So Farina is a graduate student in Southeast Asian Studies at Ohio University. She worked at the Documentation Center of Cambodia from 2003 through 2008 as a researcher of Cham communities under Khmer Rouge.
“There was a great loss of Cham community in Cambodia” under the regime, So Farina told “Hello VOA” Monday. “The Cham lost human resources, culture, identity, mosques, and the Quran.”
An estimated Cham population of 700,000 lost up to 500,000 under the Khmer Rouge. The group has returned to a population of around 500,000, spread across 400 communities, many in Kampong Cham province.
For the last five years, So Farina, 28, has undertaken an oral history project, working in these communities to recapture stories from her people.
“This project exists because I asked my parents, who experienced the Khmer Rouge,” about their experiences, So Farina said Monday. “They did not give me details about what happened.”
That void of detail prompted her to learn more, but there was not enough written documentation.
“The shortage of documents makes oral history more important, as Cham community members are able to help us document what happened to them during Khmer Rouge period through their memories,” So Farina said. “We’ve collected everything, including their memories, written documents, materials and Qurans left from the past.”
So Farina said she’s most interested in the experiences of Cham women under the Khmer Rouge, their “motherhood, wifehood, caretaking, labor and religious practices.”
After the fall of the regime, in 1979, widows made up around 65 percent of the Cham female population in Cambodia.
“Women had a lot of burdens due to the fact that they had lost their husbands, children, and had to deal with everyday problems and problems from the past,” So Farina said.