockles of me ‘eart! Probably, ‘cos I may be the only cat reader who lives in one of the multicultural cess-pits that litter the city landscape …. never mind .. keep ’em comin’ .. rose-coloured glimpses of the real world to keep me amused!

    Makes me think that there may well be a way to make Dot’s dotty ‘migrate for cash’ scheme viable. Set a limit of 3% of the population as ‘migrant’. Anyone (excluding Presbyterian’s and others with a tendency to self immolate) can be one of those 3%; they just have to hold one of the existing residency licences. And each year they are charged the current value of the residency license.

    Of course, the government could use the same scheme to buy their way out of the mess all this immigration is getting us into, and get back to a perpetually viable 3%.

  9. stackja

    dw – ADB says Bing Lee born 1908 in China. Died 1987. Similar story though.

  10. Antonin D

    From my verandah, I look out to the north and see a once-good suburb well on its way to becoming a multi-multicultural dive. Occasional rags-to-riches stories are just that . . occasional.

  11. Oh come on

    The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and overthrow of the Khmer Rouge regime is one of the rare foreign policy acts committed by a communist regime that can be justified on moral grounds. Not saying that Hanoi wasn’t expecting to get something out of its investment or were seeking justice for the victims of the killing fields. Of course it wasn’t. However, the Vietnamese puppet it installed was far preferable to the Khmer Rouge.

    Additionally, it seems likely that Vietnamese losses would have been considerably reduced in the Sino-Vietnamese War if the bulk of the battle-hardened and highly capable Vietnamese military wasn’t in Cambodia mopping up Pol Pot’s forces and installing an alternative government.

    Of course, you could argue that the Chinese wouldn’t have invaded Vietnam if Vietnam didn’t topple the KR, a Chinese client regime, but then again, the motivations for the Chinese invasion of Vietnam are murkier than they might seem and it’s perfectly feasible that China would have taken some sort of punitive measure against Vietnam in any event.

  12. duncanm

    The Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and overthrow of the Khmer Rouge regime is one of the rare foreign policy acts committed by a communist regime that can be justified on moral grounds

    yeh – except the Khmer were allied to the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam war, and were also communists.

  13. Oh come on

    One thing about the Sino-Vietnamese War that I’ve never understood is the Chinese insistence that they only used ground forces – the inference being that had the PLAAF and PLAN been involved, the outcome of the conflict would have been a far more decisive Chinese victory. This is just bizarre. The Vietnamese had the latest Soviet air defences and aircraft with experienced crews, whilst the PLAAF was scraping by on 1950s technology acquired prior to the Sino-Soviet split. The PLAAF was no match for the Vietnamese air force in 1979, let alone Vietnamese air defences.

    It’s hard to see what significant role the PLAN could have played in the conflict that would avoid drawing in the vastly better equipped Soviet Navy.

    And the Chinese military overall was still reeling from the highly corrosive impact of the Cultural Revolution.

    I just can’t see how the Chinese could win in 1979 without resorting to their nuclear arsenal, which probably would have resulted in a Soviet nuclear strike in response.

    Hence the speculation that the invasion was more about Deng consolidating his power base and buying the political capital needed to modernise the PLA – which was described as having “short arms and short legs” after the Chinese withdrawal from Vietnam.

  14. Oh come on

    yeh – except the Khmer were allied to the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam war, and were also communists.

    True but mostly when the KR was an insurgent force fighting the US-backed Lon Nol regime. The Viets had well and truly fallen out with Pol Pot by the time he embarked upon his genocidal program.

  15. Neilo

    History is in the eye of the beholder.
    I’m not quibbling with any CAT because it’s just far too complicated for anyone, even the locals, to know ALL the facts and causes of various conflicts that occurred. I lived in Cambodia in 2014/15 and it was remarkable when speaking to very many of the young (18-30 cohort), educated or not, that believe Hun Sen is a VN puppet and gave the “21 Provinces” .. that area being the entire Mekong Delta .. to the Vietnamese in exchange for power.
    VN did take/absorb the Mekong Delta from Cambodia(and yes, France was also involved) .. but a couple hundred or more years prior .. but they cannot be convinced other than it was a recent event.
    Facebook now shapes their view of history, present and future.

  16. stackja

    OCO – NV were not kind to dissidents.

  17. duncanm

    I’m not sure ‘the blinding power of nationalism’ is the lesson to learn from Cambodia — except to note that the ‘blinded’ appear to be well educated and variously wealthy.

    Lets see — the major players in the Khmer Kampuchean government (according to Wiki)

    Pol Pot – Failed engineering student, marxist, from a moderately wealthy family. Studied in Paris.

    Nuon Chea – Chief ideologist of the Khmer, communist, helped orchestrate the North Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia to force the fall of the Lol Non government.

    Ieng Sary – Studied in Paris with Pol, communist, marxist

    Son Sen- failed teaching student (Paris), marxist, etc..

    Khieu Samphan – PhD in economics (Paris), blamed the poverty of the third world on rich western countries, University post in Cambodia,

    The sisters, Khieu Ponnary and Khieu Thirith (married to Pol and Ieng respectively) also have a lot to answer for. Oh – they’re wealthy Cambodians who also studied in Paris.

    Basically – a bunch of moderately wealthy, marxist intellectuals (failed).

    We are swimming in idiots cut from the same cloth at this very moment.

  18. Oh come on

    Well aware of that, stack. But nothing they did comes close to the Cambodian genocide.

  19. Oh come on

    I think there’s a point whereby a government goes so far off the reservation in terms of inhumanity that its overthrow by any foreign force is morally justifiable, assuming that the invading power intends to set up a regime that behaves in a less inhumane manner. The Khmer Rouge easily surpassed that point IMO, and the invading Vietnamese forces undeniably installed a far less barbarous government after toppling Pol Pot.

  20. Oh come on

    Stalinist what, stack?

  21. jupes

    I think there’s a point whereby a government goes so far off the reservation in terms of inhumanity that its overthrow by any foreign force is morally justifiable, assuming that the invading power intends to set up a regime that behaves in a less inhumane manner. The Khmer Rouge easily surpassed that point IMO, and the invading Vietnamese forces undeniably installed a far less barbarous government after toppling Pol Pot.

    All true.

    Nevertheless, you cannot expect that the Cambodians would be happy to be living in a Vietnamese puppet state after the removal of Pol Pot.

    It would a similar feeling to the experience of Eastern European countries who were liberated by the Soviets in WW2. A (very) short sense of relief followed by the realisation that you are now living under a tyrant.

  22. Yohan

    Many years ago, I can remember watching an ABC documentary about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge. After that 90 minutes I still had no clue what it was about and why the killings occurred. The ABC editors even used some poor Cambodian farmers who said ‘why did they kill us? Why?’, then at the end an ABC voiceover intoned ‘nobody knows why’.

    It wasn’t until I did my own research I quickly found it was Marxist socialism, that’s why. Trust the ABC to cover and obfuscate for an ideology that killed 1/4 population of an entire country.

  23. Oh come on

    Nevertheless, you cannot expect that the Cambodians would be happy to be living in a Vietnamese puppet state after the removal of Pol Pot.

    I’d say most Cambodians were and are far too impoverished to worry about such niceties. When you genuinely don’t know where your next meal’s coming from, you probably aren’t too concerned about who the leader of your country is, let alone who is pulling his strings.

  24. OldOzzie

    Bing Lee’s son, Michael married blonde Australian girl, kids pure aussie, her parnents moved from street above to next door- great example of Integration.

  25. Stimpson J. Cat

    Yes.
    Australia is paradise.

  26. .

    I’ve learnt that you don’t send kids to Paris to study. I’m only half joking.

  27. notafan

    I’ve read Loung Ung.

    Sounds like bog standard communism to me.

    And one guy didn’t like the Vietnamese, point?

  28. NewChum

    I knew a girl who was a talented artist from the US Midwest. Went to study in Paris.

    Last sighting had a pink pussy hat and angry expression on its face.

    Don’t send your kids to Paris.

  29. NewChum

    Oh, and nationalism is an entirely healthy and normal state of affairs.

    Adding socialism to nationalism is bad.

    Adding socialism to globalism is bad.

    Adding socialism is bad.

    There are good refugees but it’s hard to screen for them. The precautionary principle says we should accept few, if any, and immediately return entire families if one of them is bad.

  30. rickw

    How do you get the “killing fields”?

    You disarm everyone.

    This and the fact that socialism sucks (again) are about the only useful lessons that can be extracted from Cambodia’s hellish past.

  31. Dr Fred Lenin

    Those people were an embarrasment to present day migrants mworking hard ,saving money not relying on government handouts and socialist workers . the muslim and africans of today could teach ,they take lessons in their home cpuntries them how to rort the system ,they take lessons in their home countries before they come here , That story shoukd never have been allowed it places todays bludging migrants in a bad light ,and is contrary to u.n. Communist plans for one world unelected government for destroying western civilisation ,by flooding them with illiterate stone age “refugees ” .

  32. .

    There are good refugees but it’s hard to screen for them. The precautionary principle says we should accept few, if any, and immediately return entire families if one of them is bad.

    LOLOL, go and join the greens.

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