Remembering Ros Sereysothea

45 years ago today, the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. If you don’t know much about them (I certainly didn’t learn anything in school), imagine North Korea’s insane authoritarian fascism-masquerading-as-communism, minus the overblown god-emperor routine, and somehow an even more appalling disinterest in human rights.

Between their fanatical and overly-idealistic poorly-implemented policies that led to widespread starvation and disease, and their brutal mass killings fueled by paranoia and extremism, approximately two million people died. And I’d like to take a moment to give a nod to just one of them.


I don’t want to get too long-winded here with some biography you could just find on Wikipedia, so I’ll let her songs speak for themselves.

Chnam oun Dop-Pram Muy seems to be her most famous song, or at the least the one I’ve heard in the most places. It means “I’m 16” and the lyrics are basically celebrating newfound freedoms.

Cham Thngai Vel Vinh is probably my top pick. No idea what the lyrics mean, but I ran the title through a translator and got something like “Looking Back in the Day.”

Kom Nirk Oun Eiy means “Don’t Miss Me,” and the lyrics are about losing a lover and hoping they’ll be reunited in the afterlife.

Despite how fire this beat is, Ouy Khnyom Yom Thov means “Let Me Cry.”

San Chue Chet is about finding out her husband has a secret family. I don’t know whether or not it’s based on a true story, but her love life was definitely a constant barrage of heartbreak and abuse.

Bach Pka Mras Prov translates to something like “Spread the flowers around.”

I know absolutely nothing about Rolok Doung Chet, except that I like it.

I also know nothing about Pel Bong Prot Tov, but if I had to guess the meaning from the sound of it, I’d say it’s about the ghost of a sailor doomed to forever drift the waters a mile from their home. Never able to return, yet never able to explore the vast oceans. Sure, let’s go with that.

Nobody’s entirely sure what happened to her (there are some conflicting accounts but I’ll spare you the awful details). However, since pretty much all of her colleagues also disappeared during that time, they were most likely executed because they symbolized values the government was seeking to eliminate.

RIP Ros Sereysothea, 1948-197?. You gave the world a beautiful gift and suffered tremendously because of it.

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