Pursuit of Education

Alex Son

Pursuit of Education

SreyRam Kuy recalls her mother telling of how her wit of storytelling managed to keep her mother alive. In SreyRam Kuy’s words, “My mother began to tell a story about a wealthy merchant and his faithful guard dog. She described how a thief tricked some villagers into believing the merchant’s dog was rabid and enlisted their help clubbing the innocent dog to death. After the murder of the guard dog, the scoundrel returned at night to rob and kill the merchant.” Srey Ram’s mother states that, “I am like that dog, I’m just a simple, loyal, dumb beast. I am no teacher. I can’t read. I can’t even write my own name.” Her mother’s life was miraculously spared.

During the Cambodian genocide, wealthy folks, teachers, artists, educators, or anyone who was part of a “higher class” in any form were executed by the Khmer Rouge a communist party who sought to cleanse the nation.

Through the pitiful life forced upon their family, they sought for opportunities for a better life. SreyRam was only one when her mother decided that education was her only escape route. Srey Ram recalls her family’s embark as, “In May 1980, we began our escape. We fled through jungles laced with landmines, evaded the armed border patrol and crawled under a rusty, barbed wire fence to get to Khao-I-Dang refugee camp, across the border from Cambodia.”

Once in that camp, SreyRam recalls a bombings where a patrol shell hit their camp next to her family’s tent. Her mother sustained most of the injuries defending her children. Which left scars forever embarked on her body. A year and a half later they had been sponsored to the United States.

The life as a refugee migrant with little western-centric transferable skills left her mother to scrub toilets, mow lawns, clean houses, and pick berries. Through the work ethic of her mother, SreyRam reached high academic accolades of graduating in high school as valedictorian and attended Oregon State University, the same institution in which her mother mopped.

The importance of education once a trait that had almost killed her, was a route that these Khmer refugees took, that ended up saving their lives.


Kuy, SreyRam. “Her Education Nearly Cost My Mother Her Life. But She Risked It Again so I Could Have One, Too.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 19 May 2015,