Sunday, April 22, 2007

Kong Nay under the spotlight

As I reported a couple of months ago, WOMAD, the music festival that encourages & expounds music, arts and dance from around the globe, will be held near Malmesbury in Wiltshire, UK on 27-29 July this year and amongst the 70+ artists that will perform, two Cambodian master musicians, Kong Nay and Ouch Savy, will join the event. Kong Nay, is the famous blind musician whose appearance is dominated by thick dark sunglasses and a toothy, face-splitting grin. To maximise Kong Nay's visit to the UK, there are plans afoot for a series of concerts featuring Kong Nay and Ouch Savy, alongside a screening of the film, The Flute Player. I'll provide the full schedule as soon as I get it but its hoped appearances will take place in Norwich on 19 July then Reading, Bristol, WOMAD festival, Cardiff, London, Glasgow and Oxford. The film, The Flute Player is a documentary from 2003 that highlights the efforts of Arn Chorn-Pond to keep alive traditional Cambodian arts through the Cambodian Living Arts project, and involving master performers like Kong Nay.

Sophal Ly of Searching For The Truth, the Documentation Center of Cambodia's regular magazine, interviewed Kong Nay for their February 2007 edition and the full article can be viewed here on the KRTrial Portal website, or in the comments section. It begins:
Kong Nay: Veteran Long-Neck Guitar Player and Singer
On the veranda in front of his small house was a man in sunglasses. He was sleeping with his head resting on his arm. I called out to him, “Uncle Nay!” When he heard my voice, he rose and welcomed me warmly. Despite being sightless, he came toward me. Kong Nay has worked hard to gain fame as a player of the chapei dong veng (a Cambodian stringed instrument with a long neck, similar to a mandolin or guitar). He was awarded first prize in a chapei dong veng competition in 1991. Later, Prime Minister Hun Sen dubbed him “the respected elderly man Kong Nay.” ....

1 comment:

Andy said...

Here's the full article by Sophal Ly from Searching For The Truth, February 2007.

Kong Nay: Veteran Long-Neck Guitar Player and Singer

On the veranda in front of his small house was a man in sunglasses. He was sleeping with his head resting on his arm. I called out to him, “Uncle Nay!” When he heard my voice, he rose and welcomed me warmly. Despite being sightless, he came toward me.

Kong Nay has worked hard to gain fame as a player of the chapei dong veng (a Cambodian stringed instrument with a long neck, similar to a mandolin or guitar). He was awarded first prize in a chapei dong veng competition in 1991. Later, Prime Minister Hun Sen dubbed him “the respected elderly man Kong Nay.”

Kong Nay was born in 1945 in Svay Torng sub-district, Kampong Trach district, Kampot province. He was the fifth of eleven children in a middle-class farming family. At the age of four, he contracted smallpox, which left scars all over his body and the disease spread to his eyes, causing him to go blind.

As a child, Kong Nay thought everybody in the world was sightless like him. When he was seven years old, he asked his mother why either she or one of his siblings always led him by the hand while walking. It was then that he realized that he was disabled.

Desire and Guitar
Unlike other children, Kong Nay did not go to school. One day when he was seven, a nearby village hired chapei players to perform at a ceremony. Kong Nay heard the music and was immediately enthralled and begged his mother to bring him to the ceremony.

He became very interested in playing the chapei, thinking he could earn income to support himself as a musician. He first practiced singing, never giving up on his dream. He then asked his parents for permission to stay in a Buddhist temple where he could learn poetry from the chief monk Att Loeung. Eventually, with the guidance of Att Loeung, Kong Nay could recite the entire long poem “Rabeuk Ta Chou Chouk.”

Every year during the Pchum Ban festival, the elderly men in the village invited Kong Nay to chant this poem, paying him from ten to fifty cents (they tore a riel note in two in order to have fifty cents). Sometimes he got a one riel note for his chanting.

At the age of thirteen, Kong Nay tried to make his voice resemble the sound of the long-neck guitar. He did this to entertain the villagers when they took a break from working in the fields. Kong Nay received a little money from the farmers for his efforts. Because it was very difficult to sing without accompaniment, he decided to ask his parents to buy one for him. They bought a chapei from an elderly man in a nearby village for 200 riel. At first, he had his uncle play the guitar for him. Kong Nay listened carefully and sang along, making his voice mimic the chapei’s sound and rhythm. His natural aptitude and hard work helped him to learn. When he was able to play the chapei himself, his first song was “Phat Cheay.”

Kong Nay’s mother became seriously ill when he was 14. He was very close to his mother, and she could not imagine what his life would be like without her. When his father was away from home, Kong Nay would stay with her. During these times, she often gave him advice, which he can still remember. His mother’s last words to him were, “My son, I am sure I cannot endure this pain any longer. I cannot look after you anymore. My health becomes better sometimes and worse sometimes. You are sightless, so you will never get married. No woman will consider your proposal. When I die, if your father marries another woman, you just move out. Do not live with your father, for his new wife will treat you badly. You can stay at Svay Chrum temple with the chief monk Att Leang.”

Hearing his mother’s last words, he cried, thinking that his destiny had been set for hell. He thought no woman would marry a blind man, so he would have a lonely life. Today, Kong Nay still thinks about his beloved mother. He wishes she were alive and could see that he has a happy family. He thinks that his mother would be very glad to see his family.

Kong Nay’s father was a considerate man. He knew that bringing another woman to his house could cause trouble for his children, so he decided to stay a widower.

When Kong Nay was 15 years old, he could play and sing Phat Cheay Klay, Sampoang, Nokoreach, and Bompe. He could not sing as well as the seasoned chapei players and still had difficulties with rhyming (many of his songs are improvisational). When he discussed his weaknesses with his Uncle Kong Tith, his uncle suggested that Kong Nay read as much poetry as possible, and learn to make good rhymes for his couplets. Kong Nay asked his uncle to help him buy a book of poetry. Kong Tith bought him Sovann Vong and Phkar Roam Toek Roam, and read them to Kong Nay. Kong Nay listened and tried to catch every word of the poems. Eventually, he could remember all of the poems and produce couplets that rhymed well.

Professional Life
Kong Nay’s fame soon spread from village to village by word of mouth. Villagers in Kampong Trach invited him to sing at the Kartin, Dalean and other ceremonies. On these occasions, he sang “Sovann Vong.” Later on, his fame spread across the province. People in Chhouk, Kampong Trach, Angkor Chey and Banteay Meas all knew him. People further away also heard his name and invited him to sing at their ceremonies. However, it was difficult for him to concentrate during his performances because he was afraid that his mother would die before he was able to return home. But the income from his performances was enough to pay the doctor bills for his mother’s treatment. Two years later, his mother passed away.

A year after his mother’s funeral, Kong Nay became even more famous. People from different provinces such as Kampot invited him to sing. He also entered a competition which required him to sing back and forth with a one-eyed man named Phirom Chea. This call-and-response style required that the two men answer each other continuously in rhyming couplets. If one of them could not respond in time, he would lose. There was another aspect to the competition: the loser had to listen to the winner’s teasing song at the end of the match. Kong Nay recalled their competition, which began when Phirom Chea sang to him: “Two animals of the same name have three heads and nine legs.” Kong Nay replied, “An [land] elephant has four legs. A hippopotamus [water elephant] has four legs. A mango named Elephant Head lies in a large cup-like dish. The three elephants have three heads and nine legs (including the pedestal of the cup-like dish).” Then Kong Nay asked Phirum Chea, “How many groups of people like listening to long-neck guitar music?” Phirum Chea did not know the answer, which was eight groups: children, adults, laymen, monks, single men, single women, widows, widowers, and the two of us. He then made Phirum Chea sing “Nokoreach.”

As his career progressed, Kong Nay traveled to Kirivong, Tonloap, Chao Kieu in Takeo and Kampot provinces, and some parts of the Kampuchea Krom (formerly, this was Cambodian territory, but the French colonialists ceded it to southern Vietnam).

Married Life
Kong Nay believes that to be born as a human, one must fall in love and settle down with his or her family, and that it is a rule of nature that humans must have love. Even though Kong Nay had not seen a girl since he was four years old, he could visualize a girl’s appearance and personality by hearing other people’s descriptions of her.

Kong Nay fell in love with a girl named Hem Yen from Takhvav village. He asked his cousin for help in asking for the girl’s hand for marriage. In this way, Kong Nay could know how she felt before he officially informed her parents. To get the girl he loved, Kong Nay did everything his cousin told him to do. But his cousin had planned to propose the girl himself, not for Kong Nay. Kong Nay said that, “I begged him to find out how the girl felt. He said I must take my long-neck guitar and sing to her as a way of proposing to the girl. In fact, he had officially met the girl’s parents. Then I realized that he lied to me.”

Later on, Kong Nay turned his heart to Tat Chen, a girl from Svay Tong. He knew she was attracted to him by her voice. Kong Nay still remembers that he started falling in love with her on the eighth day of the waxing moon in the third month of the lunar calendar. On that day Tat Chen visited his older sister’s house, which was a little north of Kong Nay’s house. Whenever Tat Chen walked by Kong Nay’s house, she greeted him warmly and asked him a few caring questions. Her friendly and outgoing personality and her sweet voice made Kong Nay remember her. He fell deeply in love with her and vowed that he would propose to Tat Chen himself.

On the thirteenth day of the waxing moon in the third month of the lunar calendar, 1963, he confessed his love to the girl. Kong Nay asked, “I would like to tell you frankly that I love you. I want you to be my wife. What do you think? If you agree, please say yes. If you do not agree, just let me know, and I will end it here and will not let others know.” Tat Chen said yes.

Tat Chen remembered, “When my husband asked me how I felt, I did not take time to consider. I did not hesitate to say ‘yes’.” In fact, Tat Chen’s interest in Kong Nay began on the day Kong Nay sang and played the chapei at her house on the Harvest Ceremony. When she overheard her father and brothers discussing inviting Kong Nay to sing at the ceremony, Tat Chen wanted to see Kong Nay, and went to his house to invite him. In fact, Kong Nay had an appointment to sing at another ceremony, but decided to leave it after he had sung for half an hour. Because he loved Tat Chen, he rushed to her house. He also spent a night there at the request of Tat Chen’s father.

Tat Chen also remembered the first time she saw Kong Nay. He was just a little boy, and was grabbing his mother’s blouse and hopping like a frog, she recalled. She said sometimes she saw Kong Nay’s siblings holding his hand and playing with him. She never talked to Kong Nay. She said she felt no sense of love toward Kong Nay, but had a little compassion for him because he was blind. She wondered who would ever marry such a disabled boy.

Next Kong Nay asked his father to go to Tat Chen’s house to request that the couple become engaged. Kong Nay’s father was reluctant to go, however, because he thought that Tan Chen’s family would surely refuse. Kong Nay’s father was right. Tat Chen’s family and relatives were adamant, saying that she could not marry a disabled man. But Kong Nay’s aunts and uncles supported him, and eventually Tat Chen’s parents were convinced.

Even though he had the consent of her parents, Kong Nay had to bear the scornful words of Tat Chen’s other admirers. One of her admirers threatened Kong Nay, saying, “You love Chen, right? Are you afraid of being killed?” Death was not a frightening thing to Kong Nay. He simply replied, “I do not fear death. In my previous life, I must have done lots of evil things; that is why I am blind. In this life, I would never take revenge if you attempted to kill me. I bet you 500 riel that she would never accept you.” Kong Nay continued talking to the man. Having listened to Kong Nay’s reasoning, the man changed his attitude and apologized to Kong Nay for his disrespectful words. Tat Chen’s second admirer said, “Even the hard metal, steel, can be melted. Kong Nay is nothing.”

Because Kong Nay had received threats, his and Tat Chen’s relatives were worried about his safety. They asked help from Kong Nay’s uncle and village-based militiamen to ensure that nobody caused trouble and spoiled the occasion. The wedding took place on the thirteenth day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Kong Nay was responsible paying all the wedding expenses. Tat Chen’s relatives thought that she would have to work hard to earn money after her marriage, but as a good husband, Kong Nay did not want his wife to face the difficulty of earning income.

Kong Nay made a lot of money from singing and playing the chapei. He saved money until he had enough to buy a 6-hectare plot of land and a tile-roof house.

Life during the Lon Nol Regime
After the March 18, 1970 coup d’├ętat that overthrew King Norodom Sihanuok, Kampong Trach district was controlled by Lon Nol soldiers. At that time, people who were loyal to the King ran into the forest, where they joined the revolutionary army of the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge used Sihanouk’s name to persuade people to join them. They said, “Now we must gather forces to fight against Lon Nol and the Americans. We must bring our King back to power.” Convinced by this propaganda, farmers of all ages volunteered to serve as Khmer Rouge soldiers in hopes of returning the King to power.

By 1972, the country was in turmoil. People living on the outskirts of the cities were suffering as a result of battles between Lon Nol and Khmer Rouge soldiers. Some people had to abandon their houses and move out, seeking a secure place. Kong Nay’s family escaped to the liberated zone, to Samnang village, Khcheay sub-district, Banteay Meas district, Kampot province. They spent three years there.

One day, the Khmer Rouge advised Kong Nay that he should play his long-neck guitar, and sing songs whose lyrics described the suffering of farmers under the feudalists’ suppression. Some of the songs compared people’s standard of living during the previous regime and under the Khmer Rouge. Others were about Vietnamese and American soldiers (the Khmer Rouge called them the Thieu Ky giant and American giant). Still others were about the fines, collection of funds, levies, manual trades and the oppression by the Americans and Vietnamese, who fought and dropped B-52 bombs, causing mass evacuations and death.

Life during Democratic Kampuchea
After April 17, 1975, the whole country was under the control of the revolutionary army. People throughout the country stood happily, cheering and welcoming the Khmer Rouge’s triumph. They thought that there would be no more war. This pleasant situation lasted for a few hours; then it turned to become misery. The revolutionary army shouted into microphones, telling people to leave their homes so it would be easy for them to sweep out the enemy. The country was given a new name: “Democratic Kampuchea.” The Khmer Rouge then began investigating the biographies of former soldiers, teachers, capitalists, and officers of the Khmer Republic (Lon Nol) regime. People who came from these backgrounds were killed. Anyone rebelled was regarded as the enemy. In Kampot province, the Khmer Rouge declared, “From now on, if anyone betrays Angkar [the “organization, a name for the Communist Party of Kampuchea], Angkar will execute him or her. Those whose relatives are former Lon Nol officers will be executed.” Kong Nay knew that one day the Khmer Rouge would kill him if he tried to escape.

In 1975, Kong Nay, his wife and their seven children returned to live in Damnak Kantuot. In 1976 the Khmer Rouge began assigning people to break the piles of earth created by termites and to carry earth to fill the rice fields. During work breaks, Kong Nay was ordered to sing and play his chapei to entertain the farmers. The music lasted for 5 to 10 minutes; then a child showed him the way back.

One day Voeun, the unit chief, told Kong Nay at a meeting, “From now on, there should be no more entertainment for farmers in the fields. It should be only in Phnom Penh. We are here to build a strong country.” Kong Nay had to stop playing. He was moved to a vegetable unit and assigned to harvest corn and beans.

After the cooperative system and collective eating were established, Kong Nay realized that the Khmer Rouge had executed people. Families were told, “At the new villages, there is plenty of food supply that is provided individually. You can eat everything you like such as boiled chicken, yams, sugar canes, and so on. You can simply grow and eat your own food.” Kong Nay remembered two district chiefs, Ta Sim and Ta Suos. They once came to propagandize in his village. One of his close friends whispered to Kong Nay, “Do not wonder about what they say. Going to the new villages means taking people to be killed.” Not long after that, the Khmer Rouge militiamen came to distribute the clothes that had been worn by those who were evacuated and were now dead. But instead of telling the truth, the Khmer Rouge militiamen told people that the clothes were just plunder.

In 1977, Kong Nay was evacuated to his home village. There he was assigned to make ropes that were used to tie oxen. It was a very difficult work for Kong Nay, so he begged the unit chief to reassign him to other work. So, the unit chief ordered him to make pails for carrying earth. This was even more difficult for Kong Nay because he was blind and had never known what earth moving buckets or bamboo looked like. The unit chief said, “If you are willing to do it, you can accomplish any job.” But Kong Nay refused, saying that he could not make the buckets, even though he felt his refusal would mean that he would be killed. Kong Nay still had two other choices: to work a pump at the manual craft house, which made axes and cutters, or making ropes from sugar palm leaves. If Kong Nay did not take either of these jobs, he would be killed. Thinking that the latter choice was better, he decided to take it.

During Democratic Kampuchea, if someone broke even a rice seedling, miss some rice stalks while harvesting, or broke a utensil, he or she would be regarded as an enemy who intended to destroy the revolution. Kong Nay knew that he was in danger, so he asked his unit chief for a favor in advance, in case he made any slight mistake while making rope from sugar palm leaves. The unit chief agreed to grant him a favor, thinking that he was a blind man. In one day, Kong Nay had to finish pounding 20 branches of sugar palm. Sometimes Kong Nay could not complete the assigned amount because some branches were too hard to break. Every time Kong Nay fell behind, he was blamed. His unit chief accusingly said, “This man must have a negative consciousness.” Luckily, Kong Nay received only blame, no torture. He explained his difficulty in doing the job to the unit chief. Some elderly men also supported him and helped him explain.

Despite his physical disability, Kong Nay had to work as hard as other people, but he was provided the same amount of food that patients received—a scoop of porridge—because the Khmer Rouge thought that a disabled man could not work as much as ordinary people. When mealtime came, Kong Nay’s child held his hand, leading him to the collective dining hall where Kong Nay had to eat with the small children.

Working in a women’s unit, Kong Nay’s wife was assigned to work in a remote area. Two of their children were sent to children’s units to cut and collect water plants that were used as fertilizer, and to dig and carry alluvial soil for fertilizer. Kong Nay stayed home and looked after their other five children.

Disabled Men become Khmer Rouge Targets
During 1977-1978 the internal situation became worse. Suspicion between the high-ranking cadres and the lower-level cadres bred distrust. Some Communist Party of Kampuchea cadres were arrested and killed. Because of such suspicions within the party, there was a change of management. The Khmer Rouge cadres in charge of the Northwest Zone were killed and replaced by cadres from the Southwest Zone; these cadres treated people cruelly and killed many people.

Kong Nay was under Angkar’s observation because his younger brother, Kong Len, had escaped from Stoeung Hao. He was accused of being a member of the CIA, arrested and imprisoned. After he was tortured for three months, Kong Nay’s brother and five other prisoners were put in an ox-cart, taken to Veal Vong (a French airport) and killed there. Kong Nay’s family was then categorized as “candidate farmers.” His neighbors, who used to be friendly to him, dared not talk to him because his family was the enemy. Kong Nay did not feel angry with them, thinking that they behaved this way because they were afraid of Angkar. Kong Nay was disappointed with the unit and district chiefs, who were very mean to his family. After the regime ended, only Kong Nay and one of his sisters survived. Now she is living in Kampot province.

On January 1, 1979, the unit chief named Long told Kong Nay to prepare himself to depart the next day. Long warned Kong Nay not to spread this news to anybody. Because Kong Nay was still doubtful, he asked Long if there were other people going with him. Long told Kong Nay that the people leaving were the disabled, women who had just delivered babies, and elderly people. Long added that the rest of the people had to harvest rice. On hearing this, Kong Nay knew that he was going to die. At 3 p.m. on the following day, while his group was being gathered, the unit chief called Kong Nay. Kong Nay, his wife, and their five children went with the unit chief. After traveling on foot for three hours, they took a lunch break at Thkoeu village. While walking, Kong Nay’s child’s legs were cut by spikes that had been laid under the earth. The child could not walk. Kong Nay begged the unit chief to postpone their departure. Fortunately, the unit chief agreed.

On January 7, 1979, while the unit chief was preparing to leave the village, the sounds of gunfire could be heard, and the farmers who were harvesting rice quickly left the fields. The Khmer Rouge’s plan to kill disabled and elderly people failed. The Khmer Rouge tried to gather up as many people as they could. While people were congregating at Daung village, the Khmer Rouge intended to bomb and kill them. Before the Khmer Rouge could kill any of them, the soldiers of United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea (UFNSK) arrived and the Khmer Rouge ran away.

The people made their way back to their home villages. Kong Nay and his family also returned to their home village, but their house had disappeared because the Khmer Rouge pulled it down and used the wood to build the collective dining hall and shelters for soldiers.

New Life under the Roof of the Old House
Kong Nay’s wife collected pieces of wood to build a temporary hut for the family. Again, Kong Nay earned his income from singing and playing. During the 1979 rainy season when farmers were busy transplanting rice, there were few ceremonies in the village. Kong Nay and his cousin traveled for several days by ox cart to such remote areas as Prey Moan and Veal Renh. There, people paid Kong Nay in rice, and his performances earned enough to support his family.

At Veal Renh, a villager promised to pay him 40 kilograms of rice for his performance. After Kong Nay finished, he got only 12 kilograms because that villager secretly escaped. Kong Nay could do nothing, but took the rice back home. While Kong Nay was on his way back home, a villager invited him to play for a ceremony, promising to pay Kong Nay 12 kilograms of rice. Like the previous time, Kong Nay was cheated. He was paid less than the promised amount, but he could not complain because that villager had run away. Thus, from the two unfortunate performances, he had only 20 kilograms of rice to bring home.

When the period of Vosar (when Buddhist monks must stay in the monastery and observe strict rules) ended, Kong Nay and his 9 year-old child traveled to Kampuchea Krom, hoping to earn money there. They walked for several hours before they arrived at Ha Tieng market at about 9 a.m. They had lunch near the market, then took a motor-taxi to Thlok pagoda in Kramuon Sa province. The chief monk invited Kong Nay to sing at the Vosar closing ceremony. The performance lasted two hours, and Kong Nay was paid 1,000 Thieu Ky Dong (500 Thieu Ky Dong equal 1 Riel). Then Kong Nay traveled to Krapeu village for another performance from which he earned 50 Dong. In addition, Kong Nay was invited to sing at different houses. Having been in Kampuchea Krom for two weeks, Kong Nay saved a full basket of rice and 400 Dong. Three months later, he returned to Kampuchea Krom. This time, he earned 300 Dong for his performance. Luckily, he won a lottery for 700 Dong, so he was able to bring 1,000 Dong home. The money and rice he was paid were enough to support his family for the planting and harvest seasons. By the time the harvest season finished, Kong Nay had more business opportunities because a many people held ceremonies during their leisure time.

In 1983 a long-neck guitar competition was held in a theatre in Kampong Trach district. Kong Nay was one of the contestants, and was awarded the first prize.

On January 7, 1984, Kong Nay was invited to sing at the fifth anniversary of the day of victory. His Excellency Samdech Hun Sen, and his Excellency Khun Ly, minister of transportation, presented awards at the ceremony. A year after this occasion, his Excellency Khun Ly invited Kong Nay to sing at his residence in Phnom Penh. When Mr. Meas Samnang passed away, Kong Nay was also invited to sing for the funeral. Kong Nay was offered a small house if he agreed to move to Phnom Penh, but he decided to continue living in his home village because he was still afraid of the political instability that plagued Cambodia during this period.

In 1987, there was a long-neck guitar contest in Kampot province. Players from Banteay Meas, Angkor Chey, and Kampong Trach districts entered. Kong Nay was awarded the first prize. A candidate from Banteay Meas came in second, and a man from Angkor Chey was third.

In 1991 Cambodia achieved peace after the Geneva agreement was signed, and King Norodom Sihanouk returned to his motherland. In the same year, in Phnom Penh, two contests were held during the annual water festival: Ayay (a call-and-response performance) and a chapei performance near the royal palace. The governor of Kampot province sent Kong Nay to the contest, where Mr. Prach Chhuon, a singer working for the Ministry of Propaganda and Culture, was a committee member. Kong Nay earned the first prize.

In April 1992, Kong Nay was invited to work at the Department of Long-Neck Guitars based in the Ministry of Culture, and was offered a plot of land in a slum area where he could build a house. Life in the city without a regular salary was quite hard for him. His two daughters had to sell porridge and boiled corn to earn money to support the whole family. A year later, Kong Nay got 40,000 Riel as a monthly salary.

In 1997, Kong Nay was invited to sing in a theatre in Paris, France. This performance was sponsored by the French Ministry of Culture and lasted for 21 days. In the same year, Kong Nay was invited to sing in Thailand and in 1998, in Vietnam. In 1999, he went to Nigeria for two nights and Belgium for another two nights. Now Kong Nay is retired with a 107,000 riel retirement pension. In addition, he was given additional money from his Excellency Samdech Hun Sen, Oknha Sim Vanna, his Excellency Muth Khieu, and the Amatak organization for Khmer Arts. Kong Nay’s younger son, Kong Boran, has followed his footsteps to becoming a chpei player. Boran is supported by the Amatak organization. Kong Nay hopes that in the future, his son will replace him.

When recalling the Khmer Rouge regime, Kong Nay is still angry at the Khmer Rouge. During this regime, Kong Nay’s innocent younger brother was imprisoned, tortured and killed. Most of Cambodia’s singers and long-neck guitar players were also killed. For instance, well known players Ta Chang Kom Prambey (8 canine-tooth grandfather), Ta Pou Thao Day (axe grandfather), Smean Kin, Chen Day Kare, Smean Chheang, Smean Tean, and Acha Try were all killed during the regime.

Even though Kong Nay has not witnessed the negotiations to establish the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and the court premises, he has followed the news broadcasts about the Tribunal. He looks forward to listening to the process of bringing the Khmer Rouge to justice, which is a joint effort of the Royal Government of Cambodia and the international community. Kong Nay is not sure whether the Tribunal will go smoothly because the duration of the Tribunal will be short and the trials have been delayed for so long. He has many questions about punishment and reparation.

But Kong Nay thinks that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal will have two main benefits. First, the younger generation will learn that the cruel murderers must be punished by law. Second, the relatives of the dead victims will feel relieved and peaceful when they find justice through the Tribunal.

Extracted from: Searching for the Trust Magazine, #86, February 2007, page 2-10.