My mum was pregnant with my late youngest sister in 1983. Dad took her to Phnom Penh, the Capital City, to prepare for the delivery. They left my younger brother and me with an uncle who stayed with us. He was in his early 20s at that time.
At that time, there was frequent fighting between the Cambodian government’s soldiers and the remaining Pol Pot’s soldiers. In Pursat province, especially, it became a habit to have dinner at 4pm because we did not know when the Pol Pot’s soldiers might attack our village. The early dinner would help us to go into hiding without starvation. Occasionally, the Pol Pot’s soldiers came to villages to take rice, food, and weapons.
One night, while my parents were in Phnom Penh,fire was exchanged between soldiers from both sides. When we heard the first shot, my uncle, my brother and I woke up. We knew immediately what was happening and where to go. I clung to my uncle’s neck while he grabbed my brother. He rushed to the wooden step which was about 10m above the ground. While he made his way across the step I heard his laugh which confused me because I did not expect that he would laugh in such a frightening situation.
As soon as he reached the ground, he crawled into our protecting zone, the stronghold which was right under the step. It was cold down there. I am not sure whether I was scared or not but I remember how eager I was to have a look at the flying fire which ran quickly from both directions.
Many years later while writing this, I still hear the sound of the battle field. Since it happened so often, I grew used to it and was not too scared. That is why I could enjoy watching the fire.
After it became quiet, we understood that the fighting was over. However, we would wait at least another 30 minutes to make sure that it really stopped and it was safe to go home again. Then we went up and continued our sleep.
The next morning, my uncle told me something which I remember until now. He said, “Mom (my nickname) next time please do not cling to my neck because it is my most sensitive area. I laughed and then I understood why he laughed when I grabbed his neck.
I told my tutor my story at our lunchtime meeting. She opened her eyes widely and said “it was such a scary childhood you had”. I did not agree with her though. For some reason, the fighting of that night did not make me scared at all but I could not really explain why.