During the 1970s, the communist Khmer Rouge ruled with an iron fist. As part of its “re-education” process, Cambodia residents were stripped of their possessions and forced to work in labor camps. Many lacked food, basic health care, and other necessities and, by the time the Vietnamese overthrew the Khmer Rouge in 1979, between one to two million people died. This oral history chronicled one family’s story of survival and eventual escape from Cambodia’s genocide. The researcher interviewed four family members, who recollected the events and presented accounts in their own words. The themes of living a harsh existence, fear, following orders, death and suffering, and support from others are explored as possible contributing factors to the family’s survival.


Cambodia, Genocide Survivors, Khmer Rouge, Oral History, Qualitative Research

Author Bio(s)

Steve Haberlin is a teacher of elementary gifted students at Sam Rampello Downtown Partnership School in Tampa, Florida, and a doctoral student at the University of South Florida. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: stevehaberlin@yahoo.com.


In memory of Dai"Gung" Li, a great father and man of quiet strength (October 1931-October 2015). I would like to thank Dr. Janet Richards at the University of South Florida for her advice in completing this research and article as well as the family featured in the article for trusting me with their story.

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