Baylor University Institute for Oral History

Sichan Siv

Baylor University Institute for Oral History
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0:20 - Early memories in Cambodia

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Subjects: Siv's book "Golden Bones: An Extraordinary Journey from Hell in Cambodia to a New Life in America," father and brother being part of the police force, working for the national airlines in Cambodia, travelling to China during the peak of the Cultural Revolution, Phnom Penh, Khmer Rouge


Hyperlink: Phnom Penh
3:21 - Life after the death of his father 4:18 - Intense schooling

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Subjects: French rule of Cambodia, visit of Vice President Richard Nixon, examinations


Hyperlink: French Protectorate of Cambodia
6:13 - Being official mourner of the family

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Subjects: Buddhists, cremation, building a funeral temple

7:37 - Helping provide for his family

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Subjects: collecting water, cooking with his mother

8:49 - Life in a village

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Subjects: listening to the radio, Cambodian broadcasts, Voice of America, finishing primary schooling in 1961, college, lycée, baccalaureate deuxième partie

10:58 - Desire to be a diplomat

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Subjects: working as a flight attendant, going to law school and liberal arts school in the evenings, Singapore, Indonesia

12:55 - Political climate in the 1960s

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Subjects: peaceful, stable, gaining independence from France, grandes écoles, Nixon's visit to Cambodia, Viet Cong, North Vietnamese attack Cambodia


Hyperlink: Cambodia gaining its independence from France
14:47 - Becoming aware of political instability

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Subjects: Viet Cong attacking Cambodian airport in 1971, terrorism, rockets, CARE relief organization helping refugees from the war torn countryside


Hyperlink: Viet Cong attacking Cambodian airport in 1971
16:43 - Khmer Rouge using anti-French sentiment

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Subjects: desire to go to France to get a diploma, Khmer Rouge, brainwashing young people


Hyperlink: Khmer Rouge
20:05 - Decision to work for CARE

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Subjects: École normale supérieure, becoming a teacher in Cambodia, Phnom Penh, CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere), NGOs (non-governmental organizations)

22:57 - Working with CARE 24:07 - Rising danger of the Khmer Rouge 26:45 - Deciding to miss the last helicopter out of Cambodia

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Subjects: United States Embassy, meeting with governor of Kampong Speu, road being cut by the North Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge

28:35 - Khmer Rouge overtaking Phnom Penh

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Subjects: writing for the New York Times, "Last Breakfast in Cambodia," Red Cross, Hotel Le Royal as a international Red Cross neutral zone, finding his brother in the chaos, French Embassy, interpreting for the Red Cross, Europeans, Asians


Hyperlink: Last Breakfast in Cambodia article
32:55 - Securing safety

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Keywords: "No matter what happens, never give up hope."

Subjects: Leaving his family, family heirlooms (his mother's wedding ring, a scarf, and a bag of rice)

34:57 - Fleeing after the Khmer Rouge took power

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Subjects: travelling to his father's village, Thailand, Vietnam


Hyperlink: Communism in Vietnam
36:10 - Biking towards Thailand

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Subjects: using falsified documents to get through Khmer Rouge checkpoints, throwing away his glasses, avoiding speaking French, Parrot’s Beak region in Cambodia

38:46 - Capture by the Khmer Rouge

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Subjects: truck driver saving his life, transfer to a slave labor camp, Killing Fields

39:50 - Work in the Labor Camp

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Keywords: "There were only two kinds of people under the Khmer Rouge; those who had died and those who would die."

Subjects: rice fields, digging irrigation canals, planting and harvesting rice, demolishing and building houses, building barracks

42:29 - Working close to the Thai border

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Subjects: 1976, picking up timber along the Thai border, operating a crane, escape, being caught in a booby trap

45:48 - Escaping to Thailand

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Subjects: jailed in Thailand for illegal entry, blessing by Buddhist monks

47:21 - Life in the refugee camp

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Subjects: Teaching English classes in the refugee camp, depression, UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency)

49:00 - Process of being transferred out of refugee camp

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Subjects: Australia, New Zealand, UK, France, Sri Lanka, Connecticut family sponsoring Siv's journey to the U.S., learning of the death of his entire family

51:32 - Coming to America

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Subjects: Utilizing his English skills, apple picking in Connecticut, cooking burgers, scooping ice cream, driving a taxi in New York, statistician

56:08 - Rising to work at the White House

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Subjects: Scholarship to Columbia University, meeting the Reagans, involvement in President's Bush campaign, service as deputy assistant to the president (liaison between the president and the American people), George H.W. Bush's loss to Bill Clinton

61:46 - Working as and ambassador to the U.N.

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Subjects: language abilities, 911 attack, work with the United Nations, thankfulness, faith, family, friends, and freedom

67:06 - Thoughts on the International Tribunal in Cambodia

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Keywords: "Victims become victimized again."

Subjects: International Tribunal, French, Australians, Japanese, expense of the tribunal, crime against humanity


Hyperlink: International Tribunal for Cambodia
71:04 - Returning to Cambodia

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Subjects: Returning to Cambodia in 1992 as a U.S. official, bringing his wife to Cambodia in 1994, impunity and injustice still stirring in Cambodia, violence surrounding elections, gap between the rich and the poor, corruption breeding poverty

73:46 - Sharing his story

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Subjects: "Golden Bones" his autobiography, gratification, satisfaction, dream to be a diplomat