BY CHRISTINE GIANNETTI
What memories does one have from their childhood? Maybe it consists of playing on the playground with friends or going to school to learn the alphabet. But for Sayon Soeun, it consisted of learning how to obey orders from commanding officers and how to shoot a gun or use a grenade. Soeun visited the County College of Morris on Thursday, Feb. 12 and shared the story of his experiences growing up in Cambodia with the Khmer Rouge during the time of the Vietnam invasion and Cambodia genocide. He was a child soldier at the age of 6 and was given a weapon and the power to kill by the age of 9.
He spoke of his life prior to being abducted and what it was like growing up in a military camp. “My parents would tell me not to go far from my house because the boogeyman would get me,” Soeun said. He now knows his parents were talking about the Khmer Rouge. “I remember playing in the rice fields looking for bugs or toads to play with and seeing the kids on the military truck having fun, singing songs. I didn’t want to miss out.”
Soeun explained what he experienced in the camp. “For the first couple of days we would get lectured. They would tell me my soul belonged to the government. They would say everyone around you is your enemy; you cannot trust anyone but the government. If you snitch on anyone they would promote you, and if someone was accused of a crime, they would choose someone else in the group to do the execution.”