Boronia & The Basin Community News

Heang SAR A Woman of Courage, Faith and Love.


This is the amazing story of Heang Sar and her first hand experiences in the palace of the King of Cambodia, wealth, persecution, protection, escape and a journey of faith. Heang was born in 1943, into a Buddhist family in Cambodia. As she sits before me with her wavy black hair gently touching her shoulders, with a warm smile, she is a picture of calmness and humility. Heang will now tell you her story in her own words. “As a child I was brought up in the Buddhist religion and my grandfather was a priest in the Palace of King Norodom of Cambodia. I remember my childhood and enjoyed it very much as I was very happy. We lived in Pnom Penh and I was given the opportunity to train in dancing as an 8 year old in the Palace School for the pleasure of the King and Queen, it was a wonderful time. After a few years I married a man called Ang Sui who was an engineer and he really loved me and life was good with him and we had six children three boys and three girls. We were a wealthy family with a chauffeur to drive my husband to his work and I was able to help others in need in my community.. However, everything changed suddenly when Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge came into power in 1975. That time came to be called the “killing fields,” and I lived through those horrible times. During Pol Pot’s rule around two million Cambodians died of starvation, execution, disease or overwork and I was one of those who suffered with my family. Pol Pot’s troops swarmed across the countryside invading villages and finally they arrived in our town in trucks, knocking on doors and forcing us out of our home into the forest with whatever we could carry. We had seen the poorer people earlier that day herded into the forest, then the sound of gunshots and the troops returned alone. This was the beginning of a nightmare of years on the run for me, my family and so many others. As we headed out of our town along the road we got very tired and so we went a few metres off the road to rest and eat. My oldest son Tony called out, “Mummy soldiers come back!” I said, “Shh” and the soldiers marched by but they did not see us. We knew we would be dead if they had seen us. A year later the troops came to where we were and found out that my husband was an engineer. They called him to the forest to question him and they bashed him so badly that he died. So, at that time I was left with my three boys and three girls all under 11 years of age. A few months later my three daughters died from starvation and later on all of my brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews had been killed by the troops. It was during this time that I really learnt how to cry. I felt I wanted to die but my boys needed me. I heard my oldest boy Tony ask his brother, “Ty, will you take good care of Mum. If she died we don’t know where we will live.” Somehow, we kept going but more was to come. The troops separated me from my boys for weeks and made me go into the forest along with others to chop down trees with axes. One day I lost my axe which meant I would be shot. As I lined up to return the axe, I was so scared but just when it was my turn to step forward a loud thunder clap sounded nearby and the soldier was so scared he told me to go away, so I did, I was saved again. After more than three long years in the forest I decided to head on foot to the Thai border with my boys. It took four days and nights. At the border the officials only allowed us to cross if I could tell them my name, the names of my boys and their ages. With all the distress of these years on the run I was so traumatized that I lost my memory, I couldn’t remember any of the information needed. My oldest son Tony, quickly made up all our names and ages and they allowed us to enter Thailand. We spent three long years in a refugee camp, but finally the day came when, in 1983, we were approved to live in Melbourne with my three boys and a girl I had adopted who had lost her parents.”
Heang and her children made this country their home and her boys Tum, Ty and Tony have all become well respected members in their chosen professions. So many times in the forests of Cambodia she knew her family had been delivered from certain death. Heang believes she had been gently but powerfully protected by God, her hiding place, and guided to the shores of Australia to a new country and a new religion. She continues to be a much loved and respected woman in her community. Others turn to her in times of trouble and stress to bring peace and calm. Heang is a woman of faith who loves God with a passion and zeal and continues to love and serve others. She is a woman of great strength and courage and her story is one of endurance, love and hope. Heang is one of my dearest and closest friends whom I have known for over ten years, that’s why it’s a special one this month. Lynette Hayhurst