Daran Kravanh on Cambodia
Interview by Dmae Roberts
Date: June 11th, 2005
Disc 1, 80:48, 14 Tracks; Disc 2, 42:09, 8 Tracks
TRACK 3 – 11:36
DMAE: Do I have your permission to record and edit this interview for broadcast?
DARAN: You have my permission to record and edit.
DMAE: Now introduce yourself and what you have.
DARAN: My name is Daran Kravanh. I am here for the interview with Dmae.
DMAE: Start with “I’m.”
DARAN: I’m Daran Kravanh. This is an accordion. I’m going to play for you.
DMAE: Describe. Is this a normal size?
DARAN: No. This is a big one. This is a big accordion.
DMAE: Describe it.
DARAN: Oh my goodness, I’m not good about that.
DMAE: Play a bit and explain the buttons. How do you play it?
DMAE: Nice. Tell me about the first time you saw an accordion.
DARAN: The first time that I saw an accordion when my father celebrate a big ceremony for traditional ceremony in round my house.
DMAE: Is that uncomfortable?
DARAN: He, my father, invite musician to come and play the music for the people and dance and sing whatever they want to be happy. And that time I saw the man who played accordion and I paid attention to that man very much. I know that he will teach me some time, that’s what I dream, but actually he never let m e touch at all. And he played the accordion on the stage for the people to dance, I saw that, and then I just follow, I stare, watch his finger to move up and down whatever he do to play. And after that day, after the celebrate is done, the musician go back to my house and sleep over there and the nighttime that’s when I go to peek and see that accordion, his accordion. And I bring that accordion with me and I start to close the door and play. The first time I touch the key. First I touch the key and no sound at all and I say why that happen? And then I say oh, he had to put his accordion on his shoulder. And then I have to do that and I push this to make that sound and then I start to play and then I touch the key and go up and down and oh, this sounds higher and this sounds lower and then I start to play. And the first time I play a song called suay-chanti. That’s the first song that I played. And then I start playing accordion from that time.
DMAE: Play a bit of it. It just happened?
DARAN: Yeah. PLAYS
DMAE: What is suay-chanti?
DMAE: Introduce yourself.
BREE: I’m Bree Lafreniere. And in…
DMAE: Say you’re the author…
BREE: I’m the author of the book about Daran’s life and how music saved his life. And I asked Daran too what Suay-Chanti means and he said he doesn’t know the English word and doesn’t know the English word. And then one day we were eating lunch at a restaurant and he suddenly spit his food into his hand and said “There, that’s Suay-Chanti” and it means cashew nut.
DMAE: Is that true?
DARAN: Yes, that’s true.
DMAE: There’s a song about a cashew nut?
DARAN: Yes, Suay-Chanti, that’s the name of the fruit. The Suay-Chanti fruit.
DMAE: Is it symbolic?
DARAN: They just used that name to be a title of that song. I think that means the meaning of that song, the girl in love with the man and then they compare something like you are beautiful, your cheek is smooth like a Suay-chanti fruit. Smooth and beautiful.
DMAE: So your cheek is as smooth as a cashew nut.
DARAN: Yes. That’s just a love song.
DMAE: It’s so happy.
DARAN: Yes. Everybody knows that song so when I was that age, I was too young to talk about love or something, but I love accordion, I can play that song very well.
DMAE: You got one soon after that, right?
DARAN: Yeah. After that my father bought for me and I can play and I learn more. Another song, another song, another song.
DMAE: Did anybody hear you play that night?
DARAN: That, I think that’s the man they said hey man, hey boy, you put that accordion down. I’m still sleepy, I’m still tired. Why you touch that accordion? That’s mine. And then I just put it back for him. Yeah, some people hear that because you cannot avoid to keep that sound.
DMAE: The accordion’s not quiet. You grew up in a family full of music.
DARAN: Yes. All my family, my oldest brother, he play drums, violin, flute, and guitar and accordion and mandolin. A lot. Troh, troh, that’s the name of the Cambodian violin. And my other brother played guitar, drum. Another brother played another instrument and my younger one played guitar. And another one played…there are so many instruments so we had a band that played together, just for fun for the family.
DMAE: Cambodia was a country full of art.
DARAN: Yes. Every, if you go to Cambodia you will see the artistic of the Cambodia, everywhere. Even in their house they create something at least they have something they create for their house. Especially they do something for the New Years celebration and the traditional ceremony, they do that. Especially the Cambodian people, they have their own heart, like peace heart, beautiful heart and they love peace and they love to keep peace, not war, so they. Every Cambodian people, they love to assist and help each other. They don’t criticize or kill each other during the killing field. that’s not real Cambodians.
DMAE: That makes it more tragic. There was such love of creation.
DARAN: Yes. That’s most Cambodian people, they have memories about the Killing Field time. Even myself, I still memorize everything about the Khmer Rouge killing, all the action they have done, but I still don’t believe that. Why did Cambodians kill their own nationality? But when I find out more and more that’s not Cambodian they don’t kill Cambodian. That’s somebody else beside Cambodian nationality.
DMAE: Outside of the Khmer Rouge?
DARAN: Influenced by nothing.
TRACK 4 – 3:43
DMAE: There are a lot of political forces.
DARAN: That’s why I don’t like the political thing. I just love to create art, and peace, and love. Better than you create war and killing. The Cambodian people they suffer more than enough. They don’t want to have war or killing more and more like that. And the Cambodian people, they born in the peace way, in the peaceful mind and heart, they don’t live in war or create fight or killing. That’s no. why they can create their own ???? doesn’t mean collaboration. They love to assist and help each other to build beauty thing. That’s not just fight. But they have to build up their own protection too in case their neighbor come to invade and try to destroy the beauty of them. So they just protect that. But actually they are very good. All Cambodian people are so beautiful. I’m lucky to be Cambodian.
DMAE: I feel that from you. Is it hard for you to talk about your past?
DARAN: Really really difficult for me. You know, from the first time when I met Bri, she kept asking me, why did you survive? And I just want to ignore that because I don’t want to, this is my own way and a lot of Cambodian ways too, they don’t want to share the suffering story. Because they feel that we respect you, we want you to respect us back, that does mean we can help each other, but for one thing, suffering thing, they don’t want to share with you because they don’t want you to suffer like them. So that’s why even my own story, I don’t want to tell you, to make you suffer. Like Bri ask me and then I still said I don’t know. I keep saying I don’t know because that’s a long story. When you say one word, how do you survive? I cannot answer. That’s a long story and then I want to keep that until I die and then I don’t want to share. But after she know how to dig the secret thing and the bad memory that’s really deep. She can dig it up.
DMAE: Dig up the secrets?
DARAN: Yeah, the secret thing. And she’s have the high skill or talent to ask me some question and then I understand better I think maybe I should share because the idea I want to keep, maybe that’s useless. So I have to change my mind a little bit. I have to share the world, to let the world know that this is the real story, the real Killing Field from the year 1975.
DMAE: ’75 yeah. Hold on a second.
TRACK 5 – 3:39
BREE: He got very excited and he says why does she ask? Why does she ask why do I play the accordion?
DMAE: Tell me when you first met Daran.
BREE: When I met Daran…When I met Daran I’d been working with refugees for about three years and so I on a daily basis heard many, many stories. And there’s often stories I would want to keep for my memory, so I would write them on a piece of paper and put them in my desk. But when I met Daran, one day he told me a story that made me cry and shake for three days, and I could not get that story out of my mind. And that story’s actually the climax of the book. But I asked him, what happened before this and what happened after that? Because to me it was a story that demonstrated really the presence of God. It was a very profound story.
DMAE: Can you tell me a little?
BREE: Toward the end of the Khmer Rouge time people were just being killed daily…Daran was living in the Khmer Rouge and towards the end of that time some soldiers were ordered to go and kill Daran and so they came with their guns drawn and Daran had found an accordion on the stump of a tree and he knew he was going to die but he just kept playing his accordion and obviously the soldier didn’t kill him, and that’s really what the story is about.
DMAE: And what about the story made you want to pursue this?
BREE: In the beginning I didn’t plan to write a book, I just asked Daran to tell me that story again so I could take notes to keep it for myself, and he was really surprised. He said usually people don’t like to hear that story, and he wondered why I was so curious about it. But to me, Daran really knew the meaning of life and I wanted to know that too, and that’s what really made me ask more and more questions. And in the beginning I didn’t plan to write a book but after a while I began to see that it was a book and I asked Daran is that okay for me to write in your voice? And after he read he said yes, you know me to my bones, you can write my story. And I also wanted to really give that as a gift back to Daran, really take that story and turn it into art and then return it to him. So, that’s how that happened.
DMAE: How long did it take to write?
BREE: Probably over the course of four years of interviewing him. Sometimes talking without planning. Sometimes doing something else.
TRACK 6 – 12:17
DMAE: You started writing this book. Did you think wow, this is incredible for a book?
BREE: Yeah. I knew that because of my own physical feeling about that, and then when I would share it with my own friends or family they had the same sort of reaction, so we knew they were powerful stories. And also I began to really see a structure and a theme to this book that Daran didn’t see at first. I knew right away that the accordion had a really important part to play in that story, so I pursued that by asking him more and more questions about the accordion and he got real frustrated one day and said why do you keep asking me about the accordion? And I said because this is what I see and he said you’re right, you’re right, so now I know.
DMAE: Is that true?
DARAN: It’s true, yeah. She asked me the first time and I just asked her why you keep asking me about the accordion, accordion, accordion, accordion, accordion? Over and over and over? And she said that everything led to your accordion. And when we finished the writing the book and we start giving the name of that book, called the accordion, first. And the next time we changed to “Music..” I forgot. We changed to something, and finally we find the right one, that’s “Music through the dark.” So, we agreed to do that.
DMAE: CD first and then the book?
DARAN: No, the book first and CD after that, for a while, yeah. A few months, something like that and I can do that.
DMAE: The accordion is important to your life. In every stage you come back to the accordion.
DARAN: Yeah, because I love that music, a musical instrument like accordion, because I believe that accordion can play with the traditional song and with the foreigner’s song. Both. We can play the Cambodian song and foreigner’s song too. That’s easy for me, we can carry to wherever we want, we can play sit or stand everywhere, and that’s a good key that I play that’s make me feel comfortable to play that and then I just love accordion to create song, a new song, and play with the people, with another musician, with another American people. And that’s easy to play along with the other musician. I play some of the song when I hear. I don’t know how to read the note, but I …
DMAE: So you play by ear.
DARAN: By ear, yes.
DMAE: I want to talk about the timeline. What was that day like?
DARAN: Surprised me. And when that Khmer Rouge government on the radio saying all Cambodian people will have real peace. And justice and human right and everything, and we believed that. But on April 18th, that’s confusing, there are a lot of people confused, because they say we come here to save people’s life, but they still kill people on the street.
DMAE: I thought they came in saying they were going to liberate everybody.
DARAN: Yeah. That’s what they said. That’s a liberation, but no. yeah, you say like that’s liberate the people from the town to the forest. That means they emptied the city to force the people to live in the forest and then they kill. Like the first time they come, they arrive and then that time I was a student, I’m the president of the student, I organize more than 2000 students to honor the Khmer Rouge to come and then I meet the governor and major, soldier, commander general, everything. We talked to them and then finally after I talked to them they just sent them to the forest, killed them already.
DMAE: You were put into a group of professional men, and what happened?
DARAN: Yes, after that they gave us, they forced the people, the innocent people and students and professional worker to live in the forest. That time, this means the educated people, that time they ask everybody, raise your hand up if you are a student, professor, doctor, etc, etc. and that time they ask me to join with the group that they already ask them, they say who’s a doctor and he raise the hand, professor, he raise the hand, soldier, raise the hand. And then they say student and I raise my hand. And my brother is a student too, he raise the hand, but I say my son is a student too, I ask them to ask the Khmer Rouge, to let my young brother to go with me. He say no, he not student. I say but he’s a student, and then they say no, he can stay here because he’s young.
DMAE: They were trying to separate everybody.
DARAN: That’s their plan, yeah. They separate from everybody, everybody separate and children separate from their parents and brother, sister, so they have to isolate and then they kill. That’s easy to do that. So.
DMAE: You were separated in this group of men. There’s so many dramatic parts, but that where you knew something bad was going to happen and the men did something.
DARAN: Some of them, they don’t know. When we discuss in a group before we go, they send us to the forest, they didn’t tie us up yet and soldier, the commander, I call him commander because he’s major rank.
STOP SHIRT SOUNDS
DMAE: Nobody knew, you hadn’t been tied up.
DARAN: They don’t know yet. I talk to them, I say brother or comrade I say, I think they ask us to live in the forest, that’s not to study like they told you. I think they’re going to kill us. They said no.
DMAE: They say they were going to go to reeducation.
DARAN: Yes, you have to go to the forest and study. They have school and book, everything in the forest. And I told them already in the group I said this is my area. I know everything, I used to go camping and everything and I say no, I never see any forest in the school at all, don’t believe them. And they said why, how can we do? I said they will kill us so we have to find a way to fight back. They said okay, we start talking to each other and say if they try to kill us, just give a signal, like…
DARAN: Wink your eye and then start fight. So we said okay.
DMAE: So people did?
DARAN: Actually. You know when you go to the forest? The first, after they let you eat the coconut already and then we full, we feel energized. We are strong. And go to the forest, they sent us to the forest and all and after that a lot, like 100 Khmer Rouge soldiers come with pointed bayonet and the gun. And they said leave your hand up. And I looked over to my friend, nobody give the signal. And then nobody give signal, so that’s mean we don’t need to fight. So I don’t fight that time. And then they come to tie me up and another person in my group and after that they start march. But after 100 people come, that’s seven people, seven soldier come to escort us to the forest. And that time we start to know that’s the time we must be killed. So we just walk, walk, walk, walk, until the person, he’s a doctor, he’s the front row. And he sees the grave just dug and he feel like oh, that’s time to die, and he just move his head and then they shoot him, pow, and then kick him into the grave. And I’m the last one. The soldier, the last one, he’s a big guy, he’s a commander too, with a pistol he try to shoot me and I just hit, and he shoot me on my left hand, right here. And then we start to fight each other and then stop, get a bayonet, they stab me on my back, my left foot, right foot.
DMAE: They stabbed you with a bayonet?
DMAE: How many people escaped?
DARAN: Just one die, but the rest, ten of us.
DMAE: Ten of you ran. What’s the forest like in Cambodia? Is it like the forest here?
DARAN: No, that’s different.
TRACK 7 – 5:31
DARAN: In Cambodia that’s not like this country completely. Almost completely different. In the forest, there are wild animal, like snake, cobra, tiger, elephant. And different kind of wild animal, so that’s not easy to live in the forest, but also you see beautiful things in the forest. When I start to stay in forest, to try to escape to Thailand, I learn a lot about nature. If you live in nature you will know that’s why nature is so beautiful. So like a bird, see? When you stay and I can study the bird language. I can know the animal, ??? how to play together, know how to help each other, and also the insect, the ant, can create the music. Maybe nobody know but I know myself. When I lay down on the ground, at first I just think about the bird sing, the bird cry, the bird in love with each other and they’re happy together. I just see that and I understand that thing. And I see the tree grow and have the fruit to provide us a life, can live for a while. And then if you see the ant, they know how to live together. That start to make me study more. To learn more. The ant more to love each other, to build something like the base of their house for everyone, and then they can keep food for today or tomorrow, for the future. How they know to do this? Like the human? Why not the human try to combine together as one? Why they try to break up and become like step somebody down and racist and fight and discrimination and stereotype and everything. Why they do that? We just think about a long time.
DMAE: You have a song from that period too. It’s called something through the forest?
DARAN: That’s called Top of the Tree.
DMAE: Can you describe that song?
DARAN: You know, after they kill us, we live in forest, the commander assign me to be the person who climb up to the tree to watch the enemy come, and then they connect the vine…
DMAE: Oh, the vines.
DARAN: I connect the vines from my wrist to their wrist too. Then I see the enemy come and I just shake and just go, escape.
DMAE: How tall are the trees?
DARAN: Ooh, tall. That’s like taller than these trees sometimes, big, big trees.
DMAE: Taller than a pine tree?
DMAE: Taller than a pine tree.
DARAN: Taller, bigger. So but beautiful. When they assign me to sit on the top of a tree all the time I know how to climb, just sharpen the bamboo and step like a what do you call, like a stair.
DMAE: You hammer bamboo into so you can climb it?
DARAN: I hammer yeah. And one day I sit on the top of the tree, I just feel like I see the sky. I can see the sky. I can see a lake, I can see the animals, I can see the birds, I can see the mountain, I can see everything. I can see the leaf of the tree, that means I can see everything, except the faces of my family. So that’s why I create that song in my head that time. I call the Top of the Tree.
DMAE: Because you wanted to see the faces of your family?
DARAN: I, yeah. Why I say that because my family, I don’t hope that I will see them anymore because after they kill me, that means they kill everybody, so that’s hard for me to see my family’s face anymore. That’s it.
DMAE: A section of the book is an incredible description. Can you read it? Is it easier for you to find?
TRACK 8 – 2:30
DMAE: Introduce yourself again.
BREE: This is Bree Lafreniere, and I’m reading from “Music Through the Dark.” Despite all the rigors of living this way, I remember moments, mostly at nightfall, when my mind was a peace. Every day a person was assigned to sit high atop a tree to watch out for soldiers making a sweep of the forest, or to look for others hiding from the Khmer Rouge who might join us. Ascending the tree was a nightly ritual usually given to me because I was the one with the most strength. As the light faded I would gather lengths of bamboo and sharpen the ends, and then pound them into the tree so I could climb them like a ladder. That is the way my father had taught me. This preparation had a rhythm for me, a beautiful rhythm, like that of my body in a song of my father. After I reached the top of the tree I would connect a vine from the branch to the wrists of the others sleeping below, so that a shake of the branch would alert them to danger. I loved that assignment, sitting quietly, being the caretaker, the eyes for my friends. It was those moments before sunrise that I felt happy. At daybreak, perched high above the earth, the world looked peaceful and kind and beautiful. I saw bamboo groves with great expanses of earth on either side. I did not see war. In my mind I saw only the great blue TOMLE SAP, brimming with fish and great mountainsides of shiny marble, and caves filled with gold. I thought of my beautiful Cambodian people, their dark, sensuous grace. I saw them dressed in silk and dancing ancient dances, their long hands and fingers telling stories or inviting love. I thought of my sleeping companions below who looked like young children before they learn of cruelty and sorrow…
DMAE: Can you start that again?
BREE: I thought of my sleeping companions below who looked like young children before they learn of cruelty and sorrow. I imagined their dreams of food and loved ones, long lost, and whenever in their nightmares they woke, I tugged lightly on the vine and sang them back to sleep. It was there at the top of the tree I composed a song, though I did not have any instrument or any paper and pen to record it, I did have my mind and my voice, and I still carry that song in my mind.
TRACK 9 – 8:06
DMAE: You were basically starving to death.
DARAN: In the forest?
DMAE: There’s another part too, but that part.
DARAN: Looking for food, and also at the same time we study more about nature that’s really deep, so I enjoy living in the forest very much, and maybe in the future I want to live in the forest.
DMAE: But not like that.
DARAN: No, not like Killing Fields, just when we create country to become peace country and we can build a house somewhere in the forest to make your mind peace and create a beautiful thing to share the world.
DMAE: How does it feel to hear her read?
DARAN: I feel like first I cannot read. I cannot hear. But right now because I agree and put myself to share what secret, what I have. I feel that I like and love that story very much and I am proud that Bree know how to write it. It’s beautiful.
DMAE: It’s so hard. You only do it because you feel there’s a purpose.
DARAN: I never read my own book. I cannot. I’m sorry. But sometime when Bree reads some part I feel it makes me cry again. So I cry really deep. And especially when she read and hear some music. When the CD too accompanies the text of the book, that’s made me feel cry more and more and more. That reminds me to go back to the past. That’s incredible to read and my own story. I can tell, but I cannot read myself. Even the music I create, I compose that song but yesterday, that’s the first time I listen to my CD when I copy everything already.
DMAE: What’s the hardest song to listen to?
DARAN: KRAING CHAPEY. That’s the song the Khmer Rouge collect all the musicians together to put one play, one spot they call Kraing Chapey. One spot in the forest, that’s the name, they call Kraing Chapey. That’s the name of the, not a small, that’s a completely forest. Not a village, not a city, nothing, that’s in forest. But they call that place Kraing Chapey. And then I compose that song that’s Kraing Chapey. That means I can compose but when I play I can see everything. Because the musicians that used to play music together, loved to plan the fruit, tree, and potato, everything together, cook together, play music together in the daytime, in the nighttime, in the break time. They do everything. And then the Khmer Rouge took them to kill, especially Mr. Lee, he played guitar. And I see my own eyes, so…
DMAE: So you were playing in the camp and they decided to kill people.
DARAN: Actually they already decide. They already decide to put you together, just play music. They assign you to cut the tree and make that place to become a farm, without giving you a hoe or a knife to do it. So we just have music. How can we do cut and dig the ground and cut the tree to plant a vegetable without providing seed? So we play music and we start to think about that. So we start create music to play music at the nighttime. And I create the drum, it sound like far away. That’s with the string, when I play the drum, and you cannot believe a lot of children come and they listen to the voice of the drum far away and the music far away and when they come closer they say that’s a drum and music. Not just a drum but you can hear far away. And they come and they enjoy it and they play and they dance and they sing together like almost every night and then they start to give us seed…
DMAE: Say that again?
DARAN: Seeds, of a plant or something, yeah. Vegetable and potato and then they give us a hoe and knife, axe to create that place Kraing Chapey place to become a beautiful place.
DMAE: I’d think they’d stop you from playing the music.
DARAN: They actually, they stop and then they investigate every single day, every single night. And they see if we play a ??? song, that’s it. But that time we never played a ??? song, we just played the Khmer Rouge song all the time.
BREE: It was really the children that brought the seeds. The music drew out the children and they came and they saw that they needed food, so they brought back things for food.
DMAE: How could they do that?
DARAN: Everybody in a camp. actually, just musicians, not everybody else.
DMAE: So they shared the seeds because they didn’t want you to be killed. If you couldn’t have planted and done what they wanted they would have killed you.
DARAN: So the Angkar, the big brother. They don’t care where you get the seed or vegetable or potato from, they don’t care. But they ask you to make the tree fruit and vegetable to provide to the other people, provide to the Angkar. So they didn’t give you a seed to do that. Or material to make your farm. Nothing. That means they leave all of us alone and us die. And you cannot go anywhere. If you go, they will kill you. So no fence to stop you. You can escape, go anywhere, but no way. I tried to escape two times, many times already. That’s a minefield, the Khmer Rouge stop, chase you to kill you and everything. No hope, so just do whatever they order you to do.
TRACK 10 – 6:57
DMAE: Let’s talk a little bit. A lot of people think why didn’t you escape? Why didn’t you run away if things were so terrible?
DARAN: First, there’s a technique of skill of the communist government. They work, they force you to work hard without eating enough. That’s the way, the people have no food to eat, no energy, no bread. They cannot think how to do something else besides looking for food to eat. So that’s a big point. When you become skinny, you become skeleton, that means you already die. You cannot walk. How can you walk? You walk one hundred meter or one hundred kilometer, you die already. And also the soldier come to observe, investigate, look for a victim to kill every second. So everything and also they know how to create the network that’s a secret network to spy on each other. See like children, spy their parents and parents spy on other people and another person to kill. And if you know some people who are educated, you tell the Angkar. That means you are good, you are good Angkar son or daughter, something like that. But after that you own, yourself you will be killed. And how can you escape. If you try to escape without food that is an example, you have food. You can escape, you cannot go to anywhere beside the Khmer Rouge. All in the whole country, that belongs to the Khmer Rouge completely. They know how to supervise you. They know how to arrest you. Easily.
DMAE: You tried twice.
DARAN: Yeah. I tried twice, many times already. Minefield.
DMAE: Talk about that.
DARAN: I don’t know, like everywhere, but one place that I tried to go and tried to cross that border, I see a lot of soldier, a lot of Khmer Rouge soldier over there. So we try to escape that place and find another place to walk across the border. But mine. That time we fight each other. I conflict with the, after my group one is killed by tiger, another one is killed by cobra and we still have eight people left and we try to walk across the minefield and start to fight each other. At that time I was young, I’m the youngest in the group and the soldier, commander told me Daran, you have to cross this mine, and I said no, I cannot, I cannot because I think that’s a mine everywhere. We have to love each other, we have to support each other, we are in a group. We are the one who will survive from the killing, why you force me, this means you kill me. And then we start fight each other and he try to shoot me and I pull the gun and I say you don’t need to do this. And he said if you don’t walk or run across this mine I will kill you, same thing. And I say if I walk and step the minefield I’ll be killed. And if I don’t go, he will kill me. So I have to take a chance. So I have to run. In case I not step on a mine, that don’t mean I survive. So I close my eyes and I just run across the mine. I just show and hit the tree and hit everything.
DMAE: So you tried to walk?
DARAN: Yeah, I run that. But that time, I don’t know, one deer come and jump from there, maybe he scared the human hit the tree and something, I don’t know. And then he come and step on a mine and blew up and die and we start fight each other.
DMAE: How old were you?
DARAN: Twenty-one, I think twenty-one at that time, yeah.
DMAE: There are so many stories like that. The other time you tried to escape, what happened?
DARAN: After that, the commander asked me to walk across the mine again. He said after the mine explode, that means clear. You can walk. I said if you know how to do that, you walk yourself. I’m a student and you’re a soldier, you know the…
DMAE: This is the same guy?
DARAN: Yeah. But another rabbit came and explode again.
DMAE: The animals saved your life.
DARAN: The animals saved my life. I really love the deer and rabbit very much. They saved my life.
DMAE: Do you sometimes look at your life and say did I live that?
DARAN: I cannot believe myself. When I come here, when I stay here in the US I just look back, think about flashback to what I have done, what I strived, what I have been through. Killing fields, several civil wars and killing fields and minefield and refugee camp and here, I’m here. Across everything I cannot believe how can I survive. But I am here and I am still Daran and I never change my name. But I never change any my personality because I love the people, I love human, I love to serve the human, and I love to create something new, and inspire to encourage the next generation.
TRACK 11 – 8:59
BREE: I think Daran…sometimes Daran has the survivor guilt and he feels really bad that he survived and his father and brothers, especially, died. But one of our editors said well, somebody had to survive to tell the story. And I think by telling the story it brings a lot more meaning to his survival.
DMAE: Do you think a lot of refugees have that guilt?
DARAN: Yes. I think all the Cambodian people, they have their own suffering story. Just a little bit that they don’t want to share when they speak out, means cry again. So that’s why I really sympathize with the people who suffer in the Khmer Rouge times, in the killing fields, especially in the refugee camp too, that suffer too much. Some people they love to share, they love people to write their story because they have a different story. Different action, different activity. Everybody have their own story. Maybe in the future we can collect all the story of the people suffering from the killing field and the minefield to share the world, to let the world find justice for them. That’s time to find justice. How many years they cannot find any. We have to find the justice for the Cambodian people. They still have no, they just put the obstacle to block to find the real justice for the Cambodian people.
DMAE: What is the real justice?
DARAN: You know, the people, the world, some country, they scared of the justice, so they find the obstacle to stop them. They don’t want to bring the Khmer Rouge leader to bring them to the court, to justice. And then they just find a way to stop them and slow them down and let all the witness to die. And let the Cambodian leader to die, that’s Pol Pot, you see that? Pol Pot, he die. Actually maybe if he survive he can tell the real story. Maybe he’s the one not kill the people, somebody else force him to do or whatever, but we don’t know for sure, so that’s why we, I want to urge the world to please do this for the Cambodian people. That’s where we find justice.
DMAE: It’s so hard because when you see things on the news like the Sudan you must understand their suffering?
DARAN: Yes, I understand that in another country. Even Hitler killed Jews and they still find justice for them. But for Cambodian people they don’t. they try hard but no, that’s a way, the technique to let all the witness die and then they can erase the killing fields so the next generation won’t know the killing field anymore.
DMAE: Is that happening in Cambodia?
DARAN: Yes. You see that even you try to write a book about killing field, killing field, killing field, and you tell the true thing that you have done, you have seen, you have been through. Oh, no way. Maybe you will be die, but they have a different style to kill you, with peace way.
DMAE: How is that?
DARAN: I don’t want to tell more about the politics.
DMAE: Is there a name for it in Cambodia? Killing fields?
DARAN: I think that when Mr. Dith Pran he have his own book and the movie.
DMAE: So people know it as the killing fields.
DARAN: Right now they just start call the killing fields and like that.
DMAE: Every Cambodian has a story who lived through it. You have a lot of Cambodian friends here too? Do you talk about it?
DARAN: My goodness. You know, sometime I play music, I bring music to play together. Almost every week we play music, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And we play music together, enjoy have peace to enjoy each other, have tea and get to know each other, family and children. Eat together and try to set up and plan something to create the beautiful thing for the community. want to be a part of the community. yeah we do that. But when you talk about the killing fields, most of the women just walk away. They don’t want to see that.
DMAE: They don’t want to talk?
DARAN: They don’t want to talk about that. If you ask them why they don’t want to talk about it, they say too much suffering. That’s more than enough for them. When you see the killing fields they start, they took my husband to kill my husband. And they took my baby away from me and kill it and rape me and some go like that. That’s why the suffering is too much. And not just one time, sometimes many time. Sometimes they rape the women until they die and shoot them. So they don’t want to talk about that. So that’s why I can’t believe the world, they don’t know during that time, from April 17th, 1975 to 1979, I cannot believe the world just ignore that or be quiet to understand about the Cambodian people. The Khmer Rouge kill with the people, three million were killed by the Khmer Rouge without knowing from the world.
DMAE: People also don’t know why you don’t go back home. That this is your home and America was responsible.
DARAN: I believe that’s all the Cambodian people. They love to see their homeland, their birthplace, but from now, most of them they don’t want to go back to leave because political issue and corruption and killing still.
DMAE: They could be killed.
DARAN: That’s true. Because a lot of people, even the singer, if you sing beautifully and you try to take sides, this party and another party, maybe they can find a way how to kill them too.
DMAE: It’s still not a safe place.
DARAN: I think for a visitor that’s okay, because right now none governmental organization they build a lot of stuff, and roads, and try to make the Cambodian people have peace, and that’s better.
TRACK 12 – 6:17
DMAE: Do the men talk about the killing fields?
DARAN: Yes. Sometimes they talk, but sometimes they don’t want to. Sometimes they want to be quiet. But some people choose something else to interrupt that, instead of the suffering story, they talk about the comedy. Something to make you have fun.
DMAE: You try to make each other laugh?
DARAN: Make each other laugh and start playing music again.
DARAN: Sometimes they’re teasing each other and make some people you talk about a joke or some kind of joke to let the people look at each other and laugh and play the music and to ignore something like that.
DMAE: So they don’t want to talk about that.
DARAN: Yes. Even the men, they don’t want to talk about that. But sometimes.
BREE: I have a little bit about that too. At first, I innocently asked Daran how did you survive and he said “I do not know myself.” And I knew that he had a story in him, I knew that, and I had a curiosity but I could also see that he needed to tell that story, and sometimes it was so painful that he couldn’t talk, sometimes he would just play a song instead. And sometimes I felt really guilty but in the end, I think that it was so healthy for him to tell the story and to finally tell it after keeping it inside for such a long time.
DMAE: Is it healthy?
DARAN: Still, yeah. Tell a story, that’s good now, but still music’s better. I play music, that’s better than telling the story, but right now that’s okay because we write the book already, we have the book so we can tell more.
DMAE: I’m curious. As long as you played the communist songs, that’s okay. So they still needed music?
DARAN: You know? Communists are really smart in a bad way, to kill the people. They know that music is powerful. Is powerful tool to resolve all the problem. The Khmer rouge, they just change the word from the capitalist word to the communist word. For example, children love Angkar without limit, if you are living under the supervision of the communist government you have to love Angkar, you have to honor, you have to respect. But the Angkar never respect you back.
DMAE: Explain Angkar.
DARAN: Angkar, that’s big brother. Like dictator completely, that’s a dictator. They can kill you any time. So I know already that music can change your mind, can change society, can create the new thing and can make the people change their mind too, so that’s why the last time I play music and the Khmer Rouge change their mind, from stop killing me. So that’s why I still love the music very much. I cannot…what? If I play music, I don’t eat, that’s okay. One day, that’s okay because I’m survived from hear the music. When you hear music, you have energy. That’s motivation, that makes your brain become clear and bright. To think about the beautiful thing. You can create beauty to beautify the community. to beautify your own. To beautify this country. Your own country and the world. so that’s why the communist, they love music to change the people. They let the people love them but not their own.
DMAE: So they used music.
DARAN: Yeah. That’s why…I love music very much. When even the Khmer Rouge music, I love that, but I don’t want to play the Khmer Rouge song, because when you play it remind, that reminds me of the action that they kill the people.
DMAE: you don’t want to bring back those memories.
DARAN: That’s true, that’s true. So that’s why all the musicians come together, when they play, they keep asking each other do you remember the Khmer Rouge song, they say yeah, of course. And then we start playing, sometimes.
DMAE: So you do play them sometimes?
DARAN: Yeah, we play. And then we stop, don’t play. That’s mean, sometimes they forget. And they play and then oh, yeah, they kill my children. And then stop. They said children love Angkar, but he don’t love my children. They kill them, so they stop playing.
DMAE: It brings it back.
DARAN: Yeah, that’s true.
DMAE: I want to ask you about when you found the accordion by the stump of the tree. Did you start playing immediately?
TRACK 13 – 9:43
BREE: I’ve just known him for thirteen years. I know him so deeply, I know what he’s thinking of.
DMAE: What’s he thinking of?
BREE: About, just in regards to your questions I can just guess what he’s feeling and thinking.
DMAE: Thirteen years? That’s great. Tell me about the time you found the accordion.
DARAN: Yeah. That time, the Khmer Rouge, the Angkar, they assign me to be the log sawyer. That means I saw the logs.
DMAE: A logger? Or saw logs.
DARAN: Saw logs okay. To build a house for the Angkar. So I saw the big, big logs. And then one day I just sawed and I’m tired and I just stop for a while and I just think about music. And I said if I’m tired and I don’t have food to eat, besides take the leaf of the tree to eat, I should play music, I should hear music at least, but at that time we could not hear anything, just like ghost place. And hear nothing. When I just think about the music, just remind me of the past, I love to play music with my family, with my brother, with my mom, my dad, my sister and everything, I feel I play accordion again. And when I just start thinking about that thing and then I saw the Khmer Rouge soldier ride a bicycle and he put the accordion on the back of his bicycle. And I see that accordion and right away I said I just wash my face, I say hey, is this a real accordion or an accordion ghost. I feel like that, and then I just go back to do my job. And after a while when I relax and take a break and go to the forest a little bit and pick the leaf of the tree a little bit to fill my stomach, and I just see an accordion on the stump of the tree. And I think who is it? Who does it belong to? Whose accordion does it belong to? And ooh, I want to touch. And I’m really surprised and I say that’s a dream really come true. I just think about that and an accordion come. God provide this instrument to me or what? And just think about that and I cannot control my desire, compulsion. I have to touch accordion. And then I touch, not just touch. I just play a little bit and play and then Khmer Rouge come.
DMAE: What did you play?
DARAN: I play a capitalist song.
DMAE: What’s that?
DARAN: That’s like a happiness. Saturday Happiness.
DMAE: Can you play a little bit?
DARAN: PLAYS @ 3:50 Just that song, and then the Khmer Rouge come right away and they say hey, you touch my accordion. And I say oh, that’s time to die. That’s time to see the real evidence that the Khmer Rouge see with his own eye that I touch his accordion. When I play and then he ask me did you play that? Did you play accordion? Just, I cannot answer that question right away. I had to stop and think about that. Because if I say and answer to him that I don’t play that accordion, that means I lied to him, I lied to the Angkar. If you lie to him you must be killed. Because he saw with his own eyes. But if I said I play accordion, he will know that I am a student, or I am a musician or I am an educated person, I must be killed to. Which one do I choose? So I have to tell him the truth. I said yes, I did play your accordion. And he said play more. And I’m just surprised, I say are you sure? And he said you play the Khmer Rouge song? I cannot say no. I have to say no, but actually I play a capitalist song. And then said, you know the song you just played, that is so good. This is an Angkar song? And I said yes. And he said just play that again. And I know that he will trick me and he’ll see that he will hear again and maybe he say that’s a capitalist song and he will kill me. So I try to talk to him, do you have another song you really like, because I really want to play for you? Oh yeah, yeah, play another song. They called Angkar, “Children Love Angkar Without Limit.” I never heard it all.
DMAE: You have it on your CD.
DARAN: Just a little bit. I never played that song at all. I never heard at all, but you know, I had to ask him, you know what, if you whistle, I can play the right way. You know, sometimes people forget, and he say okay, he whistle Children Love Angkar Without Limit, da, da, da… and I just play. PLAYS Just like that. And he said yeah, that’s a good song, you play it very well. And I said I play it all the time, I just forget this time. And he said how about you play another song, I ask him what song and he just whistle another song and another song. And we start playing another song, another song. And after that I play a capitalist song but I just trick him, if he know that. I play Saturday Happiness. When he play attention, I play Children Love Angkar Without Limit right away to test his brain. And then he’s okay. He didn’t say you play capitalist song. He didn’t say that. So I just happy, but I said oh, maybe I’m okay. But no, for a while. But then the people in my group come and he say hey, man. In English they say…
DMAE: Say it in Cambodian.
DARAN: Daran, CAMBODIAN. My goodness, that means my god, my god. BATOL, you play this? How can you play the accordion? I don’t know, I was with you for a long time and I didn’t know you played. You are so beautiful and I like you very much and you’re a very strong man. You saw logs to get a house for Angkar, that’s a lot. You are very good and the soldier say yeah, that’s what I thought. He plays the accordion too, for the Angkar. He can form the team for the Angkar, for the musician for the Angkar. I said for sure, anytime please, I can do for Angkar because I love Angkar. I can play Children Love Angkar without Limit too.
TRACK 14 – 0:30
DMAE: Angkar means something different to you.
DARAN: Angkar, usually I believe the Cambodian Angkar, the English language call nation. I used to see Angkar ??? that means the United Nation. Another Angkar like nonprofit organization or governmental…
END OF DISC 1
TRACK 1 – 3:53
DMAE: Did he let you keep the accordion?
DARAN: Yeah. Up to that, when a group come to surround me and then the group touch me, someone touch my shoulder and someone touch me and say Daran, I’m worried about you. You play the accordion and that means you’re educated, you’re not a farmer. No, you don’t. you live in the middle class, you’re not a farmer, so if you are middle class and high class no, you not survive. Maybe tonight that’s the last night you live. That’s what he told me, the people told me.
DMAE: They thought you were going to be killed?
DARAN: That’s what they told me, that I would be killed. And then I said hum, I’m tired to escape, because I try to escape many times to Thailand but it doesn’t work good, so if they kill, just kill. I’m here. And exhausted to fight them back.
DMAE: You kept that accordion to you.
DARAN: And after that the soldier said Daran, you play accordion, I don’t know how to play. You keep this, this is yours. And then I keep and I say are you sure? This doesn’t belong to me, but I do like this: you sure? I want to take from him, are you sure you give to me? Are you sure or not? He says take it, it’s yours right now. And I say goodness, oh please, I’m really thankful to you, I really appreciate very much that I have the life. That’s life, you give an accordion, that’s life. Now I’m reborn, I have another life.
DMAE: If he’d kept it would they kill him? I’m surprised they let you keep it. They wanted the music too.
DARAN: Actually they wanted me to keep and recruit another musician actually. Recruit the children to dance for the Angkar when they have a celebration, especially April 17th, that’s an anniversary for them to celebrate. So I start to recruit people. When I start to play accordion, all the children come. All the town, every adult people, they all come to see me. I become famous in that time. Famous in the hell time. And then they start to know and the person said ooh, you play that, I know how to play the troh, that’s a Cambodian violin. And another one say I know how to play takai. I know how to play kim, I know how to play troh-ooh. And then flute and chapai, that’s a kind of guitar. And then I say why, get together. And then also Mr. Suisan Uh, he’s a famous writer. He play mandolin. And then he died, they killed him.
TRACK 2 – 3:17
DMAE: How many people you played with survived?
DARAN: I think Mr. Chin survived.
DMAE: Bree’s looking it up.
DARAN: Not many. Mr. Ch….
DMAE: Do you know anybody still?
DARAN: Yes. I met them. I met them in Cambodia.
DMAE: Oh, they live in Cambodia.
DARAN: Yes. They’re in Cambodia, not here, the persons from my group, no, in Cambodia. And when I first tune with them…
DMAE: Tell me about the pictures.
DARAN: Mr. Chin? Mr. Chin, he’s a musician. And he’s the one who saved my life many times. When I had malaria, he stole the coconut from the Angkar to inject to make me survive, to make me strong. That’s the coconut. It can save your life too. You don’t need a serum. The coconut can be a serum.
DMAE: Bree described how if you stole a tomato or one piece of fruit you could be killed.
DARAN: You know, because the rule of Angkar, they said no steal, no whisper to each other, no collaborate, no create any activity to escape, no anything that led to do some kind of group to fight against the government, that’s all the rule. You had to love Angkar in all you do.
DMAE: But if you pick fruit…
DARAN: If you pick a piece of fruit, example myself. I plant the potato there. They love you to plant your own farm, small farm. You do it but you cannot pick for yourself. You have to, you can do it, you can grow it but when you have the fruit and potato you have to give to the Angkar. You cannot possess it at all. So that’s why one time I am so hungry I had to steal my own potato and then they come, they shoot. But lucky that’s nighttime. And the soldier said, he call that oh, the pig, pig. The pig eat the potatoes, shoot them, shoot the, but actually I try to crawl and escape. Even the corn, I have to steal my own corn I grow, and you’re not allowed to do that. So that’s why, you cannot possess anything. You must be killed if you steal that.
TRACK 3 – 8:11
DMAE: That’s unreal.
DARAN: The bottom line is the Angkar not allow you to eat and you have to cheat enough to fight them back. Because they know this is the time to kill the people, not the time to let you have any activity to fight them back.
DMAE: When did you go back?
DARAN: 1997. in the summer.
DMAE: What was that like?
DARAN: Surprised me. Many years, I go back and see my old accordion. That’s my accordion my brother keep for me.
DMAE: Your brother.
DARAN: That’s real. And we saw the first time too. I just feel like I meet my brother, meet my family, meet my friend, and I’m all the time happy. We try to hit each other, hit the hand, hit back.
DMAE: How many people in your family survived?
DARAN: Just one, just my brother.
BREE: Just one brother. And actually when Daran was telling the story, I said what ever happened to that accordion you found? And he said oh, I think it’s lost. So when we went to Cambodia fourteen years after Daran escaped out of Cambodia we went to his brother’s house and I saw this red accordion sitting on the table and I knew that was it. And when Daran saw it he just sobbed and sobbed. And he insisted on bringing it back on the airplane and the stewardesses didn’t really understand why it was so important. It was covered in dirt. But it has a serial number on there. So sometime we’re going to go to Italy, to the port where it left out of in the 50s and find out its story.
DMAE: That’d be great.
DARAN: And after that we go to visit Mr. Chin over here. You know why I go there and I love that picture on that spot? First I take my picture with him because he saved my life many times. He gave some food to me, he gave medicine, he steal the coconut to inject…into my arm instead of serum they have a coconut to do that. And also this spot, that’s a spot that I lost my spoon.
DMAE: How important was the spoon?
DARAN: The spoon. In Khmer Rouge time the Khmer Rouge love you to possess one shirt, one pant, one shoe, one scarf, one spoon, one plate, maybe one hammock. That’s all. So if you don’t have spoon you don’t have anything to eat with the group, because afterward or something like that, the Angkar give you a big bowl of soup to let you eat together and if you don’t have spoon you cannot use your hand. You cannot do that. Sometime you have to use the hand to do that but they will hit you or punch you and if Angkar sees you do that they will kill you or do that too.
DMAE: How did you lose your spoon?
DARAN: I cannot believe that because the spoon always put in my, right here, hip. In the belt. Not belt. We have the vine to make…
DARAN: yeah, rope. Vine, actually vine. That’s to make, but to hold your pants. If you break that, you become you know that. But that time because that time they ask me to rake the field, the rice field. and then I’m lucky that I become a rake person because when I step on the rake I always look, because I want to see the frog or crab or something I can eat. But I cannot stop. If I stop, the Angkar sees you, I must be killed. But I don’t care, sometimes I pretend oh, I fall down, I see the fish, I try to stop the cow and then I stop and cut right away and put in my pant, I do like this, put in another fish like this, fish, shell, crab, and then finally I don’t know. And then because that time I catch a lot of fish and shell and crab so my place, I have no spot to put anymore. And then that’s the time no longer have spoon. So when the Angkar ask everybody, just hit the bell, bong, and everybody come and eat, and where’s my spoon, I look everywhere and finally that’s, I don’t have. And I just sit because nobody want to share with you because they eat fast. If you eat fast it doesn’t mean you fill up your stomach fast too.
DMAE: So you couldn’t eat.
DARAN: So I tried to pick a leaf off a tree, tried to do like a spoon, they wouldn’t allow, they not allow me so they hit my hand so okay, I just walk away. So I walk away and that night I eat the rice with no soup, that’s okay. I have some fish that I caught and I cook and eat in a quiet place but that time, those people they see me, wow you have a lot of fish. And I say yeah, I want to share with you, eat. And I share with them. And then next time they say hey, next time you have to share a spoon with Daran too, so he can eat the food. And I say yeah, you’re not selfish yourself. And then I try and that time I play accordion and the kid come and I know I create music come on spoon, bring a spoon to make the sound, hit each other, and a lot of people bring the spoon and make music, and play the drum and play accordion and everybody have fun. And then after that we sleep and I talk to the kids I don’t have a spoon. What! I have a lot of spoon. Here, take. And then they give me a lot of spoon and then I say okay, I don’t have a spoon, I don’t worry about having a spoon anymore. So I go there, I stand in that spot, exactly that spot. Because I love that spot and then they kill people on that place too.
TRACK 4 – 5:42
DMAE: Did you go to a lot of places while you were in Cambodia?
DARAN: Yeah, everywhere that’s a lot. Like my family place, I used to go there.
DMAE: That’s okay.
DARAN: I go to my father’s place. The place where we used to get to each other to play music and then I see the…
DMAE: Would you rather stop?
DARAN: That’s okay. I see a post, a gatepost, I used to see my father’s name over there and when I go there we’d have the picture in there too, in the book. When I go there I look at that post and then I cry and I just see the post but I didn’t see my family and I feel like really disappointed and hopeless and I, but
DMAE: Is that all that was left of the house?
DARAN: Yeah. Even the tree…the steps and the post and my brother, that’s all. See this picture? That’s all my family, all of them were killed. We stand on the step right here, and right now when I go back I just see the gatepost and my father’s name on that. But that’s disappeared. And the step and all the house and coconut tree and everything, that’s gone. The Khmer Rouge destroy it and my brother, two of them, I and my brother stand on the step instead and take a picture of that spot.
DMAE: You’re standing on the steps.
DARAN: That’s the same spot. So we go there and go to see ??? and go to Mr. Chin’s house. But I feel ashamed myself and I feel guilty when I go there, I buy the rice and noodles and give him money. I give him the guitar and he receive my money. I just give a silver, like three to five hundred dollars, and give to other people, but he didn’t keep it. He’s poor. But he didn’t want to keep himself, he just want to give away to the poor people too. He said they suffer more than me, just take it, take it. I say what do you want? And he ask me one thing, I ashamed so far, I cannot help him so far. He ask me to buy the water pump to pump the water from the lake to the rice fields for everybody, not him. And then so far I don’t have money to give to him to buy that. I feel guilty, I really want to help him.
DMAE: How much would that take?
DARAN: Something around two or three thousand dollars. Something not big if you try to save money.
BREE: He wanted something else too. Your shirt.
DARAN: He did yeah. And then I say okay, beside that, what do you want from me? And he said, I want your shirt and my shoes. And I said wow, that’s too cheap. Why do you want my shirt and my shoes? I can give you if you want, but why do you want? He said because I want to keep your smell. That means Daran stay with me forever. And I don’t want to wash that, I want to keep that scent and then the shoe too. And I say oh my goodness. And I take the shirt and give to him and take the shoe off and give to him and then another woman comes, that’s like another musician’s wife that time in the camp. she ask me, Daran, can I have your pants please? I said oh my, do you have any scarf I can wear because…I don’t have it, right?
BREE: Daran gave away all his clothes. He had to wear my clothes after that.
DARAN: Yeah. I wear her clothes.
BREE: Janet, she was such a brilliant photographer. She took a photograph of Daran with his bare chest and Mr. Chin with Daran’s shirt wrapped around him. Daran has the biggest smile you can imagine. So happy to provide him that.
TRACK 5 – 4:28
DARAN: I’m happy. I give him money, he said that’s not value it. Not valuable.
DMAE: There’s the English phrase, the shirt off your back. You give anybody anything. A sign of generosity.
DARAN: I love to do that. I love that. I don’t think about myself too much.
DMAE: Is he still around? Your brother too?
DARAN: Yes, yes.
DMAE: Do you send money back?
DARAN: Yes. I send money, my own pocket. Sometimes Bree share with me and send to the orphanage center and handicapped people. So that’s why we create the CD. That CD, I spend my own pocket but I don’t profit. The profit we send to the orphanage center in Cambodia.
DMAE: Everything from the CD goes to the orphanage.
DARAN: Yes. That’s what we decided for that money, so I don’t touch that money at all. We just send it to the orphanage and we send many times already and that’s why we want to, we have a plan to sometime do the fundraising here for people in Cambodia because they suffer too much. The assistance from the world is not enough for them right now. The people have dry rice fields so they cannot grow so they find another job, instead of do on the rice field, they go to hit the rock to sell the rock, they make fifty cents a day in two days. So how can you survive like that? I really, that disturbs me too much and disappoint me myself that I cannot do something for the people in Cambodia, what they need. So that’s why Bree and me plan to do something to do some organization to help people in Cambodia, but right now we create the new one, Cambodian American support network organization right now, I just do that.
DMAE: Is that with the ?
DARAN: The festival is not just meant for the whole thing, but this is just one small activity among another activity. I tried to organize the water festival because we want to preserve the UNTUK activity. The Cambodian water festival the Cambodians call UNTUK, that means you row the boat. So we not just want to do to organize the water festival for fun. We want to preserve the culture, we want to share the unity among the Asian and American people. We want to be part of the community, especially in the USA. We want to inspire for next generation. We want to let the people come together to make the community strong and let the people love each other. We create the peace and love together. Not to create war. I don’t want to see anybody have the stereotype to try to fight because I still believe that’s one flower doesn’t’ make a garden until you have too many flower, different color, put together in one place and you can call a beautiful garden.
TRACK 6 – 7:09
DARAN: So but this event may be a little bit hard for us to raise money. We are kind of a poor community.
DMAE: Are there a lot of Cambodians in Seattle.
DARAN: Yeah, this is for not just Cambodians in the Tacoma area. Cambodians in all Washington state come to join us. And we have Filipino, we have Thailand, Laotian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesia, Kram, and Cambodian, etc. last year they join to make that even happen. This year we do in August not October because it’s too cold.
DMAE: Too cold for a boat race. What kind of advice for those from Cambodia to be immigrants here?
DARAN: For the Cambodian people some of them still study to learn more about different culture between American and Cambodian. Sometimes they don’t understand American culture too much. Even myself, I’m a leader of the Cambodian community here, still I learn more about the American culture. I want to study more. And Cambodian people, some they don’t want to create any problem. They just want to live in peace. Because most Cambodian people, they have a beautiful heart, a beautiful mind. A peace mind, a peace heart. They want to create the beautiful thing. They don’t want to fight, they don’t want to kill each other in a war, especially in this country. But the kids when they grow up here they get involved with the gang activity, everything. That disappoint their parents. In Cambodia they don’t have any gang activity. No nothing. After a while right now maybe somebody try to create that kind of bad activity in Cambodia and here too. So that’s why right now I and another group of Cambodian group try to help each other to combine together to make the Cambodian community strong. To erase all the bad activity. To reduce that. Instead of the bad action we create the beautiful thing. So first right now for the organization . you organize the water festival for the first time to organize the community in Washington state.
DMAE: Why do kids join gangs?
DARAN: Too many reasons.
DMAE: A lot of people think Asians are all professionals.
DARAN: I think besides Cambodian people I don’t know that but actually yeah. Vietnamese, Chinese, or something, they know how to make business, but not Cambodian. Cambodian they don’t know how to make business very well. But not all of them, some of them. And when they accuse Cambodian people, they say you are not educated, you let the children get involved with gangs, or something like that, I really protest that. That’s not. You have to look back and see what Cambodian people survived. Most of the knowledge people and educated people were killed. Some, that’s not a high educate. Just like middle or something like that. So the people they come to the USA, most of them they live along the border and some Khmer Rouge and educate and they come and they don’t study about anything related…
DMAE: They don’t have the education because it wasn’t encouraged.
DARAN: They don’t know how even to educate their children. They don’t know how to even tell them to do the right thing, especially in this country where that’s technology everywhere grow up in this country. That means the Cambodian people who are uneducated are behind, they are behind. they cannot study, they cannot understand, so the children take up after their parents. They can do whatever they want. But the Cambodian people, the parents, they always keep their own children in the peace place, but they don’t want it. They say, you don’t need to put me in a box. You have to let me freely go do whatever I want. I love any boy, I steal something, I drive the car and everything, but you know. And then the parents start, because of the culture, you have to hit them. In Cambodia you can hit the child sometime, it’s not a cruel thing. But you cannot stop. Something the parent get angry with the parent and start with the gang and use drug or whatever.
BREE: That’s a big story. When I worked with refugees the kids would bother me. They were always hanging around, getting into trouble, so I decided I was going to start a youth program specifically to help southeast Asian youth. So that’s actually how I hired Daran to, and met him the first time, because I hired him to work with youth. A lot of incredible things happened. That’s a lot of stories.
TRACK 7 – 9:08
DARAN: Yeah. So, see like this even, so that’s why we tell the children to come form a team. We encourage them to unite, one team, together to race. That means, during the summer time they have nothing to do. sometimes they don’t want to do any job to earn any money. They don’t. so we have to find some way to reduce the bad activity of the kid. So that’s why I encourage them and we are in the group, a lot of people come to help me,….they come to help me to organize. That’s even some people, her name Varya, she know how to write a grant to help us, to make this even happen. But because we are short of money we cannot raise too much so we still worry about it. So I don’t know ask for a donor or funder to help us sponsor this event, I really appreciate that.
DMAE: How much do you need to raise?
DMAE: How much have you raised?
DARAN: Right now we raised about 15,000 or 20,000.
DMAE: You need a lot more.
DARAN: Yeah, that’s a lot more and we need a lot of volunteers too. We need two, three hundred volunteers. Any kind of nationality, if they can come to help please, come and time too short. So I’m nervous because too much things to do.
BREE: Daran has a million stories.
DMAE: One last question. You two when you first met, at what point did you guys fall in love?
BREE: I don’t think for a radio program. I’ll tell you personally.
DMAE: You are engaged now?
BREE: We’ll get married around December 14th.
DMAE: Is it okay to mention?
DARAN: Not on the radio.
DMAE: Anything else?
DARAN: I just want to thank you very much. And I really appreciate that you spend your own valuable time to talk to me.
DMAE: Here’s one thing. How would you like people to treat Cambodian-Americans?
DARAN: The Cambodian people suffer more than enough, they don’t want to let anybody exploit them and cheat them and look down on them much because they are peaceful persons. They are really beautiful heart person. Actually their soul is so beautiful already, they don’t want anybody to mess up their beauty. For the Cambodian people they should work together and help them, to support them, to study more about the Cambodian culture deeply. That’s better than understand and you can serve them more instead of ignore them.
DMAE: There’s a blessing in the book. A song? What is that?
DARAN: This is for my individual spirit. That’s I believe in the spirit, when I have any problem or trouble or something I just imagine or think about the spirit, the spirit will come to help me. So that’s why every day I greet him, pray him, and to say like prayer. CAMBODIAN. Something like that can you help me, please come to take care of me, any trouble just erase that and resolve the problem I have. That’s greeting and play with that too.
DMAE: What song does that go with?
DARAN: A hard one. An old song we play with an old kind of musical instrument.
BREE: Ancient song.
DARAN: Ancient song. If I play that I have to cry.
DMAE: Do you say that quite often?
DARAN: Um hum. Every time I pray I say that to the spirit.
DMAE: Is that a religion?
DARAN: It’s not a religion. That’s what I believe because when something happen on me, like during the Khmer rouge and that time and the killing fields, and you have to believe this, this spirit when my father was alive and my brother he said this belong to him, it his spirit, before, and he transfer to my oldest brother, ???. but he say it doesn’t work for me, so he has to transfer that spirit completely to me and my brother ??? and you see that all of them killed to survive. So that’s why we still believe that. And what I believe more is my brother, he’s pass out for five days. That means he die already. But I don’t know what’s happen, he move his finger and people say no, he still survive. They put him in the…
BREE: His brother had a stroke and he was unconscious for five days.
DARAN: They put him in the room, the body room…
DMAE: A morgue?
DARAN: already, to be cremated. But he move his finger or something and then they said ooh, he’s still alive we’ll go to see the doctor. And the doctor from France or something and he operate his whole brain, skull, something and he survive, and he have no money to pay for that but I share, send some money to him and…
DMAE: This is after. Is there a religion in Cambodia?
DMAE: Are you Buddhist?
DARAN: Yes, I’m Buddhist.
DMAE: It sounds very Buddhist to me. You’ve developed it. Thank you so much.
TRACK 8 – 0:20