Saturday, October 11, 2008
Pan Ron would've been the 1st lady of Khmer music in the 60s and early 70s if it had not been for the magic of Ros Sereysothea. Nevertheless, Pan Ron (pictured) was, alongwith Sereysothea and Sinn Sisamouth, at the vanguard of Cambodian rock and roll music of that period and wrote and performed hundreds of songs that have become classics of her generation. She rose to prominence by dueting with Sisamouth in 1966 and there was no stopping her after that. That is until the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975 and tragically cut short her life, and that of as many of Cambodia's artists in all genres, as they could find. For Pan Ron her death came quickly after the guerrilla force took over in April 1975. She was soon identifed, which was inevitable considering her stardom, driven to a pagoda in Bati district and murdered. That pagoda is Wat Troap Kor in Takeo province, a site I visited myself on New Years Day this year. According to eye witnesses, Pan Ron was taken with her two small nephews, blindfolded and walked about 200 metres behind the vihara where a group of more than 30 people were killed. Now the site of a genocide memorial stupa, DC-Cam records show that 70 mass graves at the pagoda are believed to have contained upwards of 40,000 victims of the Khmer Rouge's killing frenzy. Pan Ron was one of those 40,000 innocent victims, though unlike the others, her legacy lives on in her timeless music.