Automatically, when we hear the words “A savior is born” we think about Jesus Christ being born into the world. His miraculous birth led the way for his eternal salvation from sins. However, this story is about a little nameless baby that was born in a roadside hut in Bakan district, Pursat province in Cambodia during the genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge.
After nearly four years under Khmer Rouge control, the entire nation was one giant concentration camp and everyone, including the Khmer Rouge themselves were enslaved. All people from the cities of Cambodia were considered worthless enemies of the state. Their only value was to be worked to death. After four years bodies littered every field in Bakan district. There were no graves, just convenient ditches and bushes to dump bodies into. Wild animals ripped apart the flesh of decomposing bodies and limbs were scattered everywhere. There was no shielding eyes from the horrible site of genocide, the stench of death and sight of dismembered bodies were in every view.
In April of 1979 only the top Khmer Rouge leaders knew that their absolute control was coming to an end. Villagers had no idea that the Vietnamese and Khmer Liberation Army was fighting to remove the Khmer Rouge province by province and village by village. The response of the Khmer Rouge to this invasion was a final desperate act of mass execution.
Noit was being held near the Tonle Sap lake in the center of Cambodia. In the village of O Bot the Khmer Rouge leaders received orders to move everyone to the mountains in the west. A great march was on. After four years of starvation, torture and death they knew they were being marched to their final execution, however, few cared. Death would be a release from pain. Amazingly Noit’s little brother, Sit, now nearly ten years old was brought to Noit’s village and they were re-united. Each year she saw her mother only briefly and knew that her older sister was also somewhere in the area too. All her other relatives and family had already died. Noit marched along with her children’s group. During the march westward she found her mother in another marching group. The reunion was bittersweet. Emotion was forbidden as was any recognition of kinship. A few hours later, she found her sister hiding. She had escaped from her group and knew if she was caught the punishment was death. The Khmer Rouge had specifically divided up all the families so they would have no one to help them. Now, for the first time in nearly four years the surviving members of a once large family were reunited. There was no joy or laughter as they knew they were being marched to their final reunion with death. At least they would be together.
Along the road they found themselves falling behind the group. This made the Khmer Rouge leaders angry, but they kept pressing the people ahead, often moving up ahead of the group. At one point her and her mother were thinking of trying to stop for the night rather than continue walking hours ahead. There was a little abandoned hut along the roadside which they decided to duck into and wait for dark. After they moved in another girl and young man also came into the hut. The woman was visibly pregnant and with her moaning and groaning was likely in labor.
Noit’s mother helped the girl get comfortable as she could on a makeshift bamboo bed. Within a few hours the a new baby girl was born. Soon a Khmer Rouge cadre stuck his head into the little hut. Upon seeing the new-born baby he told them to move on after the young woman got some rest from the delivery. He moved away and they were alone in the hut. Each one drifted to sleep along with Noit next to her mother who had helped deliver a new baby into a horrible world.
They woke early with the sound of people moving back down the road away from the mountains. Long before dawn they woke and asked the people where they were going. They said the Khmer Rouge seemed to be more chaotic than usual and they were not sure whether to go on to the mountains, or to go back to the village. So some had decided to head back toward the village rather than finishing the walk to the mountains.
The delay in the birth had saved them critical time in the march. Those who had completed the march were being executed in the distant jungle hills. The Khmer Rouge realized that some were not coming and so soldiers were sent back to round-up all stranglers. After resting for a couple of days Noit and her little brother decided to play. They found a piece of metal roofing and laid on it looking into the hot sky with clouds forming overhead. As they laid on the metal, a sprinkle hit them in the face. Then another, then another. In the middle of April it is very unusual to have any rain at all. Soon there was a downpour. Noit and Sit kept laying in the rain thinking it would only last a moment, but it rained what seemed to be an hour. Noit and her brother were shivering in the cold rain.
As soon as the rain finished, Noit’s mother told everyone they should move back toward the village. The kids were cold and went and the best way to dry them out and keep them warm would be to walk again. So, the family moved on, trying to head back to O Bot village. However, upon approaching the crossing of the main road they heard a commotion. They were never allowed near the main national road because the Khmer Rouge wanted to keep all their movements secret. They heard vehicles; a sound which they had not heard for nearly four years. They hid in the bushes alongside the road fearing they would be discovered. As the vehicles pulled up, fear pierced their souls. They knew they would be killed for being separated from their group.
The vehicles stopped. They had been discovered. Then they heard a strange voice in broken Cambodian. “Do you know where is Pol Pot?” No one had ever heard of Pol Pot before. They only knew the Khmer Rouge as Ongka, however, these people were Vietnamese soldiers. They were looking for “Pol Pot”. Since Noit had never heard the name Pol Pot and they were Vietnamese trying to speak a few words of Cambodian, she thought they were looking for “Skaw Pout”. “Skaw Pout” is sugar palm juice. Noit pointed to the next village which had sugar palm trees and the soldiers hurried off. As they left the soldiers told them, “You are free now. You can go home.”
The birth of a little baby girl in the midst of genocide allowed for Noit and her family to be saved. They later learned that the soldiers did come back to look for them, but when it started raining the soldiers didn’t have any cover so they waited out the rain storm and then headed back to the mountains. This allowed time for Noit and her family to make it back to the main highway where they were freed by the advancing Vietnamese army.
Many years later in 1993, Noit would hear for the first time about another little baby boy who also would be her Savior: Jesus. Once again she was freed, but this time it would alter the complete direction of her life from hopelessness to one empowered by the love of God.