HOF038: Paulie PHOEUK

An ice-cold coke was what Paulie dreamed of when he was laboring in the fields as a child during the Khmer Rouge regime. The reality was witnessing friends die day after day while anticipating his turn.

His trouble extended beyond the Khmer Rouge’s reign, when he and his family were removed from the Thai border by the Thai army and ordered to return to Cambodia. The soldiers opened fire forcing them to run into a minefield, where they used the countless dead bodies as stepping-stones to avoid the mines.

Paulie made another attempt to the Thai border to reach the refugee camps. Once he arrived, he was placed in an orphanage program and was given an abundance of food and access to English classes. He worked as a translator and was helped by a Canadian official with his immigration process.

He looks back at his resettlement experience with fond humour, as he remembers the fear of using appliances during that time. Today, as a school bus driver, he playfully tells his students the things they take for granted, and is often rewarded by their understanding of what he had undergone.