Prime Minister Hun Sen has spoken of falling in love and marrying his wife Bun Rany, and of their forced separation in 1976, against the backdrop of the murderous Khmer Rouge.
Hun Sen recalled on Facebook this week, in Story of Fated Couple after Marriage, the follow-up to Marriage of Fated Couple during the Time of War, of his joy at meeting Bun Rany.
She, a beautiful and strong-willed woman, who dared reject the men the Khmer Rouge had chosen for her, insisting instead on him, a disabled soldier, he said, injured in one eye from service and with an uncertain future.
Hun Sen spoke of his often painful love story with Rany, set in what is now Tbong Khmum province, then eastern Kampong Cham, he said, so people could get to know of the difficult periods of his early life and the separation from his wife under the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge regime.
“We were married in the evening of January 5, 1976, with deep love, but we were soon to know the pain of separation, as on the morning of January 12 my wife was driven away, to a place even I as her husband did not know the whereabouts of."
“A motorbike carrying three people – the commander at the front, then a security guard, and on the rear was my wife Rany, my beloved wife,” Hun Sen said.
Many couples were married by the Khmer Rouge, but they were not permitted to live together in a loving union as they wished. This forced separation could last a while – or was sometimes forever.
“Before taking the ride on the motorbike, Rany turned to me and said: ‘Please darling, put in your eye drops regularly for your injury.’ Haunted, I did not answer. I could just nod my head in agreement.
“The motorbike left the regimental headquarters. I watched as my wife rode off until I could not see her anymore. Eventually, I could no longer hear the sound of the motorbike, and I suffered."
“It was the first time I had been separated from my wife. Previously, I had only known separation from my family and friends. I asked myself: ‘Where have they taken my wife, and for what?” he said.
Three days later, he discovered that Rany, a midwife, had been taken to a regional military hospital.
However, his relief was shattered when in February, he visited the hospital and she was no longer there. He found out that Rany had stayed at the hospital for only a few days before being sent to cultivate a system of rice fields.
Hun Sen expressed his surprise and disappointment at seeing his wife given the task of digging the land. He grew angry that Rany as a midwife, and the wife of a military officer with more than 2,000 soldiers under his command, was not given a job related to her training.
“How the Khmer Rouge treated me and my wife made me want to stand up to them and topple them,” Hun Sen said.
However, he kept his fury silent to avoid suspicion from the Khmer Rouge, who referred to themselves as Angkar – “The Organisation”.
Having a motorbike, he frequently visited his wife at the village she was staying in.
“I had to wait for Rany for about four hours until 6pm. Rany did not know I was waiting for her. I saw her carrying a hoe as she walked across the rice field towards the village pagoda. It was disappointing when the regional military chief told us to sleep in the pagoda dormitory where there was a monk staying.”
After a further period of separation, Hun Sen and Rany managed to have dinner together.
Some understanding friends, considering it improper for the young couple to stay at the pagoda, offered to let them stay with them at the house of the younger sister of Chum Hol, Hun Sen’s superior officer.
“This family treated the young married couple as their children and let them a stay for one day and a night”, Hun Sen recalled. “The next day I had to return and Rany went back to working the land.”
Rany later became ill and was taken to the local clinic. Hun Sen found out and went to visit. By a huge coincidence, the doctor treating Rany was Taing Ly, who had also treated Hun Sen’s eye when it was originally injured some years before.
“Taing Ly later got married to a former platoon commander under my supervision. They were kind and now they are farmers in Stung Treng province and have a lot of children and grandchildren like me."
“After being separated in February 1976, I did not see Rany again for another two months and I did not know she was pregnant. Rany had morning sickness and fell sick and went to receive medical treatment at the ‘P2’ regional hospital, while my eye injury worsened, requiring me to go to this hospital too.”
Taing Ly operated on Hun Sen to remove his eye, and Hun Sen buried it in the hospital grounds. The hospital is now the O’Raing Ov high school.
Taing Ly told Hun Sen that Rany was also being treated at P2, and he rushed to see her.
“What was happier than meeting Rany was her telling me she was pregnant,” Hun Sen said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the prime minister’s story served as a good example for younger couples experiencing marital problems.
“Older Cambodian people experienced the struggles of this period. Their shared experiences strengthen their relationships as they endured them together,” he said.