Former journalist and current Council of Ministers spokesman Ek Tha recently published the second edition of his war novel Fight the Enemy, Find Love after more than 600 copies of the English version were sold.
The novel follows the life of a Vietnamese soldier named Hung who wanted to save Cambodian children from being tortured and killed by the Khmer Rouge.
But in the novel, Hung ends up being saved by the beautiful daughter of a Khmer Rouge commander, Reach Bopha-Ek, after he gets lost in the jungle. The two fall in love amid war.
“The Vietnamese were the number one enemy of the Khmer Rouge and vice-versa. But no one has heard the story of the Vietnamese soldier who gets lost in the jungle and falls in love with the beautiful daughter of a Khmer Rouge commander,” Tha said.
He said 1,000 copies of the first English edition of the book were printed in 2018, and more than 600 were sold. Another 1,000 English versions of the book were printed in the last two weeks, while the Khmer version will be released at a future date.
Tha lived as a refugee in South Vietnam from the early 1970s to 1979. He didn’t fight in Cambodia’s civil war, but he learned a great deal from his experience living in Vietnam.
When he returned to Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Rouge in early 1979, he learned more about Cambodia’s history and its developing trends.
“I went through those periods and I witnessed a lot of things. I have no difficulties in writing such a novel by transforming ‘partial facts’ into a romance with sweet and bitter memories,” he said.
He said he wanted to write the novel to wake up the armed forces, from the police to soldiers in every corner of the world. Tha believes they should not simply raise their guns and shoot at people they perceive to be the enemy.
“Like in chapter seven and eight in the novel. It’s about how to be thoughtful as an armed man. There is no point in ending conflict by using weapons or any type of force, but negotiations, friendship and love,” he said.
Tha said he wanted to refresh his memories of both good and bad experiences so that the world’s younger generation, and not only Cambodians and Vietnamese, can learn about the past.
“I really want the younger generation to understand that they cannot change the past but they can learn from it. They can avoid repeating the past by putting their differences aside, dropping their guns and turning to love.
“I want to leave a message to the younger generation that only friendship, love and respect can maintain strong ties for peace, mutual benefits, and a better world,” he said.
His ultimate goal of writing this novel, Tha said, is to change the human perception of seeing each other as foes instead of friends.