Stories about forced labour, starvation, family separation, arranged marriages, heartless slaughtering and killing are not unspoken truths. In fact, they have been written a thousand times, in different angles by different writers.
Written by Kim Pichpinun, “Sad Wedding Music” gives readers another aspect of the suffering of one person who had encountered two different miserable times during the time of Lon Nol and Pol Pot. Published by Khmer Writers Association in 1998, the book earned the 2nd prize of 7 January Literature Award in 1997.
Based on a true story, the book begins by telling the tragedies experienced by civilians who fell victims of anarchism of politicians and leaders. Living in the outskirts of Phnom Penh, the youngest sister of main character, Leak, was injured by stones thrown by protestors at the Vietnamese Embassy on March 18, 1970, which happened on the same day Prince Sihanouk was overthrown from power. The book reflects the hatred Cambodian people had over the presence of Vietnamese in their territory, the number one enemy.
During this chaotic time, Leak’s youngest sister, Leakhena, was not able to be treated in Cambodia due to her severe injury. She was taken immediately to Vietnam. It was also the last time Leak saw his nine-year-old sister as people who crossed the border were not allowed to come back anymore.
As years passed, Leak found the love of his life. The traditional wedding was all set, and everyone expressed their excitement and happiness for the new couple. On the last day of the ceremony, instead of joyful dancing and celebration, the wedding was stopped and the couple were separated by soldiers. The captives were sent to Battambang and were left to suffer tremendously.
When the city was entirely taken over by the new regime, Leak and his other siblings were forced to dig canals. They were starving and were exhausted. But the Khmer Rouge didn’t mind their suffering.
Leak tried his best to stay alive. After he was shot in the arm, he was rescued by the Vietnamese army and was brought to the hospital where he received immediate treatment. At the medical center, he was looked after by a female doctor, who showed him compassion and care. Leak eventually fell in love with her.
When the war ended, Leak got a position in the ministry. He used another name as a way of moving on from the tragic past and to ensure his safety and security. He met the female doctor once again and asked her hand for marriage.
On the last day of the wedding ceremony, they were told that the doctor was actually Leak’s youngest sister, whom he sent to Vietnam years ago for treatment.
The unexpected turn of event crushed Leak’s heart. But even with such pain, Leak felt grateful and jovial to know that his beloved sister was alive and well.
Author: Kim Pichpinun
Publication: Khmer Writers Association, 1998