Before the turn of the decade in 1979, history witnessed an end to the Killing Fields in Cambodia and the harrowing rule of the Khmer Rouge inside the once majestic country.
But darkness did not lift in the region as it fell into a terrible human crisis.
This is an untold story of the bitter fate and unthinkable odds many Cambodians would unknowingly take to cross their country’s border, as more a quarter-million Cambodian refugees sought to escape their chaotic homeland.
Bunseng was a 21-year-old caught up in the terror.
Only his willpower to survive and dreams of a better country gave him the strength to face the dangers ahead.
In an unacceptable act, Bunseng and his family were forcibly herded with thousands of other refugees across the mountainous borders of Preah Vihear. Thousands would perish along the footpaths studded with treacherous landmines.
Fortunately, 1,300 people, including many in Bunseng’s family, were taken in one night on buses to safe haven in Bangkok, saved by nameless heroes. They were NGO’s, all foreign government officials who proved to be rescuers, though history has largely forgotten them.
This film, Ghost Mountain: The Second Killing Fields, attempts to amend this, as Bunseng, a welcomed refugee, who is able to thrive in America, revisits Cambodia 37 years later to remember, relive, and retell the pain and harrowing tragedies that once happened at Preah Vihear.
Bunseng travels across the U.S. to realize his lifelong dream of finding and thanking in person the heroes who were his rescuers. After a chance encounter, Bunseng was videotaped with Robert P. DeVecchi, head of the Resettlement Program for the International Rescue Committee (www.rescue.org), the foremost private organization for refugee response in emergency aid and support, when Bunseng was a refugee. DeVecchi had set up field hospitals in Cambodia during the end of the Killing Fields and later became president of the International Rescue Committee. He and Bunseng, both residents of Connecticut, remained friends until DeVecchi passed away in 2015 at the age of 84.
Bunseng traveled to Washington D.C. to show his gratefulness to Lionel Rosenblatt, who was the compassionate force of nature in proving the merits of refugee rescue to the Department of State, during this time period. He would also meet and thank former Ambassador to Thailand, Morton Abramowitz, who constantly and courageously – pressured a reluctant Washington to ensure that tens of thousands were eventually designated as refugees and transferred to the United States in just a year’s time.
This story has both historic and present-day importance to keep in memory and pay tribute to those who rescued so many in mere months, despite “pocket change” resources and almost no support from DC.
The full circle of Bunseng’s journey fills important holes left in the historic record. While the stories of the Killing Fields have been documented, the events at Preah Vihear have been forgotten, until now.
Where to Watch
Ghost Mountain: The Second Killing Fields premieres on CPTV on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 at 10:30 p.m. It will re-air on CPTV Spirit on Wednesday, May 25, 2022 at 10 p.m.