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Part 4 of Cambodian immigrant Theary Kem’s story


This is the final installment in our four-part series of interviews with Theary Kem, an immigrant from Cambodia who now lives in Shoreview. In this installment, Kem discusses how difficult it was to come to America, his first impressions of Minnesota, and remembers his family members who didn’t survive the Khmer Rouge labor camp.

In Part 1, Kem talks about Cambodia during the war in the early 1970s. When the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975, Phnom Penh was evacuated and Kem was separated from this family and taken to a labor camp. In this installment, Kem describes life in the camp.

In Part 2, Theary Kem tells how he survived in a Khmer Rouge labor camp after being separated from his family. Many of those around him died of illness, starvation or execution.

In Part 3, Theary Kem and two friends stowed away on a ship in the middle of the night to escape the Khmer Rouge labor camp. After a few days at sea, they were discovered. The ships’ captain said he would have to turn the ship around and take them back. But Kem and his friends convinced the captain of their need to escape the Khmer Rouge labor camp and they eventually made their way to America.

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