My Q&A with journalist and author Rob Carmichael was published in the July/August issue of Fah Thai. We spoke about the book he just published, When Clouds Fell From The Sky, and I also managed to interview Neary Ouk, the woman whose family is at the center of the book.
Unfortunately, Fah Thai wasn't able to publish the my interview with Neary, an experience I found to be incredibly affecting. Mostly, we talked about what it was like for her to read the book and what her relationship with Rob was like given that he was delving into a very personal and painful part of her family history.
So I've decided to leave Neary's words here; think of it as an important addition to my conversation with Rob. I had envisioned the Fah Thai piece to feature her thoughts right next to Rob's Q&A, which is why this is just a recount of what she said.
“There are a lot of things [my mother and I are] discovering while reading it, like how my family members have disappeared, because it’s not only my dad, actually. We are learning the fate of everyone, like my grandfather.”
“Rob’s been interviewing people – something I can’t do from where I am, and I wish I could have. Or some things I wouldn’t have found the strength to do, like interviewing Prak Khan. But I wish I could have done that myself. And Rob has been watching the world a lot, with some sense of psychology to the people involved in general.”
“Rob went back to S-21 with me, and he never imposed anything on me. I decided to introduce him to the carving I made to my dad, and we managed to speak at a time when I wasn’t so talkative; I guess that must have been a challenge for him. But we probably learned things from one another. He taught me how to probably let go and be less focused on one thing and see things more globally.”
“I wish my dad could have been there physically but that’s not the case. It’s certainly painful. But the trial is much more than that; it’s showing to the rest of the world that one has to be patient and it’s a matter of time that when people do harm, it always comes back to them.”
You can get Carmichael's book in Monument bookstores in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar; and in AsiaBooks in Thailand. It's also sold in Kindle form on Amazon.