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Yathay Pin was born in Oudong, a village about 25 miles north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Yathay’s father, Chhor, was a small trader, and his family, though not impoverished, was poor.
Yathay was the eldest of five children. His father had high expectations of him: Knowing that Yathay was an excellent student, Chhor sent him to a good high school in Phnom Penh. Yathay received a government scholarship after completing high school, and he went to Canada to further his studies. In 1965, Yathay graduated from the Polytechnic Institute in Montreal with a diploma in civil engineering. He went back to Cambodia and joined the Ministry of Public Works. He married his first wife soon after, and they had one son. His first wife and second baby died in childbirth in 1969. Afterward, Yathay married his wife’s sister, Any, and they had two sons. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge overthrew the Lon Nol government in Phnom Penh and began a regime of terror. The communist Khmer Rouge persecuted educated professionals and intellectuals and accused them of being bourgeois capitalists. Yathay and his family, consisting of eight members, were sent to work as unpaid agricultural workers in the countryside. By 1977, most of his family members had perished from malnutrition, overwork, or sickness. Yathay, who had managed to disguise his educated background for a few years, was finally betrayed by an acquaintance. Fearing execution, he made a run for freedom by walking over the mountains that separated Cambodia from Thailand. Yathay safely reached Thailand two months later; he had, however, lost his wife in a forest fire. From his Cambodian past, Yathay has one surviving son whom he fears is already dead. Yathay now works as a project engineer in the French Development Agency in Paris. He has also remarried and now has three sons.
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