In April 1975 Ngak Chhay Heng and his family loaded their car with their
personal possessions, pushed it 20 kilometres from Phnom Penh, discarded
anything that differentiated them from peasant farmers, and disappeared
under the dark shadow of the Khmer Rouge for three years, eight months
and 20 days.
For twelve of her 21 years Chan Phaloeun lived with war and tyranny. At the end of the Khmer Rouge period she was too ill to walk and had been expected to die. Her brain was so numb that if she tried to count to ten she could not continue past three. Yet in the next few years she graduated from university in Russia and became a key research leader helping to restore rice production in Cambodia.
This book is about people and their work and challenges in rescuing Cambodia from famine. Men, women and children who lived under the shadows of war and the terrible time of the Khmer Rouge who were desperately weak from starvation when it ended. People like Ngak Chhay Heng and Phaloeun who survived to be part of the restoration of food production and of their friends and families who left only a trace of their existence. It is about expatriates such as Harry Nesbitt who dedicated a substantial part of their working lives in helping the people of Cambodia to produce the food they needed to fill their stomachs and become self-sufficient. About how people from many different organisations saw the benefits of collaboration and worked for a common goal, and about those organisations and people in positions of authority that had the wisdom to support their efforts.