Death in Cambodia, Life in America

Dorothy Chow

A father-daughter podcast where I interview my father, Robert Chau, on exactly how he survived and escaped the Khmer Rouge aka 1970's Cambodian Genocide. We will follow along his journey on how a starving boy crawling out of Cambodia become a serial American entrepreneur. After 50 years, he deserves a chance to finally share his story.

All Episodes

Labor Day 2020, I shoved a mic in front of my dad and tested the podcast set up. This is the very first clip we ever recorded. "Testing Testing... 123 Testing".  Are you ready? 

Jun 13

35 sec

Episode 1: Robert Childhood - was born in 1959 in Mongol Borey, Cambodia. Because his parents were living in another city, working, he stayed with his grandparents. During this time, he experienced loneliness and didn’t quite understand why his parents left him alone to live far away from his siblings. Because of this, he had to learn how to take care of himself, to be strong minded and to be independent. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Jun 15

14 min 19 sec

Episode 2: The Beginning – Robert’s family was wealthy at the beginning of the Khmer Rouge. When he started hearing about political turmoil, his parents told him to cross the border to Thailand or come home. In Battambang, he had his first violent encounters with the Khmer Rouge and witnessed the beginning of group slaughters. That’s when he decided he couldn’t stay in the city Battambang and needed to quickly figure out any way back home. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Jun 20

29 min 27 sec

Episode 3: The Checkpoint – Robert gets home and the family is franticly trying to figure out the next game plan, however the Khmer Rouge soldiers take over faster than anyone can leave. They force everyone out of their own homes and force them into the countryside. Robert’s family decide to move back to grandma’s farmhouse. On the way, Robert recognizes his old friend in Khmer Rouge clothing who ends up betraying him. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Jun 27

15 min 45 sec

 Episode 4: Labor Camp 1 – The Khmer Rouge starts organizing and registering people into groups. Robert’s uncle gained trust with the Khmer Rouge which helped protect the family for a while. People were forced to give up their own food and only eat at organized camp “cafeterias”. They organized the wealthy, educated and high - ranking folks from the others and killed them.Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Jul 4

20 min 23 sec

Episode 5: Mama's Big Pockets – Robert’s mom (my grandma aka “Mama”), luckily gets assigned to work in the community kitchen giving her access to food. Mama lies to the Khmer Rouge soldier and registers only 5 people, when in fact she had 6. She hid my Aunt Amanda out of fear of having her getting taken away. Mama used her big pockets to steal food from the kitchen for her kids. During this time, people are dying from overworking in the field. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Jul 11

15 min 2 sec

My aunt Amanda had a very different experience during the Khmer Rouge. She was hidden by my grandmother in fear of being taken away, therefore most of her time was spent in hiding. She talks about how life was like in the camps back where grandma was, and how grandma did what she had to do to keep her alive. This special episode is a fascinating  look into what had to be done during the Khmer Rouge in order to stay alive. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Jul 18

20 min 12 sec

Episode 6: Separate the Kids – Robert gets separated from his family and starts walking towards an unknown destination. On the way, the Khmer Rouge pulls other kids to join. They finally arrive to a new camp that is close to the Thai Border. He planted rice fields by himself, and was constantly tired and hungry. Every night before going to bed, there was a meeting by the Khmer Rouge that enforces control over the people. Every morning they woke you up as they pleased and forced you to work. He felt like a prisoner. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Jul 25

23 min 18 sec

Episode 7: Deadly Malaria– Because Robert was set in a labor camp in the middle of the jungle, there were many workers that not only died of starvation and overworking, but also sicknesses like Malaria.  Robert pulls a memory stuck deep in his past about one of the guys who slept next to him during this time at this labor camp. It was a sad night and he was left to make an important decision to help this friend. This is one of the most important episodes on this podcast. Warning: Get Tissues. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Aug 1

28 min 19 sec

Episode 8: Poison and Life in the Jungle– Robert continues to work and hunt for food whenever he can. One day, another guy in his group accidentally ate a bunch of poisonous berries out of deep starvation. He immediately became sick and Robert and some other group members needs to deal with the situation. Life in the jungle was so hard that Robert truly started to question his will to live. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Aug 8

28 min

Robert  is sick with asthma and can't continue working, so the Khmer Rouge solider send him away to a local "hospital". On his way there he almost passed out of weakness, and when he finally got to his destination, the hospital wasn't as he imagined. He was tested to his limits, and had some of the most painful experiences here. He makes another very important decision and ends up finding his way back to Mama for the first time in a long time. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Aug 15

38 min 17 sec

After recording last weeks episode, I realized that I wanted to spend a little more time diving into that creepy hospital! I mean seriously, I couldn't even begin to imagine a place like that! We take a step back and go day by day. In this episode, Robert opens up more about exactly what he experienced and saw, and my goodness... If you like scary movies, you definitely want to tune into this one. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Aug 22

24 min 29 sec

Robert enjoys his time with Mama and Auntie Amanda in hiding, and finally starts to feel like he has a sense of family again. His health also starts to improve as he gets more rest. Through it all, he still feels that this kind of luck in dodging the Khmer Rouge in this camp isn't going to last forever.  Robert makes the very important that was pivotal in saving his family's life.. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Aug 29

14 min 53 sec

Robert is walking back into the first labor camp when he meets an old friend who gives him a banana. He has accepted that he may never see his family again and that his was his life moving forward. He has arrived to the labor camp that we was originally sent to, and has safely integrated back. He remembers one night when a bedside friend was pulled out and beat to death.. Robert couldn't sleep that night thinking when it was his turn. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Sep 5

26 min 33 sec

Episode 13: Straight From Hell - Robert has now safely assimilated back into this original camp, away from Mama and Auntie Amanda. He describes how women were forcibly married to Khmer Rouge soldiers, the many holes he had to dig for people who were killed, and the more horrific time he experienced in the camp. He remembers a group who had tried to escape and got caught in the process. The consequences were gory and indescribable. All the while, the laborers are getting less and less and less. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Sep 12

32 min 1 sec

Episode 14: The Guardian Angel - Robert has been back at this camp for over 3 months, and again had now gotten really sick from eating rats. He is extremely weak and is sent to another hospital where he is basically to rest until he dies. He gets weaker and weaker, with no hope in sight. For the first time in all this suffering, he says he lost all hope. He is 100% sure that this is where he is to die. Then one day sitting under a tree waiting for death, he is recognized by a familiar face… that changes the course for Robert forever. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Oct 3

21 min 46 sec

Episode 15: Robert leaves the hospital and gets an assignment to pick up herbs close to where Mama’s camp was. He made the executive decision to use this opportunity to visit Mama, regardless of the risk. At this point he has slowly started to loose hope that there were going to be future chances for him to see his mom. While he was with Mama, she secretly rubbed some sugar on his body so he would be able to have some sustenance. He slowly gains his energy back, and with new energy comes a new found motivation to figure out how exactly he can gain trust of the Khmer Rouge soldiers. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Oct 10

29 min 28 sec

Mama has become such a powerful character in our story, that it wouldn't feel right to not officially introduce her. In this epsiode we will learn more about where she was born, how she grew up, and a small clip of Auntie Amanda recalling her mother's strength. RIP Mama, we miss you and love you dearly. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Oct 17

8 min 49 sec

Episode 16 - The Best Day in His Life While Robert is being fed at another camp location under a new leader, Robert runs into a familiar face who also recognizes him. He is a distant relative who was lucky enough to marry a Khmer Rouge solider - therefore has protection. He secretly tells Robert to come meet him at his place to get more food and medication that he would need to stay alive. Robert figures out a way to meet him and this uncle gives him a bunch of food and antibiotics. For the first time in Robert’s life, he feels a sense of security. It was the best day of his life during the 3.5 years with the Khmer Rouge. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Oct 24

24 min 39 sec

Episode 17 - Vietnamese Invasion 1978Robert starts hearing more and more bombs in the distance. All the people in these labor camps had no idea who was bombing who - but they did know they have been waiting for a change for the past 3.5 years.  People know that something different is happening, which is exciting. As the Khmer Rouge soldiers get more scared of the situation, they kill more people in a last attempt to feel powerful. Over time, less and less Khmer Rouge guards seem to be around. Robert waits for the right moment to make a move.   Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Oct 31

21 min 45 sec

Epsiode 18: The war is upon us, and Robert makes the decision that he needs to escape to the Thailand border. The Khmer Rouge soldiers seems to be gone, leaving it wide open for people to leave as they please! He keeps walking and starts realizing that many people are trying to cross the border. He is so hungry and meets a nice family that offers to be with him and share food since he is alone. Robert still has not found any of his family members, but at this point, the goal is to get out of Cambodia ASAP. He reaches a town called Nimitt, right before the Thai border, and is met by Vietnamese soldiers. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Nov 7

25 min 28 sec

Episode 19 - The Massacre at Nimitt The majority of the Khmer Rouge soldiers are now back at their “home base”, in the jungles between Thailand and Cambodia, which happens to be where more and more refugees are trying to cross in order to escape their country. There are a few Vietnamese soldiers are guarding the town of Nimitt, however not enough to truly protect the thousands of people who are flooding to the border. One night, the Vietnamese soldiers pulled out from the town, allowing the Khmer Rouge soldiers to raid the city and attack. Thousands of people were murdered, as the Khmer Rouge wanted to kill anyone in sight. They pushed all the refugees back so far back, it felt they were back at square one. These are the parts of history that people don’t hear about. These are the untold truths. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Nov 14

15 min 29 sec

Robert reunites with the family but understands that there is just not enough food to stay on the side of the road forever. Robert gets a group together and they all decide to walk towards Nimitt to pick up scraps left after the massacre. At the time, the Vietnamese soldiers were still fighting the Khmer Rouge. Since there was no food left, Robert sees a warehouse storage in the middle of the battlegrounds, and decides to raid it. While doing so, he gets stuck in the middle of active fire. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Nov 21

32 min 30 sec

The Vietnamese have officially taken over the country, and everyone is flooding the Thai border in hope to get out of the country. The street is not opening, and people are starting to consider walking through the dangerous forest to reach Thailand. There are lots of criminals who took advantage of this demand, leading people into the forest to be stranded. Robert finds a trustworthy guy, gets a group together and takes the risk of walking through the forest. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Nov 28

22 min 48 sec

Robert’s group of 5 walk towards the forest and follows their leader. They all agree to never let this guy out their sight, it fear that he would take the money and run. About 1/3 of their way into the forest, they encounter a massive storm. This rainstorm, ended up saving the groups lives. They end up getting lost and encounter dangerous animals and lack of food and direction. Growing up, my father always shared small snippets of this story. I was captivated and it was a major spark of curiosity that led me to the creation of the podcast today. Music Written By: Acerylio Chen

Dec 5

21 min 59 sec