It was another busy night at this year’s LAS Ball, but it was a pleasure meeting former US Ambassador to the UN, Mr. Sichan Siv.
You’re probably wondering, what’s a party going to do to solve most of the problems in the world? Probably not much of anything, but the ability to congregate as one community is pretty amazing when you think about the various stories coming out of Southeast Asia in the past 30-plus years.
Ambassador Siv’s story is a remarkable one. He grew up and was educated in Cambodia, was forced to work in the labor camps during the Khmer Rouge takeover, survived two death sentences, escaped the Killing Fields, but in turn lost his family, braved the jungles, only to face strife and poverty in Thailand, came to America with only two dollars in his pocket, picked apples, drove a taxi, flipped burgers, educated himself here as well, and 13 years after his escape from Cambodia, Mr. Siv was appointed deputy assistant to then US president George Bush, and eventually became a US ambassador to the UN–yup, an amazing story from such a down to earth gentleman. His book “Golden Bones: An Extraordinary Journey from Hell in Cambodia to a New Life in America” explains everything much better than I ever could.
Most of the people in the crowd had similar histories, no matter if they were from Burma, Cambodia, or Laos–they were refugees and survivors in some way. A few days before the Ball, I went to get my haircut and I invited my “stylist” :), who is Cambodian as well. I mentioned briefly tidbits of Ambassador’s Siv’s story, and she re accounts her own story to me, of losing her father, and escaping and barely surviving in Thailand, of her mother not eating so that her daughters could have food first, of constantly having to fight off the advances of villainous farmers. Usually in the salon we talk about who’s dating who and whatnot, but that day was different. Like the comics, everyone’s got an origin story.