Christine Huynh



Christine Huynh is a second generation Chinese-Cambodian born in Paris


My parents were both born in Cambodia, of Chinese descent. In 1975, they managed to escape from the Khmer Rouge genocide and lived as illegal immigrants in Thailand for a few months, before France accepted to welcome them as refugees. Like many other second-generation Cambodian people, I knew very little about my family history as my parents barely talked about their previous lives in Cambodia, how they arrived in France and what was their life in France before my birth. Indeed, they would rather move on than talk about the people they lost, what they have left behind and how hard it was to get settled in a foreign country with a different culture.


Recently, it made me very sad when I realised that I nearly knew nothing about their lives or about their emotions. Since then, it has become a profound need for me to ask them questions. Now in my thirties, I am realising how important it is to know about my roots and being proud of them. I believe that one needs to be deeply-rooted, to find inner peace and to be able to build a future.


Finding interviewees for this project has been a difficult task. Among those who still remain “refugees”, people who accept to talk about their stories in front of a camera are quite rare. That’s why finding my first interviewee was a special moment for me. I have found him in a very random way, which makes me think that it was destiny. A friend of mine had an appointment with a civil servant working in a suburban city council. Although it was not planned at all, he asked me to go to the meeting with him. During the meeting, I talked about the project, and the civil servant (who is not Asian) said that she knew someone who was exactly the profile I was looking for. That is how I met my first interviewee. Everything was very easy with him, he was very excited about the project and happy to have the opportunity to share his story. He was born on the road in Thailand while his mother was illegally fleeing Cambodia with a group of migrants, in order to go to France. His testimony is very moving and I am glad that he is part of the project.


With this project, I would like to contribute to give a voice to people we do not often hear about, to make their stories being part of the national heritage and to contribute to fight prejudices towards them. I hope that the project will encourage other migrants and refugees to talk more about their stories, especially to their descendants. I hope that the general public will know better about migrants and refugees and that representations about them will change in a positive way, that prejudices and discrimination will decrease. Finally, I hope that public authorities will see the contribution of refugees to the cities and see them as an asset rather than a plague.