The story behind one Cambodian American's tattoo of his parents

by Shawn Chan

In the 1960s, my father was a young playboy in his late 20s from the city who loved riding his motorcycle down the unpaved backroads of the Cambodian countryside. It was there that he saw and fell in love with a young farmer’s daughter. After introducing himself to her parents as the son of a well-to-do family, he asked for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Only a few weeks of meeting, they were married in an elaborate wedding at her father’s farm. A cow was butchered; pigs and ducks were roasted. All the customary Khmer wedding dishes were prepared to feed the neighboring villagers in attendance. There was singing and dancing till dawn. Sinn Seasimouth’s music serenaded them. It was a wedding to remember.

Happiness seemed to be in their destiny, but just 10 years after the photo was taken, with 3 kids and a newborn on the way (me), their beloved country of Cambodia was taken over by Pol Pot’s regime, and the citizens were forced into makeshift concentration camps (known today as the Killing Fields). Millions died. I came into the world in the midst of bloodshed, bombs, guns, killings, malaria, starvation, and death. So weak at birth that I was thought to be a stillborn. It wasn’t until they heard my faint cries that I was not declared dead on arrival and discarded as human waste, as many babies born that summer of 1975.

The horrors that my family endured in the years spent in the Killing Fields are unspeakable. My father survived the beatings, the torture and starvation to help our family escape to Thailand. He saved us all from certain death, only to pass away before he could enjoy the freedoms that our new country (America) had to offer.

The tattoo is a portrait not only to honor my father but to remind me of a time that history forgot: two lovers celebrating their matrimony, with only thoughts of hope and happiness as they looked into their future together in Cambodia. Little did they know that fate would have a different life for them. I am here to tell their story, and the stories of those from their generation. To honor the millions who lay in nameless graves along the Cambodian countryside. 

We (the children of the Killing Fields) should never forget the sacrifices our parents made. The life and country they were force to leave behind. If we do not teach our kids what it means to have Khmer DNA, so they can teach their kids, then our culture, our history will be lost forever. I will not allow that to happen, as long as I am able to speak, read and write. I will not allow our story to be told by someone else. It is their love that made me, and it is my love for them that cannot let me forget what they have been through.

This is what the tattoo means and why it is important to me.

Define “Khmerican” Essay Contest


Khmerican is pleased to announce a contest for a free round-trip domestic flight to CambodiaTown in either Long Beach, California or Lowell, Massachusetts. In support of our mission to serve as a next-generation news platform for the Cambodian diaspora, the winner’s airfare will be paid for so that he or she may visit sites relevant to Khmer culture and community development. Such destinations include nonprofit organizations, temples, restaurants and others that are significant to the local Khmer American community and facilitate personal/professional growth. The winner will document the trip for publication by Khmerican within two weeks of travel, which must occur before December 31st, 2013 (exact dates and provisional itinerary must be approved before booking).

How to enter

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Transcript: Laura Tevary Mam


By Phatry Derek Pan

1) How many times were you sponsored to go to Cambodia in 2012? Specify month and circumstances.
We were sponsored 3 times to go to Cambodia. In February 2011, we went on our very first tour to Cambodia and performed 6 shows in Phnom Penh and Siem Riep. Then later in May of 2012 we were sponsored to go back and shoot more music videos in Cambodia and begin a real Cambodian campaign in partnership with Cellcard and CTN. And finally once more in September we went back to do a mini-concert and meet and greet with our fans in Cambodia. 

2) Why do you think Cambodia invested in The Like Me’s as oppose to other oversea Khmer artists? 

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Love by Khmerican Photo Contest


According to Merriam-Webster, Love is: 

(1) strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties

(2) attraction based on sexual desire

(3) affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests

So, Khmer America … what does love mean to you? Better yet, show us by entering our “Love By Khmerican” Photo Contest!

Your photo can show love in the literal sense, in an abstract manner, or in a metaphorical interpretation, whatever you want. But keep it PG-13 - we have a lot of young readers.

To enter the contest (just one):

  • Instagram a photo of love to @khmerican with the hashtag #lovebykhmerican
  • Tweet a photo of love to @khmerican with the hashtag #lovebykhmerican
  • Blog (Tumblr) a photo of love with hashtag #lovebykhmerican
  • Or submit a photo with name, contact info, and caption to or via our Facebook message box.

Official Rules & Regulations

1) One entry per person. All photos submitted must be your original photo.

2) US & Canada residents only.

3) All submitted photos are understood to be property of

4) Photo submission begins on February 14th, 2013 at 9:00 AM (ET) and ends February 14th, 2013 at 11:59 PM (ET).

5) All participants have agreed to allow Khmerican to insert the “Khmerican” logo onto submitted photo before album upload.

6) Photos will be judged by Khmerican staff. Winners will be selected based on creativity and originality.

7) Three winners will be announced on February 16th, 2013 at 12 PM (ET) on all social media channels.

8) Winners will have the choice to choose from a select pool of Khmerican merchandise. 

Miss Cambodia 2013: Welcome to Miss Cambodia 2013!

Follow our first Khmerican managed artist website.


Hello everyone, ជំរាបសួរ!

Welcome to the official Miss Cambodia 2013 website. It is my honor to represent Cambodiain the upcoming Queen of the Universe Pageant in January 2013. My desire is to bring Cambodia and the richness of our culture into greater public awareness, and I can…

PHOTO CONTEST: My Khmerican Independence




1) Submit an original photo of what Independence Day means to you.
Photo ideas includes, but not limited to: A) you playing with fireworks, 2) you BBQing, 3) you spending time with family and friends, 4) etc. Have fun, be creative. **You must be in the photo

2) Attach the following information in the email or Facebook Inbox submission:
A) A one sentence story caption about the photo
B) Insert location (ie., Gaswork Parks, Seattle, WA)
C) Your full name

3) Email photo and information to OR
private message to

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For General Inquiries:
Phatry Derek Pan, Co-Founder
206 5999444