Monday, March 23, 2015
Phnom Penh-based author Robert Carmichael talks about his new book, When Clouds Fell From the Sky: A Disappearance, A Daughter’s Search and Cambodia’s First War Criminal, which is due out in April. "My book weaves the stories of five people whose lives intersected to catastrophic effect in the maelstrom of 1970s Cambodia, and explains how the consequences of that collision remain relevant today. In 1977 a young Cambodian diplomat called Ouk Ket was recalled to Phnom Penh from his post in Senegal. He was under the impression that he would take part in the rebuilding of his country, but on his return he was taken to the Khmer Rouge’s secret prison, known as S-21, where he was held for six months, tortured and finally executed. In a country as rigidly Communist as Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Ket - a royalist - was a class enemy. Left behind in France were his wife, Martine, whom Ket had met while studying in Paris, and their two children. Their daughter, Neary, was just two when Ket left and the family never heard from him again. It was years before they knew what had happened to Ket and it took even longer to come to terms with his fate.
Ket had grown up in Phnom Penh and was close to his cousin Sam Sady. When the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia in April 1975, Sady, her family and Ket’s family were among the 2.5 million people forcibly evacuated into brutal agricultural cooperatives. Sady’s story recounts how Pol Pot’s 1975-79 rule affected ordinary Cambodians when around 2 million people, or one in four of the population, died. The person linking them is Comrade Duch, the former head of S-21, where at least 15,000 so-called enemies of the revolution were tortured and executed. Fewer than a dozen inmates survived. In 2009 Duch was tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity, found guilty and sentenced to 35 years. He appealed, and in 2012 was jailed for life. The paths of these five people crossed in the 1970s and again in 2009 when Neary and Martine testified as civil parties at Duch’s trial to tell the UN-backed court how Ket’s disappearance and murder had shattered their lives. The book will be published in April 2015, the 40th anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge."
You can read an interview with the author in The Diplomat @ http://thediplomat.com/2015/03/cambodia-when-clouds-fell/. The book website is @ http://www.whencloudsfell.com.