Lim Chhiv Ho is a businesswoman whose newfound luxury hasn’t stopped the nightmares of her past
On an unassuming residential street, just a few blocks from Phnom Penh’s InterContinental Hotel, business tycoon Lim Chhiv Ho is living the good life in an eight-floor mansion. A favoured meeting place for her family and friends – two of whom sit in on our interview – the towering, hotel-like structure includes a private cinema, swimming pool, gym, hair and massage salon, and rooftop terrace.
Perched upright on the edge of a U-shaped, velour sofa in her living room, Lim, who is wearing a sapphire-blue Khmer dress embellished with gold patterns, begins to tell us her story. Born in beachy Preah Sihanouk province in 1961, she spent most of her early years moving between homes in an attempt to avoid the Khmer Rouge. But, in 1975, the game of cat-and-mouse reached a grim conclusion. Pol Pot’s soldiers entered Sihanoukville and evacuated people to the countryside. Lim’s family was split up, and the children were sent to work day and night in labour camps in the mountains near Kampot.
Of the 275 children interned in the camp, only Lim and four others survived, she says, spared by a Khmer Rouge commander who decided to “re-integrate them into the community”. The five children were taken to live in a pagoda, where they were later forced to watch a family get tied to a pole and then strangled to death by a rope attached to a horse that was made to run around them. “If you steal anything, we will kill you like this family,” the soldiers told the children.
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