After the Fall of Saigon: A Personal Story

Before the turn of the decade in 1979, history witnessed an end to the Killing Fields in Cambodia and the harrowing rule of the Khmer Rouge inside the once majestic country.

But darkness did not lift in the region as it fell into a terrible human crisis.

This is an untold story of the bitter fate and unthinkable odds many Cambodians would unknowingly take to cross their country’s border, as more a quarter-million Cambodian refugees sought to escape their chaotic homeland.

 

Bunseng with his nephew in Buriram Refugee Camp (1980).

 

 

Bunseng was a 21-year-old caught up in the terror. Only his willpower to survive and dreams of a better country gave him the strength to face the dangers ahead.

 

In an unacceptable act, Bunseng and his family were forcibly herded with thousands of other refugees across the mountainous borders of Preah Vihear. Thousands would perish along the footpaths studded with treacherous landmines.

Fortunately, 1,300 people, including many in Bunseng’s family, were taken in one night on buses to safe haven in Bangkok, saved by nameless heroes. They were NGO’s, all foreign government officials who proved to be rescuers, though history has largely forgotten them.

 

This film After the Fall of Saigon: A Personal Story attempts to amend this, as Bunseng a welcomed refugee, who is able to thrive in America, revisits Cambodia 37 years later to remember, relive, and retell the pain and harrowing tragedies that once happened at Preah Vihear.

 Bunseng standing before the heaps of shoes, sandals, plates, and spoons discarded 37 years ago by deceased refugees at Preah Vihear (2017).

Bunseng standing before the heaps of shoes, sandals, plates, and spoons discarded 37 years ago by deceased refugees at Preah Vihear (2017).

 Sunrise at Preah Vihear Temple. Situation very near the area where the refugees were displaced.

Sunrise at Preah Vihear Temple. Situation very near the area where the refugees were displaced.

Bunseng travels across the U.S. to realize his lifelong dream of finding and thanking in person the heroes who were his rescuers.

 Bunseng (left) and Robert P. DeVecchi (right) at DeVecchi's Birthday party in 2011.

Bunseng (left) and Robert P. DeVecchi (right) at DeVecchi's Birthday party in 2011.

 

After a chance encounter, Bunseng was videotaped with Robert P. DeVecchi, head of the Resettlement Program for the International Rescue Committee (www.rescue.org), the foremost private organization for refugee response in emergency aid and support, when Bunseng was a refugee. DeVecchi had set up field hospitals in Cambodia during the end of the Killing Fields and later became president of the International Rescue Committee. He and Bunseng remained friends until DeVecchi passed away last year at the age of 84.

Bunseng traveled to Washington D.C. to show his gratefulness to Lionel Rosenblatt, who was the compassionate force of nature in proving the merits of refugee rescue to the Department of State, during this time period. He would also meet and thank former Ambassador to Thailand, Morton Abramowitz, who constantly and courageously - pressured a reluctant Washington to ensure that tens of thousands were eventually designated as refugees and transferred to the United States in just a year’s time.

 Bunseng and Lionel Rosenblatt (right) in Washington D.C. (2016).

Bunseng and Lionel Rosenblatt (right) in Washington D.C. (2016).

This story has both historic and present-day importance to keep in memory and pay tribute to those who rescued so many in mere months, despite “pocket change” resources and almost no support from DC.

 
Hometown.png
 

The full circle of Bunseng’s journey fills important holes left in the historic record. While the stories of the Killing Fields have been documented, the events at Preah Vihear have been forgotten, until now.

Donations

Please consider making a tax-deductible gift to the Preah Vihear Foundation for this film's efforts by clicking Make a Donation.

 

READ MORE

For more information on our documentary storyline, recent interview updates, production timelines, and financial budget.

Click Here →