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Former diplomat and author Sichan Siv gives a talk to students at the American University of Phnom Penh
Former diplomat and author Sichan Siv gives a talk to students at the American University of Phnom Penh in Toul Kork on Tuesday. Charlotte Pert

Former diplomat publishes Angkor book

Former diplomat Sichan Siv, the highest-ranking Cambodian-American to serve in the US government, has published an Angkor Wat-inspired book.

The self-published Golden Tower, which features photos from visits to the temples prior to the Khmer Rouge regime, goes on sale today at Monument Books in Phnom Penh.

The 43-page book is the author’s third publication, following his self-published poetry collection Golden Words and a memoir, Golden Bones, published by Harper Collins.

The new, picture-heavy publication shows parts of Angkor Wat that no longer exist, said William Bagley, group purchasing manager at Monument.

“There are some interesting photographs of some views you can no longer see because of the changes to Angkor Wat,” he said. In an interview about the new release, Siv said he wanted to explore his personal connection to the ancient temple complex, where he shared a picnic with his mother a few years before the Khmer Rouge broke up the family.

“When I was young, in 1969, my mum took me to Angkor Wat for being good,” he said.

During the rise of the Khmer Rouge, Sichan Siv was separated from his mother, with her final words to him being “never give up hope”. Years later he discovered that none of his family had survived.

After escaping the killing fields and arriving in the US with nothing, he worked his way up to serve as deputy assistant to George W Bush and as a US ambassador to the UN. He now lives in San Antonio, Texas.

At the American University of Phnom Penh yesterday, the former US ambassador to the United Nations spoke about his journey before an audience of students, faculty members, NGO staff and government officials from the Ministry of

Planning. “I don’t want to think of Cambodia as the Killing Fields, I want to think of Cambodia as a culture,” he said in the speech.

Addressing the younger generations of Cambodia, he said: “the future is in the hands of the young people”.

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