Kong Bunchhoeun, A Master Poet of Songkae River
Kong Bunchhoeun was born in 1939 in Battambong Province. He got married in 1963 and had a total of six children (one boy and five girls). Among the six, five are in Norway, whereas one of his daughters is in Phnom Penh.
A drawing of Kong Chhoeun by Neou Veasna
He was a newspaper writer, novelist, poet, screenwriter, filmmaker, director, composer, as well as an educational illustrator. He entered the field of composition in 1955.
One of his novels “Love until the End” won the first prize during the Battambong Literature Festival in 1957. In 2000, he became the second Cambodian author to win the ASEAN Framework Award after his excellency, Pich Tum Kravel.
He was praised by other Cambodian writers as a great and well-known writer that had left behind a wide range of compositions including emotional, high wisdom novels and classical songs that were sung by the Emperor of Golden Voice Sinn Sisamouth, Ung Nary, Ros Serey Sothea, Pen Ran and many others singers.
Moreover, most of his songs showed the real aspects of society that were meant to attract listeners and readers to want to see the places especially in his hometown, Battambong province. For example, some of the most famous songs were Coconut Tree Shadow 10 (Mlob Dong ti 10), Cut the Meat for My Mother (Ah Sach Chun Mday), Memories of Phnom Sampov, and The Daughter of Fisherman that were sang by Ros Serey Sothea and the song Dong Steung Sangke River sang by Sinn Sisamouth.
Challenges as a Poet
In 1963, Kong Bunnchoeun was arrested and put in prison for half a year because he wrote the novel “Palace of Hell”. The content of the book was criticizing the Popular Socialist Community (Songkum Reastr Niyum) political regime. Later in 1970, he was arrested again for half a month because of a book “Where is its Future”.
The contents that he wrote especially in the novels were mostly related to social injustice, bribery, exploitation, oppression, vandalism, and rivalry of power in the ranks of a senior official. These contents in books made him survive during the Pol Pot Regime because Khmer Rouge cadres saw that he was against the capitalists.
He was a writer who loved the freedom of writing. He wrote that “The truth is on the price of ink, there’s no need to fear of prison and chain. If you see fire and say it is smoke, you are betraying yourself before betraying the readers. It is better to be poor than to sell the writings in exchange for wealth. Never bow down to make a stove, despite death from seeing Angkor temple.”
His last work before leaving Cambodia to live abroad was that he wrote the novel called “The Destiny of Miss. Tat Marina.” After the publication of the novel, Cambodian authorities came after and threatened him and his family, so they had to evacuate to Thailand in 2000 and almost five years later they moved to Norway.
The photo of Kong Bunchhoeun when he passed away. Photo: គង្គ ប៊ុនឈឿន Kong Bunchhoeun
Kong Bunchhoeun passed away at the age of 77 years old in 2016 in Norway.
"Boats go, but port stays." Though death takes away his body, there is still remain of his soul in every song and novels he wrote, always and forever.
By: Hon SreyNit