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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

In the shade of a quiet killing place

Heaven Lake Press, one of the more proactive publishers in Thailand, sent along "In the shade of a quiet killing Place" (ISBN 978-974-88163-4-0, published 2007), for review. Wrapped in a funereal black jacket, that should have been enough to alert me to what was inside, but quite frankly, nothing could get you ready for the prose.

The book is written by a Sam Sotha, a Cambodian, and the story is really a scrap book covering four years under the Khmer Rouge, and the epic of he and his wife as they moved through the "Killing Fields".

As time progresses, eventually you become inured to statistics such as three million deaths in Cambodia and other such atrocities. It could never happen again (and then somebody discovered Afghanistan and Iraq and Darfur and, and, and…) Do I need go on? Consequently, books like "In the shade of a quiet killing place" become even more important. A snapshot of what it was really like, by someone who was really there. In this case, Sam Sotha and his wife.

Not only has Sam Sotha kept a diary of what really happened, but he also sketched their plight. The Sotha family also gives a deeply personal acknowledgment to Christopher G Moore, the Bangkok based writer who helped them publish the manuscript they had carried for 25 years.

The book begins on the 17th April 1975 with the Khmer Rouge taking control of Phnom Penh where the young Sotha couple lived. Within days they were part of a long line-up of frightened Cambodians being herded to what looked like being certain death. And in fact, for three million, that is exactly what did happen.

Somehow, attributable to their God, according to the Sothas, they survived and even had a baby despite the privations. The will to live, and for the human race to continue with successive generations, is central to us all. However, the majority of us will never have to put it to the ultimate test, such as Sam and Sony Sotha. A test under which you are tortured by your own people.

Perhaps I am too much of a romanticist, rather than being a realist, but I found it almost unbelievable that man, that supreme intellectual being at the top of the food chain, can revert to such primitive animalistic behavior. If we possess the supreme intellect, then we certainly do not use it to advantage, and this book makes that quite plain. That Sam Sotha and his wife made it through to the end could be called a miracle, and they believe that their Christian faith carried them through. Be that as it may, the book to me documents not a miracle, but man’s inhumanity to man. I found it very depressing reading, chipping away at my faith in mankind, never mind faith in the maker of mankind if one follows the Christian doctrine.

We should never forget what happened to people such as the Sothas, though it becomes almost too easy to gloss over it later. I hope they still have forgiveness in their hearts. B. 695 for a glimpse of man’s inhumanity to man.