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Cambodian film aims to transcend borders

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Yan Chheing (C), laughs with joy after being reunited with her daughter, Tha (L). Photograph: Theirry Falise

Yan Chheing (C), laughs with joy after being reunited with her daughter, Tha (L). Photograph: Theirry Falise

Cambodia Dreams, a tale of separation and reunion set in the Kingdom will be screened for the first time in the Thai capital Bangkok next week under the theme of “reconciliation” within the ASEAN community.

Thailand’s former head-of-state Anand Panyarachun will attend the screening on January 10, organised by national public broadcaster Thai PBS.

The documentary follows 18 years in the lives of a mother and daughter separated in the 1980s. Yan Chheing, from Battambang province, gives away her daughter after a warning from a fortune teller and is relocated to a refugee camp after the Pol Pot regime. She lives there for 12 years, hoping to cross the border back into Thailand.

The film originally aired in Cambodia in 2008 simultaneously on seven national channels in the country and was also shown in a private screening with Prime Minister Hun Sen and cabinet ministers.

He cried on seeing the emotional reconciliation between the two main characters, according to New Zealand film-maker Stanley Harper, “The film is about belonging in a country with a tradition of people running away: refugees, economic refugees, political refugees,” Harper said.

“Finding this Cambodian family was a miracle. The grandmother has the memory of the past and remembers what Cambodia was before in times of peace.

“She knew all about normal life and wanted to impart this knowledge,” he said.

Following the presentation of the film at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre, the audience will also be invited to join Harper and former Thai prime minister Panyarachun in a discussion on conflict resolution attempts in the region called ‘Reconciliation: Towards a More Peaceful, Humane ASEAN Community’.

Organisers said that the screening was intended as a peaceful gesture in the wake of tension between ASEAN countries, as well as within Thailand itself.

For many years, Thailand was the main tourism hub for Cambodia, but  relations between the two countries have been strained since 2008, when violence first broke out between troops stationed along the border.

Hataichanok Tontrakulsuk, manager of international relations at Thai PBS said, “The film is about fostering reconciliation within Thailand and among the ASEAN community.

“We believe political parties and NGOs will get ideas for making peace within Thai society,”

On the presence of former Thai Prime Minister Panyarachun at the screening, she said: “Panyarachun is a great man with a solid practical experience on the international political arena.

“This is why we invited him. He is a very well-known personality in the country and in the diplomatic world.”

“Hand in hand, we must reconcile and act as one or otherwise face dark times Cambodia once experienced,” she said.


To contact the reporter on this story: Sylvain Gharbi at



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