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'Golden Bones,' the Story on an Ambassador

Sichan Siv, former US ambassador to the United Nations, is the only official in the US government who was born in Cambodia, and he has held a high ranking position at the White House, in the office of the 41st US president.

He has just released a memoir, “Golden Bones,” the tale of an extraordinary journey from the hell of Cambodia to a new American life. The book, written in English, is being published by a major New York house and is scheduled to be in bookstores in the US in July, and Sichan Siv gave a talk on it at the White House in Washington last week.

“I was at the White House last week to listen to Ambassador Sichan Siv about his new upcoming book ‘Golden Bones,’” Reaksmey Norin, a Cambodian woman, told VOA Khmer. “It make me so proud to be a Cambodian.”

She called him a “role model,” but others see him as golden.

The book’s title comes from the Cambodian adage for someone born very lucky, or who is blessed. Cambodians from the village of Sichan Siv’s father, who know the former ambassador was able to escape the Khmer Rouge and find a life abroad, call him “the man with the golden bones.”

Sichan Siv was working for the CARE organization in Phnom Penh when the country fell to the communists. He escaped in 1976, knowing he was in trouble because of his past.

“I hard worked for the Cambodian airlines and for the US, I had studied at a university, and I wore glasses,” he told VOA Khmer. “So I fled to Thailand.”

On his journey, he remembered the advice of his mother, who told him, “never give up hope.”

“Hope kept me alive for a year under the Khmer Rouge, and I did everything the best way I could,” he said. “It was my mother’s wisdom that helped me move on. The dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.”

Sichan Siv arrived in the US in 1976 and began a new life, picking apples at first in the state of Connecticut and driving a taxi in New York.

By 1989, he was the deputy assistant to the US president, George H.W. Bush, and in 2001 he was appointed by President George W. Bush as a delegate to the UN Commission on Human Rights.

What happened in between is a very good story.