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Return from France: A Story of Reconciliation and Loss

  • Brian Calvert
  • Poch Reasey
  • VOA Khmer

Neou Sarem says goodbye to her husband, Nuon Sari, and her 3-year old daugther, Nuon Sari Sakhura, at Pochentong Airport, 1974.

Neou Sarem says goodbye to her husband, Nuon Sari, and her 3-year old daugther, Nuon Sari Sakhura, at Pochentong Airport, 1974.

Neou Sarem was born March 18, 1940, in Kandal province's Kien Svay district, in a household of seven children. Her father, a businessman, owned a cargo boat that carried rice across Indochina.

After graduating Preah Norodom College and Lycee Sisowath, she was trained as a French teacher, instructing in Sisophan from 1964 to 1966 before returning to Phnom Penh in 1966.

She was married in July 1970, to Nuon Sari, who worked at the Bank of Development in Phnom Penh and studied economics and law at the Faculty of Law. Her first daughter, Nuon Sari Sakura, nicknamed Atat, was born April 18, 1971. Her second daughter, Nuon Sari Romuni, or Srey Touch, was born July 24, 1974.

In September, 1974 Neou Sarem was awarded a scholarship from the French government, to study in Besancon for nine months. Eight months after her arrival, the Khmer Rouge swept to power and began Year Zero. By January 1976, she had returned, having lost parents, one sister, her husband, her daughters, and one brother. (Those siblings who survived now live in the US and Canada.)


On June 16, 1979, Neou Sarem arrived in the US, in San Francisco, moving through several towns in California with her younger brother, who had come to America in 1974 on scholarship as a Khmer naval officer. She worked as a social services provider, owned a restaurant and was a volunteer broadcaster, creating Radio Programme, a Khmer-language radio program in Minnesota that is still operating today.

She now lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with her second husband, Kim Touy Khu, a retired electrical engineer who also lost his wife and children under Democratic Kampuchea. They have one daughter, who lives in Maryland.

Neou Sarem says goodbye to her husband, Nuon Sari, and her 3-year old daugther, Nuon Sari Sakhura, at Pochentong Airport, 1974.

For Neou Sarem's complete oral history interviews, click here.

For Neou Sarem's audio-photo slideshow, click here.

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