About Mr Tong Hann – Tour Leader for About Angkor Cambodia.
In Cambodia, life is difficult for the people who came through Khmer Rouge. It was led by Communists and these communists planned to rule Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to make the Indo China Union. In the Khmer Rouge’s time they killed more than three million people in the whole country. Most kids that were born during this time, suffered from their very first day on this planet.
Tong Hann was born during the Khmer Rouge in Post Kanteu village, Kanteu Commune, Sanke district, Battambang province. In the year zero of Cambodia (1975 to 1979), people and children were killed by execution, starvation, and poor health. He was born on the 2nd of June 1977. When the Khmer Rouge’s rule had finally ended, he was only one year old. His parents were forced to work very hard on the rice paddy fields from 12 to 16 hours a day. When his parents went to work, Tong Hann stayed with the old people in the collective farm in the field (At that time, the people were forced to work on the rice field). His parents told him that when he was a baby they hadn’t eaten enough food for three years, eight months, and twenty days.
One day in year 1978, he drank too much milk from his mother, and then his mother felt sick. She was so hungry that she went to the field to pick up some yams to eat. Later on, she was arrested by the Khmer rouge. She was accused of stealing food from Angka (The Organization). They wanted the people to eat together in the collective farm and they gave them rice soup to eat twice a day.
In year 1979, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and Hann’s mother carried him and his sisters for 40 kilometers to his uncle’s village in Battambang province. During the war, he changed homes nearly every day to stay away from the killings by the Khmer Rouge soldiers and artillery shells.
Tong Hann went to primary school in 1984 when Cambodia was still in the middle of the civil war. Sometimes, his school was closed, because of war. In the war, Tong Hann used to walk through the forest, rice fields, bloody battles, and landmine areas to find a safe place to stay away from the killings. In 1989, Tong Hann used to walk to 4 kilometers to secondary school and again, 4 kilometers back home again. If he studied in the afternoon, he didn’t have lunch, so Tong Hann ate only one time a day. Tong Hann is the oldest son in the family of 6 children (3 sons and 3 daughters). He helped his parents and his sisters to work on the field every day. He knew how to plow the field with cows when he was 9 years old. He loved his cows very much and he felt that they were his brothers.
From 1992 to 1996, he went to high school in Battambang city which was 23 kilometers away from home village. For this reason he went to live with the monks in the monastery. Sometimes, Tong Hann didn’t have food to eat when he finished class. He went back to his family every Saturday in the afternoon to work on the farm with his parents and sisters. By doing this, he was able to take some rice and dry fish back to monastery.
Tong Hann became a monk in 1996. When he was a monk he tried to study English and IT. Later on, he passed the exam to go to the training college to be a teacher. Tong Hann became teacher in year 1999. He got only $25 per month for his salary, and then he decided to study English again in 2001. In the city, Tong Hann applied to work for the NGO Comfrel and a Korean company GETB.
Finally, in the end of year 2004, Tong Hann decided to travel to Siem Reap to take the exam to become a tour guide for the Angkor area. From 2005 he has been a qualified tour guide. He used to work for some hotels and tour companies such as Amansara, La Residence, Anantara, Aranhsisopon, holystone, Vast Land, Country Expectation, Selective Asia and About Asia.
He also received training from Amansara’s managers, so he knows how to lead tour groups. In 2008, he also became a tour guide for Battambang area. And during this time he has met leading academics and historians that specialize in Angkor Wat.
Tong Hann graduated from Build Bright University in Siem Reap. He studied English for Business. In the future, Tong Hann wants to get a master’s degree. He would like to go back to his birth village to manage the school library and to teach English, history and culture to the kids for free in order to develop the human resources in the area.
To sum up, the Khmer Rouge killed more than three million people in Cambodia. Most kids who were born during this time suffered a lot. Life was all about suffering in Cambodia, but things are always getting better. Although people have been through a lot of pain, they are still happy and always have a smile for you.