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Cambodians Relive Fall Of Their Country In New Movie

January 29, 1985

HOUSTON (AP) _ Cambodian-Americans living in Houston are streaming to see ″The Killing Fields,″ a movie about the fall of their native country in the early 1970s.

Some have emerged from the theater moist-eyed, saying the film brings back memories - some happy, some horrible - of friends, relatives and their homeland.

″The film is wonderful and gratifying,″ said Kimberly Huon, whose family is among 6,000 Cambodians who have settled here.

″All of my family died in the labor camps that were ‘The Killing Fields’,″ added her husband, Howard, 42. ″My mother, my father, my nieces and nephews.″

The movie centers on the friendship between a New York Times reporter covering the war in Cambodia and his interpreter as the U.S.-backed government of Lon Nol falls to the Khmer Rouge.

Estimates have put the death toll at nearly 2 million in the subsequent reign of terror under the Khmer Rouge.

Paul Messiah, manager of the Galleria Cinema, the lone Houston theater running the movie, said entire families of Cambodians are showing up to see it.

Huon’s father, a lumber merchant, was one of the many killed in the Khmer Rouge purge.

″The rich and the educated were killed indiscriminately,″ said Huon, who holds an agronomy degree from Mississippi State and now is an IBM computer technician. ″Those who were educated abroad were particularly suspect.″

He added that ″most of the friends who studied with me and graduated from American schools that year (1960) were killed, too.″

Sotah Chhay, who grew up on a farm and remembered seeing people killed, was among seven people in his party of friends and family members to view the film.

″This is my story - the fighting, the killing, all of it,″ said the 22- year-old Chhay. ″I was young.″

″We were hoping to go home to Cambodia, but we heard news that people were starving,″ said Kouy Ang, who was 12 when her family fled by boat to a refugee camp in Thailand. ″We decided to come to the United States.″

She enjoys this country, she said, but ″it’s not like home.″

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