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Cambodian refugee's restaurant provides space to heal and celebrate culture
Geoff Bennett: Meantime, may is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. And our Student Reporting Labs is exploring how food is tied to culture and identity.
Amna Nawaz: In Hillsboro, Oregon, student reporter Sandeep Brijesh Pillai of the Beaverton Academy of Science and Engineering has this story of a Cambodian refugee whose restaurant helps him heal from a tragic family history and provides a space to share his culture.
Saron Khut, Owner, Mekong Bistro: I dreamt about it. And now I'm living it. It's easy for me because this is what I wanted.
My name is Saron Khut. I was born in Cambodia in 1970 and I came to the United States when I was 10 years old in 1981. When the communist rebels took over Cambodia in 1975, anything with knowledge and intellectual stuff, they don't want it anymore. They wanted to reset the country back to the year zero.
My father was a well-known person in our community, in our town. He was a teacher when the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975. He couldn't hide his identity. And so they took him away one night in the middle of the night, and they took him outside of town and they beat him to death.
When we were there, we were moved from town to town. My mother was put to work in work camps. And my sister and I were orphaned for several months. I was the one that had to look for ways to feed my sisters and myself and my grandmother.
We were suffering a lot, but, fortunately, we made it. My wife and I, we wanted a venue where we can host a lot of people for events and stuff like that. And so we built this together with our own hands, pretty much.
Saron Khut: I feel really good about what we do here, and my goal was to get closer to my community, to be more connected, to have a better networking system.
You know, we serve foods, but it is also more than just food here at Mekong. We build relationships. We create good memories. I want to do more to help bring lights to what happened there in Cambodia. And, also, I want people to not forget about the genocide.
Cambodia has been underrepresented. Cambodia is more than just the killing field. Cambodia is a country full of rich culture, arts, foods, and entertainment, and everything else. And so I wanted to at least shed some light on Cambodia and the Cambodian culture.