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USF Libraries Exhibits

Khmer Rouge Forced Labor Experiences

Sophal Leng Stagg, Cambodian Survivor

Let me go back a little bit to the part where—once we get to my grandmother town, the whole town was seem so against us that they look at us as if we are enemy. They look at us as if we are dirt, like we are disease from the city that they don’t want to be next to. And I remember they put me in a rice field among these so-called “old people,” and they—I wanted to fit in so bad. They don’t even want to stand next to me.

Because they say that I am the city people. They don’t want to associate with me. They don’t want even to stand next to me, even when we work in the rice field. They don’t want to even—they would push and shove for the other to be next to us, me and my sister. And then after a while, I try so hard to blend in by telling them that we live in a city, but we wasn’t rich. We wasn’t rich. We wasn’t educated. I’m trying to—I’m trying to make myself as if I was dirt poor, just so that them to accept me, that even if I live in a city, but I was poor, just like you. And that’s—I guess that’s what they want to hear. And then after a while, we blend in. But I remember my mother doesn’t get along so good, either.