[i] Hello

[r] Hello

[i] Could you introduce yourself to start, please?

[r] Of course, my name is [name], I am 36 years old. I am a Cambodian refugee. I arrived in France in 1983, exactly on March 16, at the age of 2 months.  I am now a salesman in professional training, on la Défense, for 10 years, and I live in Paris.

[i] And so you were born where exactly?

[r] I was born in [name] So actually, I’m named after the city where I was born. So in Thailand. But I am a Cambodian refugee because I was born, we will say, on the road. My mother is from Phnom Penh and after the Pol Pot regime, she wanted to find freedom in France in quotation marks. Why France, because my aunt was already in France, her sister. And I was born on the road because my mother had to walk from Phnom Penh to Bankgok. With a whole group of migrants including my aunt, my grandmother, my grandfather, who was 1 year old at the time. And so, I was born in Chonburi, then we went to Bangkok to catch a plane, and I arrived in France, at 2 months old. Two and a half months.

[i] And so your parents lived under the Khmer Rouge? Your family lived under the Khmer Rouge?

[r] Yes, absolutely. My mother lived under the Khmer Rouge with my grandmother. It’s a very matriarchal family, at least in our country.  My father, I would say, biological also lived under the Khmer Rouge. And they split up, because of the Khmer Rouge. Because my mother had to come to France but my father couldn’t follow because he couldn’t leave his mother who was too old at the time, to make the trip. Actually, Phnom Penh – Bangkok, and so he stayed there. And everyone today has made a new life for themselves. My mother with her two sons, so me and my brother. And, my father-in-law finally, my father, sorry, found, found, found his wife he had lost, his first wife he had lost during the Pol Pot regime.


[i] Okay. And…. This…. Do you know the life of your parents in Cambodia and your family in Cambodia before you were born?

r] I know her, because beyond the generation, I would say of my mother, who is very matriarchal, my family is very focused on my grandfather, who is actually, well, my mother doesn’t like to talk about it too much but we are part of the royal family of Cambodia. My grandfather is King Sihanouk’s uncle. And so, throughout her childhood, my mother knew this side, it seems “high society”, even if she was not bourgeois either, it is not the French bourgeoisie, if you will, or the French aristocracy rather. So I have echoes of my mother from her youth rather. It is true that she[does] not talk much about the regime. I know that she worked, like many others, in camps and, in a forced way, especially in rice fields during the regime, to support the family. My grandmother has always been with my mother, so her youngest daughter. Her grown-up daughter left for France in the 1970s before the Pol Pot regime broke out, with her husband, to simply live. And where she also had two daughters.  Otherwise, life in Cambodia itself on my mother’s part, let’s say she[only] keeps the good sides of her youth.  Because I feel very strongly that the Pol Pot regime was something very hard, very heavy, for her, in terms of the past. She lost a lot of people during this diet. In particular her first husband. And then, I don’t know if it’s due to the diet, or if it’s because the… I’d say the… local medical system wasn’t as developed as in France. But she lost a daughter too. There is a whole rather heavy past, which makes me understand that she does not necessarily want to talk about this subject. I know she hates watching movies about war and stuff like that today. It marked him, that’s all. It marked him, but it remains very quiet on his side.

[i] And do you have any questions about this story? Do you want to ask questions? Do you want to know more about it?

r] Yes, because I have a rather distant vision in the end because even if I was born in Thailand, all my schooling, all my adult life, I lived it in France.  I think we’re going to say that we’re more French almost, in a way, than Cambodian, because I have all the French culture. I did kindergarten in France, I did primary school and so on, until my high school years.  But… I think I’m interested in… I’m certainly interested in the history of my country of origin, but as a Frenchman can be interested, I would say, in a certain way. I wouldn’t say I have a certain distance, but almost.  In the sense that we were educated in Cambodian culture, especially Buddhism. In terms of religion, my grandmother after being… well, when she became a widow, turned to religion and became a nun. In France, when she was still living, she spent most of her time in pagodas with monks and nuns. And all this culture of respect for the old, respect for traditions, all this, I grew up with it, but at the same time, my mother always wanted us to be completely integrated, in a way, into French culture. That is to say, we[no longer] speak at all Cambodian with my mother, very little. We speak French. I only spoke Cambodian with my grandmother. I lost a lot of Cambodian. My mother never tried to enrol me, for example, as some of my cousins did, in a Cambodian writing school. I can speak Cambodian, I[can] neither write nor read it. For example… and I think it’s because of his will and his fear too, especially his fear that we will not be integrated, that we will not be seen as French. So, to come back to the question, yes, I am interested in the origin of my country, but it may be horrible to say, but it is not visceral. That is to say, today I am a political refugee and therefore I do not have the right to return to my country of origin, quite simply, otherwise I lose refugee status.  It’s, in any case, not a lack at the moment. I would like to do so, I will become a national, and finally I will later naturalize myself French, for this main reason. Clearly, it is really to be able to return to my country and to have the right to vote in France. I think these are the two main reasons.  But I have, yeah, I have this distance from my country, which may be special. I know that not everyone in my family necessarily does.

[i] And was staying Cambodian a will on your part?

[r] In a way, unconsciously, yes, I would say so.  I have been accused quite a bit until today of…. When new people, or even colleagues, realize that I am not French… Of course, even for fun, they say, “But do you have any papers?”  Yes, I have a residence permit, yes, I have the… I have Cambodian refugee status. And, in a way, I want to keep this Cambodian nationality because it may be the only link I have left with my country.  Even if I keep that distance, as I was telling you earlier. I keep a certain distance, but at the same time, I want this… this Cambodian nationality because it is… the official link. Paper on paper where it says I come from this country. That’s why I[don’t] rush me for my nationality either. Apart from the travel part, where you have to make visas when you have to leave the Schengen area, this type of thing, which is annoying, which is more expensive, clearly. But here it is. It’s still equipment. Maybe in a way, I say it unconsciously because, when I become French, I will also be very happy to be French. And to have the right to vote and to be able to travel more easily and to be able to return to my country of origin. But beyond that, yeah, I think deep down inside, it means something, staying Cambodian.

[i] And in your family, are there other people who are in this situation?

[r] I am the only one. My mother was naturalized quite late, but maybe five years ago. My brother, a little earlier. But likewise, he must have been over 20 years old.  Then, cousin cousins, either they were born in France or they were naturalized as well. I am really the only one, at least in my close family, who has kept this specificity, this status.

[i] And what do they think about it in your family of this choice?

[r] Well…. In a way they’re a little annoyed for me because my mother’s…. biggest dream would be that we’d all go back to Cambodia together at least once. Well, in particular, to see my father before it’s too late, in a way, because he arrives at a certain age. And then, of course, I’m the only one who can’t go today. It is also one of the reasons that motivates me to naturalize in order to live this moment. I think it will be completely unique and… and in addition will bring a lot of happiness to my mother. So… but… but… but they worry because it bothers them because I can’t travel when I want where I want.  Beyond Europe’s Schengen area, it’s… even to go to London, I need a visa that costs 100 euros. Well, it’s silly, but it’s more expensive than airfare or train tickets.  There you go. My best friends live in London, too. They are French people who were expatriated there, so…. For me today, it is also important… to… to move forward. In any case, at this level, on the “naturalisation” part. To be more free. It’s silly to say. But, in a way, that’s how it is.

i] Would you feel that you would lose this link with Cambodia if you ever became a naturalized person somewhere?

[r] Deep down inside, I think so. I think that even if it is this change that will finally allow me to get closer to my origins and be able to return to my country of origin, there will be something less. Yeah, there’ll be….. I mean, I’m not ashamed of my status at all. I’m not ashamed of having a resident’s card at all.  It’s not a plus… well… if it’s a plus to be French for the right to vote and… and for travel. But beyond that, honestly, I clearly feel Cambodian French, Cambo…. Franco-Cambodian in a way, even if I have no French blood at all. My culture, a large part of my culture is French. But there is this… this base, this root of Cambodia that I don’t want to lose, and… Ideally, I would have loved to have the right to vote, while retaining my nationality and refugee status and being able to travel as I wish. That would be the best… the best situation for me. But that’s not possible. [Laughs]

[i] And what representation do you have of Cambodia?

r] Unfortunately, I still see it in a way as a developing country. Even if when we left him, it was already the case, even if it was a dictatorship. Today, unfortunately, and… I have echoes of it from a cousin who is French but of Cambodian origin, who has returned to live in Cambodia to open a business with her French husband. It’s still a country, I wouldn’t say third world, maybe not. But whoever, in any case, I have the impression in economic terms, has not known – and this is little the criticism I have of my country – has not known how to take the wave that neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam or even Laos have taken.  It’s starting to develop in terms of tourism, but I think it’s long.  Afterwards, it may be a desire of the country and the government in power to keep this authentic aspect that is also important… The temples of Angkor, if you see hotels around, I[don’t] think the natives will be happy about that. But, unfortunately, I kept, in a way, the image of a country that is perhaps a little behind its… its neighbours. Beyond that, it remains… I want to know the… also another part of my roots that is still there… the side, the principality that was Cambodia. Even if my mother completely puts that part aside because it’s not in quotation marks the part… that… that’s most important to her.  That’s it, Cambodia is a principality, it’s something quite unique…  And, it’s still part of my family so I would like to know a little more about the links I can have with this type of person.  And… I’ll always remain nostalgic, even if I don’t know this country, it seems strange. I don’t know him, I’ve never been there. But there’s a certain nostalgia, yeah. When I see pictures, old pictures of Phnom Penh, or with local clothes, it’s… I think it’s beautiful. I think it’s beautiful and I wish I could see it.

i] And do you have any links with other people of Cambodian origin here in Paris?

[r] Except for the family, not really. It’s true that, we often have an image of… I’m not going to talk about Cambodians, but Asians in general as if they were very communitarian. Maybe in my early childhood, when I lived in the suburbs in 93, maybe we were a little more so. Even if it’s always been mixed with different… different origins.  I don’t necessarily want to get closer and be surrounded only by people of my origins. No, I’m… Around me, there is everything. Yes, there are French people, there are Africans, there are Arabs… And I love this multiplicity. Maybe it’s because of….. to be a foreigner, to have come to France, and in addition to that in 93, where it is a real culture broth and a real broth from different origins and that’s what I like. And today, my group of friends, that’s it.  My colleagues, that’s right. And that’s what I like about my life, you know. I don’t necessarily like racial communitarianism, in a way. It’s not….. After that, everyone does what they want. But that’s not what I’m looking for.

i] Do you participate in events on Cambodia?

[r] Since quite recently. In fact, I’ve only been going for two years….  – I’m talking about my adult life, at least today – celebrating the Khmer New Year at the Vincennes pagoda. Because beyond….. to go celebrate the elders, etc., the New Year…. It’s really folklore and it’s… well, it’s something, in Vincennes. It’s a lot of people. I almost want to say, even if I[don’t] know the country, it feels like we’re there. With all the street vendors…. We eat local… well, “local”, Cambodian.  And, there you go. It’s been two years, and I love going there every year. Beyond that, when my grandmother was there, there were many more religious holidays, especially at the pagoda. All Saints’ Day, including the festival of the Khmer dead, and… all the other holidays I don’t know the meaning of to be honest. But that my grandmother and my mother were trying to teach us and teach us through the religious coast and Buddhism.

i] Beyond religious practices once a year, what do you have of Cambodian in your daily life?

[r] Food. No matter what anyone says, I grew up with Cambodian food. My mother continues to do so today. It’s…. I think that’s really the main daily connection I’ve had since I was a child. Until today, huh. I have fish sauce, oyster sauce. The winged kitchen… it’s… it remains intrinsically in me. And I continue to do so even if, as a French chef, I can sometimes add spices or Asian ingredients.  Beyond that…. I’m thinking, but from Cambodian, I’m… I’ve been so immersed in French culture that…   I would say… not me personally, but my nephews and nieces all have Cambodian first names. In any case, it is something that in our generation, to my brother and cousins cousins…  They have always given a Cambodian middle name, in addition to a French name.  After… yeah, it’s… I would also say the language if we continue to speak a little Cambodian with my mother, even if the majority is French. And then it’s going to be little… little gestures. When we see each other as a family, we[do] not shake hands, we “sathouk” as we say. We join hands, and say “hello” like that. And then there are other little cultural things that were taught to me when I was a child. Gestures of courtesy to do, or especially things not to do. Like touching an older person’s head.  Putting your feet on the table… well, it’s stupid stuff, but… Putting food on the ground in Cambodia is… it’s not done. In France, the French do it, but it’s something that… that I have kept, and that I actually do unconsciously. It’s so unconscious, I realize when I talk that it’s actually due to…. to my Cambodian education.

[i] And you were talking earlier about your identity. Do you feel as French as you do Cambodian?

[r] I would say, yes. I still care about my Cambodian roots. I like the Cambodian language. I like being able to speak it. I’m a little disappointed in…. to talk less and to have lost a lot of words. I think that when I was 5-6 years old, I spoke Cambodian fluently. Because with my grandmother, it was a daily thing. Today, I understand very well. I speak it a little bit. I[don’t] read it at all, I[don’t] write it at all. I would say, Cambodia is my base, and France is what has been built around it, and on top of it, in a way. Because of my schooling, and then, I would even say about the personality I have built up over the years. I think I am in a very Western daily life, in a way. Even if there is still this… I would say…. some values that are attached to my country and my Cambodian culture. Respect for elders, I often come back to this, because it is really important for Cambodians. But beyond that…. I may be taller than a Cambodian… [laughs] I’d say from the old generation. It is true that… Western culture may learn more about itself… to… to assert themselves. To be less… in the shadows perhaps than our past generations, as Cambodians. Past generations were mostly “Don’t make waves”, “Don’t get noticed too much!” “Work well!” Basically, you don’t have to be the gossip or the big mouth at school. I wasn’t necessarily a big mouth, but… In any case, today, as an active and professional person, I… I know very well that I am not, that I am more, I claim more rights, in any case, than my mother in her time. Or… when I want something, I say it. Which is not necessarily the case, I would say, of a typical Cambodian. That’s it, I think I’m really a mixture of all that.

[i] And in Paris, how long have you lived?

r] I arrived, in fact, I arrived in… Cambodia, we left for Créteil in 1994, but I really have no memories at all. The first memories I have were in Athis Mons, in 91, where we lived in a large apartment with my mother’s sister. So we joined… her children, her husband, so we were… and my grandmother. So with the kids, there must have been almost a dozen of us in a big apartment. After that, I started my primary school in Aulnay-sous-Bois in 93, where I stayed until half of my college in 4th grade. With always very good memories and… Really, what impressed me was the mixture from that period. A real <i>melting-pot</i>, and the mixing of cultures.  Honestly, there was no racism. And I felt good there, even if we could say that it was the suburbs and the “zone”.  Beyond that, there was so much wealth to gain, that it brought me a lot, I think, at least for the future. After that, I stayed a lot in 93, Neuilly-sur-Marne, Noisy-le-Grand. And I arrived in Paris itself, after my studies, at the age of 23.  I started working, I took my first apartment in Paris and then… And since now, I’ve been a “purebred” Parisian for 13 years, let’s say. But in any case intramuros.

[i] What kind of studies did you do?

r] I took an ES baccalaureate and then a +4 baccalaureate in management, a master’s degree in management sciences in fact. At the University of Marne-la-Vallée, in the 77. So I[didn’t] move away either from….. where… where I lived. It was a will, because I loved the area. But then there was this “Parisian life” side that attracted me a lot. Because also my first experiences were… I started in fact in press relations communication, as an assistant press attaché in major luxury houses: Jean-Paul Gaultier, Louis Vuitton in particular. Clearly, very Parisian as a universe. What I liked, huh. Clearly, and this is why I got closer to Paris, and I arrived in Paris intramuros.

[i] And in which areas did you live in Paris?

[r] 11th, a lot. Voltaire. My first apartment was in Voltaire. I’m thinking, 11th, 20th… And, for three years, in the 3rd arrondissement, rue des Francs Bourgeois. It was a great place, but I’m better off in the 11th. And so here, now, for a week now in the 20th. In the 20th, Gambetta side. I like the…… Well, I think it finally joins a little bit, what I was saying about the suburbs, its multicultural side. The fact that it’s popular, but very respectful. And very commercial, and that’s what I like about Paris. Finally, I lived three years in a hypercentre, in a historic district called the Marais, one minute from the Place des Vosges. You had to do it, because it’s nice. It’s the bling bling bling side and very…. I would say…. Yes, that’s the historical side of Paris. But here it is, I feel more comfortable in the 11th or 20th arrondissements, which are very popular, commercial districts, and where it remains very safe in the evening when you come back. But, I love this living side of Paris.

[i] And these are also places where you go out?

[r] These are places where I go out from time to time, to take… yes, in bars, restaurants, in particular. After that, it’s true that I know much more about the 3rd, 4th arrondissements. Because it’s a little bit like HQ with my friends, for a drink or an aperitif.  After… as a young Parisian… it is true that we also travel according to the places where the animation takes place. The animation today goes more and more towards the districts of Eastern Paris, the 11th and 20th, so good for me. It brings me closer to home. But here I am, I’m more like 11th, 20th, 3rd, 4th, yeah, as a corner. Very “right bank”. And I want to.

[i] And you work in Paris too? r] That’s it, today I’ve completely left the world of fashion, luxury and communication. I am a salesman in professional training, in the field of IT, in Defence. I started 10 years ago at Cegos, which is the European leader in training. And then, little by little, I progressed through the ranks. And today, I am in charge of commercial partnerships at IB, which is a former subsidiary, and finally a subsidiary of Cegos. But I’ve done three or four training clubs in 10 years. And… I also like Paris, you know. It’s the possibility of changing jobs because you can… you could say to yourself that in other places, going from communication[unication] to sales is a completely different skill. The possibility of living in a city as big and full of opportunities as Paris also allows you to… change your path, faster, perhaps more easily.

i] And outside of work, do you have any hobbies?

I’m going to say sport, even if I have to go back and I haven’t been back in the gym for a while, like many Parisians. Cinema…. I like the… I like the cultural life of Paris, I like being able to make exhibitions, there is Klimt there now that I absolutely want to do.  Here, I try to do a little bit of everything, theater, without having a passion… a big passion, on which I will spend several hours a week. This was the case when I was younger with sport in particular, I practiced figure skating for several years when I was in the suburbs, in Neuilly-sur-Marne exactly, in the 93.  Today, in Paris, that’s it, I twirl around according to the exhibitions[itions], according to what’s in the cinema. After that, it’s more… friends. I mean, I have… it’s my second family, my friends. So we see each other very often. We go on vacation together, and we spend time talking and it’s just as well, and it’s just as rich. That’s what I like about it.

[i] Would you see yourself living elsewhere? Today, no…. A little later, why not. Why not, for what reasons? Because Paris is extremely expensive, in terms of rent, let’s not fool ourselves.  You almost have to be a millionaire to have something decent and great access in Paris intramuros, I speak well. I’m not talking about the Paris region at all, because it’s clear that it’s more… conceivable. I, later… I would say in the second part of my professional life, at 45 years old, I see myself well in a big provincial city. Why not Montpellier, Lyon, Bordeaux. I remain very urban so that’s why I don’t see myself in the country at all. I need a city where things move culturally, where things move in terms of animation. If only restaurants, bars, or that kind of thing. But… where it may be more… financially liveable, let’s say. I[couldn’t] go to London. London is a disaster It is said that Paris is expensive, but London… That’s even worse! Yeah… southern city… But… it’s silly to say, but it would really be for the finances. If I could live in Paris by buying a three-room apartment with a terrace in Paris, I would be happy to do so. Because I love this city, I love its history, I love its light. I usually say that I like… all I love in Paris is taking a taxi at 5am, I come back from the evening and spend on the banks of the Seine and see all these monuments lights and I find it so beautiful.  And as a refugee… see the <i>gap</i> that there is between what my… family lived, the misery in which… because it was the real misery in which my family lived. My mother had to give my brother water that wasn’t even drinkable when they were on their way to Bangkok… for fear of poisoning him, but he absolutely had to drink. And what I have today is still wonderful. I realize that it’s still wonderful…. All the way my family has….  all that road we’ve been on, yeah, together… Because it’s not just me, it’s also my mother, it’s… Everything she could have given me during my 36th birthday, and without her I would never have gotten where I am, I think.

[i] Do you often think about that?

[r] All the time. Yeah, well, after that, I think that’s very Cambodian too. Maybe, huh. This recognition we have for parents…  Especially since… in France, since my father stayed in Cambodia. She was a single mother with two children. She didn’t have huge qualifications either. She is now a leather goods maker at Louis Vuitton. But before that, she worked at Peugeot in the factories in…. assembling cars…. And, when I see what my brother, where has my brother come from, or even me, no matter what people say. We both went to college. He is a homeowner, he has two children, he is married with a lovely wife. And…. I, the rhythm and… the life I have today, I am an executive. I have nothing to complain about in terms of salary, I mean… Here, I have… it’s a gift in quotation marks that my mother gave me…  And, God knows, she did everything she could to make us happy when we were kids.  We were talking about figure skating earlier. And, we can say that it is a sport of the rich, when you want to do it intensively, it is more than 8,000 euros per year. So that’s pretty significant for a single mom’s budget. It was more than 700 euros per month.  Not to mention the equipment. That’s it, it’s sacrifices she made. For my well-being and so that I can flourish, as I wished. And then I went to school, same thing. Four years after graduation…. So after that, I think, it was also thanks to her that my brother and I were able to be self-sufficient fairly quickly. That is to say, at 17, I had my first permanent contract. Even if it was a job… food, in addition to my studies. I had a desire to be independent fairly quickly. I remember, at 16, I told my mother that I was counting… that everything I was going to get in my scholarship… with my work… and that at 18, I was leaving her house to go to a student residence. There it is…. And I think, that’s because of my mother, yeah. It’s all about education. And this recognition, I will always have it, all my life, towards her. And I hope she’s aware of that.

[i] Is she proud?

[r] I think so.  I think, even though we have experienced, like all families, difficult times.  And, above all, that in quotation marks it is the…. the last to stay…. And clearly, I say so. I was raised by three women. My mother, my aunt and my grandmother. My grandmother and aunt left us a few years ago. And finally, there[s] only my mother left as a real pillar for my cousins as well as for my brother and me. And I think she’s proud of us. Yeah, I think she’s proud of… the…. It’s silly, but when my brother, he became an owner, he bought his house, she was really happy. There, she has two beautiful grandchildren whom she pampers and… Yeah, I think his goal today has been achieved.  She will always worry about her children, but she is a mother. Especially a Cambodian mother. It’s… but I think she’s… she’s happy with where we are.

[i] And what is your relationship with your brother?

[r] We have a report, we have… been very close in college. We had the same group of friends. Then we’re very different, in the sense that I am, I think I’m very Parisian. He stayed in the 93 with his wife. And, it never told him to come to Paris…  I also had this need to move away from my family in a certain way, at one time. And, I think they are aware of it and they have understood this need. When you leave… it seems very close to Paris when you’re in the suburbs, but it’s very very different. We[really] don’t realize when… when we[don’t] experience the thing, but… For a suburbanite, coming to live in Paris, especially perhaps when… when you are a refugee or immigrant… It’s an evolution. I mean, that’s how I experienced it, and I think others have experienced it in the same way.  It’s…. to touch the capital what. I’m… at the time, I was more of a partygoer too. I went out a lot more… I liked the night… Going out to clubs, that sort of thing. And… and I feel like it was only in Paris, that I could really experience that. And it is that by living in Paris that I could live it fully, in any case…. And I don’t regret it. I don’t regret it. I have experienced good things as well as bad things, like all Parisians. But here it is. I have an attachment to this city. Moving back to the suburbs, I would have a really, really, really hard time. I would rather live, as I told you, in a large provincial city than… in the suburbs. That’s my Parisian side, and completely parigot, yeah, for… for 13 years. [Laughs]

[i] And so, with your brother you still see each other regularly?

We see each other, we even try with my mother, and I have a half-brother too and a cousin, who is like a sister, all four of us from… to meet for a family lunch every month. We’re trying to stick to it now that there are more grandchildren for my mother. I want to see my nephews grow up too. Yes, every month we’re close. We got closer… So we were close in college. We got a little far apart in high school, college. Everyone has made a life for themselves. I lived as a couple quite early also at 18 years old. I lived in an apartment with my then spouse. And… we’ve really been getting closer for… maybe 3-4 years… Yeah, I’d say 4-5 years… where we tell each other everything. In other words, I think we got to know each other as adults with my brother. We knew each other as children. I would say, adolescence was a time when we separated a little bit. So do I, by my own admission. And then, yeah, I think for the last five years, we discover each other as adults. We[are] really hiding nothing.  I think I’m lucky to have a great brother who will always be there for me. And… always… No matter what I do, no matter what happens to me. He will always be a real support. And it is clearly much more, I think much more Cambodian than I do… in the sense that… It’s not a reproach at all, it’s more in the sense that…. The way he places the family at the heart of his life.  Maybe too much, I would even say. For his own family life, I am talking about his wife and two children. I think… his blood family took up too much space at one time. But he’s basically like that. For him, family is more than anything. Even more than I do. And… that’s remarkable! This is remarkable.

[i] And for you, that’s… Cambodian?

[r] Yeah! Yeah! Yeah, I think so, clearly! I think that finally, I say it’s Cambodian, because that’s how my mother taught it. It’s that the family will always be there for you… While I’m trying to untie myself…. I mean, I think I’m the western side of the family, because…. Earlier, I was talking about my friends…. My friends, this is really my second family.  Maybe it’s… some of them are as important as my brother, I’d even say. But if mother heard it, I think she’d kill me. [laughs] Because… because in our culture, in the education I had, it’s family. Family first. And my brother does it very well, he does it quite well… without… without… without bitterness… finally he does it willingly. He’s naturally like that. I’ll call him urgently, he’ll come right away.  And… he can put his life in <i>standby</i> for a member of his family. It’s a sacrifice I find, yeah, yeah, yeah, admirable. I think that’s really the word. And my mother is the same. The two are very similar in character.  I don’t want to say I’m the… the ugly duckling, but I think I am a little bit. Yeah. But, here, I fully respect it. I have also been getting closer to my family in these few years compared to other years, because we are finally coming back to it.  And indeed, they are always there for us.

[i] And precisely this project of going to Cambodia together, it will be done from here… how long?

[r] Well, as soon as, I’ve always said and I think it will really be the case, as soon as I have my nationality. This will be my first trip. I… I don’t want to do another country outside the European Union, because I have travelled… in the European Union, in the Schengen area. But… outside these countries, I think I really want Thailand and Cambodia to be… Well, Cambodia anyway, really. Thailand because I lived there, I was born there. But, I really have no ties, in terms of culture, in terms of family, except for an uncle who lives there. But, here, I don’t have any… of Thai origin. My origins are Cambodian. Thailand has been a… a step, in a way. So…. Yeah, I hope… I hope in maximum 2 years. I hope in maximum 2 years, because I would still like to meet my father whom I never saw finally because my mother left Cambodia pregnant, without knowing that she was pregnant. So, my father didn’t know my mother was pregnant when he left her. Otherwise, he would never have let her go… But… Yeah, even if it’s just putting a face on a person I’ve only had on the phone. It is necessary. In two years. That would be my goal, yeah.

[i] And, do you exchange regularly? I mean, does it happen?

[r] With my father? When I was younger, yes. After…. It’s weird to say, but since I’ve really never seen….. The Cambodian…. He speaks with a rather strong accent in addition. So I don’t fully understand it.  We’ve been on the phone maybe five times in my whole life. But it’s not a lack. It’s not a lack because I’m my pillar, it’s my mother. It was my aunt and grandmother. And my mother made a new life with another man whom I considered more than my father in a certain way, because he was present more… well, I knew him, I was 5 years old.  We don’t exchange so much and I don’t miss it. After that, I think it was a real heartbreak for my mother to have to… let him stay. But she made a good life for herself again. She’s… she’s happy now. So…. Even him, eh, on his side. So that’s the main thing.

[i] So he never left Cambodia?

[r] He never left Cambodia. He does everything because he’s had a lot of children. Some of them went to the United States….  I think even all his other children have gone to the United States, there are two of them. I know he’s a hard worker.  He works in… I think he has jackfruit fields. And then he also works with peat from memory. Stuff that makes houses… well, to build houses.  And then I think he stopped because he’s getting old, he has health problems. But… But no, he’s never traveled, he’s never been to France. Because he’s still a peasant there. It’s still someone who doesn’t necessarily have any money. And anyway, the money he has, he puts aside so that his children can have a better life, and in particular two who have gone to the United States, so… It’s very Cambodian! I mean, it’s… it’s a bit like the ideal of the Cambodian family that I see, it’s really… dedicated to his family, his children, and his… and his parents. That’s the very example. I[don’t] know if I could do it, but I find it brave and admirable.

[i] And your brothers and sisters, you[have] never seen them, so?

[r] Never, not the same. Those who are in the United States, I’ve had them on the phone once or twice.  There’s a certain distance, because even though we have half a blood together, we’ve really never seen each other. My brother met them when they went to Cambodia, so did my mother. But I am really the only one in the family who does not know the Cambodian family who still lives there and those who live in other countries around the world. Because we have them in Berlin, we have them in Reunion Island, in Singapore at last… We’re a pretty big family. It should be noted that in Cambodia, polygamy was to… at least from my grandfather’s time was… it was common. And so he had several wives. And, when it comes to the Buor family, it’s really… all of my grandfather’s wives. And, that makes for a very, very big family. I usually laugh, but I say that half of Cambodia is my family. Almost. But it’s almost that.  Yeah, I have brothers, I have sisters… younger. I would like to meet them. But… in a way, my family is in France. They are the ones who came with me and the ones I met, with whom I also grew up. And I don’t have that lack. This vital need in any case to go, to meet them. If I do it so much better, I’d be super happy. If I don’t, it’s because life hasn’t… doesn’t want me to meet them.

i] And is this vital need present, for example, in other members of your family?

r] I think my brother was… had more of a need than I did… to go home quickly. To have his first son presented… he also introduced his first son to… so to his grandfather, my father. And, of course, so is his wife. But he is the oldest member of the family, and I think he has always been much more attached to our Cambodian roots than I am. I don’t deny them, I want to. But, I…. There, it’s there, it’s in a corner. I[don’t] necessarily seek to….. to connect me. Finally, I would like to relate to this, but without necessarily claiming it. I[don’t] know how to say it, but my brother is much more… He speaks much better Cambodian than I do. And he even tries, I would say, to…. to talk to him as often as possible with my mother. I don’t necessarily have to.  Yeah, my brother’s a lot more attached. My cousin who went back to live there too, who was born in France, but did internships when she was educated in Cambodia, she rediscovered the country. She decided to relive it for I think now 8 years, something like that. And she likes it, I don’t think she’ll come back to France. Anyway, it’s not in the projects but yeah, and I think it’s the two older ones too. My cousin, therefore the sister of the one who lives in Cambodia, but who is in France today. She and I are the two youngest, and we are… she, she[does] not speak Cambodian at all. She understands it very poorly. She was also born in France. But… Both of us, I think, the younger ones, we are perhaps the ones who have the most distance from our culture of origin.  But hey, it’s respected by my mother. My mother understands that, I think. Even if she absolutely wants me to keep this base and… this little knowledge I had about my country and my origins.

[i] And so, this trip, you’d like to do it in… in 2 years?

[r] Yeah.

[i] That would mean, that you’re going to take steps to be naturalized?

[r] Sit down quickly. It’s kind of my next step. The apartment was the first. The next step… well, I really want to do it because, because beyond Cambodia, I like to travel. I absolutely want to discover the world and other continents. I admit that when I see my best friend traveling all over the world, I have this… lack. I could travel to other countries. But, I must admit that I was enormously traumatized, I could almost say, by the French administration. Especially for the residence permit. While I did all my studies in France. I arrived at two months old, my mother had it. I absolutely had to get my residence permit to pass the bac. Because you need an ID to pass the exam.  And….  I had to go… at the time, I was in 93, we lived in 93, and I think it’s the worst prefectures that Bobigny is. At least at the time. It may have improved in the meantime with the Internet age and online appointment scheduling. But, at the time, we were queuing up at 4:00 in the morning. And it’s true. Me, with my mother for my ID, my mother had to take her mornings each time. So it was less pay days. I had to miss school. And we had to go four-five times because the number of tickets is limited.  And people, they are some even sleep on the spot. It was revolting, really at the time. And I want to do this naturalization too to avoid all this. Being able to request a birth certificate more easily than having to take my half-day and go to OFPRA. Apparently, it’s possible online, but it doesn’t seem to work, I don’t know why. But, here it is. There are still disadvantages to…. remain a political refugee on the administrative side and on travel. And… I have to make my case absolutely quickly. And then this[will] be just waiting. I’m not worried about the investigation and… for the interview. Apparently, there’s an interview with… a… sworn agent.  There, after that it’s just going to be the waiting. But above all, having all the papers and that’s something else. Like, I’ve already done it twice. And that my files have been lost twice. So…. That’s it, there’s….

[i] At OFPRA?

[r] No, at the prefecture. At the prefecture. OFPRA again, honestly, I have the impression that it is better organized than the prefecture. In addition, prefectures depend on… of the prefectures where we live. So on 93, the organization is different from Paris. And in Paris, it’s going to be according to the boroughs. So, depending on the borough, it will be simple depending on the borough, it will be long. If only to change your address, on your resident card. There may be a three-month waiting period. Knowing that normally, the address must be changed within two weeks. So there’s something wrong with the rules, anyway. I’m not going to go on about this for long, but here it is. I… they lost me twice the file. Because I also changed prefecture. Now I’m in Paris, I’m going to do it again.  And then, I hope it doesn’t change… there won’t be any problem. And in two years, I’ll be in Cambodia, yeah.

[i] So they lost the files, each time they applied for naturalization?

[r] Yeah, from the naturalization application, exactly.

[i] So, this is something you had already done?

[r] Exactly, with all the documents. And fortunately today, I have the impression that the papers requested are more <i>light</i>. When I first did it, they asked me for all the… school certificates since I have been in France. So I had to recall all my schools from elementary school… well, to college after all. Knowing that I went to two colleges, I went to… two primary schools, yeah. Two primary schools, two middle schools. Fortunately, the archives are well done and they have found everything. They could have sent them to me. But that’s… that’s it. If only to do the file, it takes time. And after we do the file, we send. And we still have an average of, I think, two years today to get an answer. And an appointment date, for the interview with the sworn officer. She’ll be the one. The third one. I[don’t] worry. But I admit I’ll uncork the champagne when I get it. That’s for sure. And I buy a plane ticket to Cambodia. [Laughs]

[i] And did… You were talking about the right to vote.

[r] Yeah.

[i] Is this important to you too? Yeah, it’s important because we live in an era. Finally, when I talk about politics, it’s… even geopolitics at the global level, it’s a little scary when the… we see what’s happening in one of the world’s largest powers… Then even in France. I need to make my voice heard. I think it also joins my… I would say my cultural evolution, between Cambodian culture and French culture. I think it is beyond a right, a real duty to vote. That’s the only way we can make ourselves heard.  And I need this right to vote so much that I[don’t] understand those who don’t make the effort, even if it’s just to vote blank.  But for me, abstention is a heresy. After that, that’s my opinion. But… Yeah, it’s important. I think that… especially since… Indirectly, my family lived through a dictatorship, with…. putschs…. Finally, and sincerely today, I don’t think Cambodia is a real Republic, or a real democracy. I mean, then it’s true that that’s my personal opinion. [laughs] I shouldn’t have them shot either when I go back[laughs]… but… No, I think there are still things to do in my home country, and… and the right to vote is really the basis what. It is a fundamental duty as a citizen to go and say what you think and show what you want.

[i] So it frustrates you…

[r] Yeah.

[i]… not being able to vote?

[r] Yeah, clearly. Clearly because, I was really interested in politics and really following the Presidents, well since Sarkozy.  Before, either I wasn’t interested or I was too young I think. But since Sarkozy, then we had Holland, finally Sarkozy twice. Holland, and then today Macron. I have followed every presidential election very closely. We had discussion evenings with friends, we watched the debates together.  Because it affects our daily lives and… Then I finally joined my group of friends and even my family today, I am the only one who does not have the right to vote. And I am outraged and almost angry when I hear a relative say to me that “Anyway, I wouldn’t vote because it’s useless”. I think it’s so crazy as… as a way of thinking that… I almost want to tell him, “Give me your paper, I’ll go instead of you what!” But hey… Yeah, I’m a little frustrated, I think I… I’ll vote for everything. Municipal, legislative… presidential, everything. When I have the right to vote. This is important. It is important for everyday life, in the city where we live, in the country where we live and for the help for everything, finally… I don’t want us to become the future United States, for Christ’s sake. It scares me a little bit today. And if I can say with a piece of paper that I[don’t] agree, that’s fine with me.

i] So, do you regularly follow the news?

[r] Yeah, yeah… This is important. I am not a fan of all the tensions in the world either. Finally, I’m looking into it. But, yes yes yes on the big news…. As a person, as a citizen, I find it important to know. For my general culture too, quite simply.  And…. And at the political level, of course…. I mean, when you see what’s happening in the United States, when you see North Korea… Finally, Syria, finally…. That’s it, that’s…. Just… finally, hallucinating Russia… I mean, there’s a lot of things beyond…. of this… of these… of these leaders… Sometimes I have the impression that in some countries it is still the Stone Age. Finally… today I fully live my homosexuality in Paris. I have the chance to live in Paris. But when I see that we… what is happening in Russia, what is happening, what is going very far… In Chechnya, even worse. It’s…. It is disgusting that such a rich, powerful country should have so much freedom in a certain way vis-à-vis the UN and other world representations. And that a country like France or the United States should not blockade a dictatorship any further in the end. Let’s not fool ourselves, it is.

[i] And to return to your childhood. Did you say earlier that it was a happy childhood?

[r] Yeah. Yeah, completely. Happy childhood, because, very family too. Don’t… Very family, with my mother, my aunt. My cousins, so my aunt’s daughters, my mother’s blood sister, if I may say so, and not her half-sisters and half-brothers, she has some…. she has a lot of half-sisters half-brothers. But only one blood sister.  We’re real… well, it’s like my sisters. My cousins are like my sisters. I grew up with it.  My cousin’s son is my nephew, not my grandchild. My cousin’s niece is my niece, she’s not a little cousin. And…. It is this…. It’s that simple joy, I would say, because we… well, all of us… weren’t in a wealthy family either. My mother was a worker and she still is. My father-in-law was a worker, and he still is, well, he’s retired now, but he wasn’t a rich family. We also lived in low-rent housing, particularly in Aulnay-sous-Bois. After… as the second generation, we also have this opportunity – immigrants, second generation immigrants, refugees – we have this opportunity… we have had this opportunity to be able to build our evolution in a certain way, thanks to our parents, but also thanks to us. Finally, I, even if I thank my mother a thousand times for all she could bring me for my studies, for sport, for… my culture etc. I am proud of what I have also become, at last…. I’m[not] not today, I’m[not] a CEO either, but…  I think I have evolved, I would say into…..  in the social pyramid, in quotation marks, even if I don’t like that word at all. Also thanks to my efforts, I have studied for a long time. The notes, I[only] owe them to….. It’s only me who… who is behind these notes. My mother, she was working, so she didn’t have time to be there to help us. And beyond that, she doesn’t speak French… completely correct. There, we didn’t get a home help on our studies. And my brother and I are where we are, thanks to us too. And…. I think that this childhood, as a result, in low-cost housing, 93, workers’ family life, I am happy to have lived it because… I know where I come from. I don’t forget where I come from. And I’m glad I lived…. After that it wasn’t poverty either, we weren’t homeless either. But it wasn’t either, we weren’t a wealthy family at all. Yeah. It was… it’s really counting the euro… at the end of the month. So…. Yeah… that’s why my mom too, I think she’s happy to… of what we’ve become. Because we’re here today, not in need. We each have our own apartment, we have a job, where we flourish. And… that’s the most important thing, what.

[i] And you didn’t suffer from your origins when you were a child?

[r] Suffered, no. After that, I would say, there have always been…  Earlier, I was saying that there was no racism in 93. No, but, there are always little words… It doesn’t have to be said in a mean way.  And I really didn’t feel that way because…. Between you and me, we’re… I mean, my friends <i>black</i>, I was laughing at their faces too about their origins, but it was more of a way of messing with each other in a certain way and with a certain respect, clearly. Because we[didn’t] cross the line. And, above all, we didn’t do it with just anyone. It was really a buddy thing. We[didn’t] do it with strangers. But, it was… yes, the Chinese, it was always the Chinese, or the Asian, the “Tchong”… There you go. Today, a stranger who tells me that will get a right right away for sure. But then, if it comes from friends, I don’t mind. You have to be able to step back, I know where I come from. I am Asian, yes, that’s for sure. Besides, I[am] not Chi… well, I am Chinese too, because my father is of Chinese origin at the base. He is Cambodian of Chinese origin.  So well… yes, it’s a joke, it[doesn’t] bother me. After that, there is…. there are them everywhere…. I was lucky enough not to have to suffer from this type of… of racism.

[i] You consider that you are rather at peace with your origins?

[r] Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, totally. I think that…. I think that the fact that I also took a certain distance from a period of my life has done me good in terms of that. Whether it is from my origins and my family, it has allowed me to build myself as a Franco-Cambodian as well. Parisiano-Cambodgian, I would say almost even. Because, I really consider myself a real Parisian, with the good and bad sides. And next to that, I also fully live all my origins and always this respect for the elders, and… respect for memory, that kind of thing. It’s something that’s embedded in me, and in which I[could] never… well, I[could] never deny it, clearly. Even if I tried, I wouldn’t make it. And…. And, that’s…. then I don’t know if it’s specific to my family. But this… this evolution in this second generation of refugees is quite homogeneous, in the sense that today, when I see all my cousins, brothers and sisters. They are only with Europeans. I have a lot of…. I’m sorry, nephews, they’re all mixed race. My nieces are mixed race. And we like this mix of cultures. And I think that by keeping also, by giving them a Cambodian first name and a Cambodian middle name, it also keeps this root, which is very important to the family, and my mother clearly. Afterwards, we hope to be able to keep this… this culture that has forged us for the next generations. I don’t know if we’re going to make it. It’s… it’s a little bit of a fear, though, isn’t it? It’s a little bit of a fear of my mother, it’s I think that even we, as the second generation, it’s a little bit of a fear because unconsciously, it can happen to us to lose… lose root, yeah.

[i] And what are you doing, precisely to… to keep this?

[r] I’m finally thinking about my grandmother and my aunt, actually. First, because they left us. And two, because for me, they represent, in addition to my mother, really my three Cambodian pillars. My three maternal and Cambodian pillars.  And my aunt, in addition, was a Cambodian ballet teacher, a Khmer classical dance, at the BCK. And for years, I remembered, I accompanied him during training. I saw them with their headdresses, their silk clothes. And I thought it was beautiful. And for me, that’s also the Khmer origin, dancing takes a lot of… of space, in… in Khmer culture. Classical dance is a passion in my family. My cousin made them for a long time. She’s besides… she’s tattooed all the apsara on her whole back, which I think is beautiful. And speaking of tattoos, my brother tattooed “Ta Prohm” here too. I’m going to tattoo myself jasmine flowers, which clearly represent the country I come from because it’s the flower used for weddings, for all festivities. And even at funerals. For me, at least, it is the flower that represents Cambodia. These are some of the little things that allow me to… to[don’t] forget where I come from. Jasmine, I really want it, I wanted something Cambodian. My other project is to write in Cambodian the names of my nephew and niece. It’s… it’s silly, but for me it’s important that there be a connection to my roots. With my mother, my aunt, my grandmother, and therefore my roots necessarily behind me. And then, Buddhism, sometimes I still pray in the evening while I sleep. Because my grandmother taught us with my brother to pray morning and evening. It was more considered a punishment for us because it was forced. Especially since we didn’t know the meaning of all the prayers. But, we… so, I still know the prayers by heart today, and I keep praying from time to time in the evening, yeah. Thinking about both.

[i] So, it’s a practice that is rather individual?

[r] Yes…yeah, clearly.

[i] Are you going to the pagoda?

No, I’m going to… it’s rather individual, and I think even my mother and brother[don’t] necessarily know about… than I pray, or think so much about my grandmother and aunt. Then we’ll go[to the pagoda] from time to time. But much less than when my grandmother was there because my grandmother lived at the pagoda. Easily three-quarters of his time. And we… and we went to see her often, so we went there from time to time. We would do a little prayer or meditation. And it’s true that now we’re only going to go there for big events. Wedding type or unfortunately for… funerals.  And, perhaps for a great feast that is, well, as I told you, New Year’s Eve, and the Feast of the Dead. Apart from that, no, we’re not a family that… a Cambodian family that goes to the pagoda every week today, anyway. Like, it’s the case for some, which is very good, huh. But I think it’s a will of my mother too. Earlier, I told you that she had a fear that we[would] not be integrated when we were children. And the fact that in a way it also makes her, perhaps, unconsciously, put a distance from that.  Well, we behind us follow, and I don’t have that need to go to the pagoda more often.

i] Was his fear of you being integrated stronger than his fear of losing the connection to culture?

[r] Sometimes I think so. Even if she is very fond of Cambodian culture. And, she doesn’t deny it at all. And… deep down, she will remain Cambodian even if she is French today. I think she really had, yeah, that fear of arriving in a country she[didn’t] know for which… She already spoke French because she was giving French classes in Cambodia. But, not in any way, completely common. It’s a different culture. It’s another religion too. I mean, the main religion is not Buddhism. It’s another way of…. to work is another way of seeing life. So she was… yeah… afraid that we might be in that Cambodian microcosm in which we stayed anyway the first years of our lives, because there was clearly the family. But beyond that, she never necessarily taught me Cambodian.  And even when we were little, and we started speaking French, it wasn’t the kind of mother to say, “At home, you speak Cambodian, you don’t speak French”. We were talking Cambodian with my grandmother because we had to. But, I think she would have loved it if my grandmother spoke French, too. Except she was lazy. [Laughs]

[i] She[didn’t] speak French?

[r] She was talking a few words. A few words, she understood more than she spoke, but….  No, no, she spoke mostly Cambodian.  And it was a little annoying to my mother for that. Because, inevitably, we are a little dependent, when we don’t speak the language of… of… of the host country, you know. But hey.

[i] And, did they tell you what it was like to live in the royal family… in the royal family in Cambodia?

r] My grandmother and aunt were much closer to the royal family than my mother. My mother still has it… I wouldn’t say disowned… maybe that’s not the word, but… She has never been interested in this “royalty” side, the obligations behind it. It’s…. For example, when my mother goes to Cambodia, she never goes to the Royal Palace, she[doesn’t] go to see our cousins Bopha Devi in particular. My mother, she knows her, and she’s not going. While my aunt, it was a mandatory stop. She slept there, even from time to time. She had her driver. My mother is the more rural side, I would say in a way siblings. When she goes, she prefers to go to the peasant family than to go to the side… I[couldn’t] tell you why. Maybe because in a way she thinks that… this “royalty” and “principality” and politics thing…, it’s what caused all the misfortune in the country. And all the losses she’s experienced, I think… there’s a connection. After that, today…. We tell him, “Are you from the royal family?” She’s like, “Yes, but what do I care?” She… she pushes him away a little. She pushes him away a little. After that, life… life in Cambodia, she talked to us mostly about the escape, actually. Between Phnom Penh… anyway, that’s what I kept in mind. The escape and what she went through. The fact that they almost…. They almost… almost got caught by Thai militias in the woods, or at least it was… It was quite traumatic, I think, for her, because she had a baby in her stomach. She had another one in her arm. And that they didn’t necessarily have water as they wanted. I was more affected by this and its different stages in the Battambang refugee camps etc. than her daily life when she was young in Cambodia. There I find pictures, we found pictures of her when she was young. That’s not why she’s going to… she’s going… to go on and on about this.  It’s still pretty fuzzy. Because she is also the last of the family, and perhaps even her youth, she may not have experienced it. Because the last one in our family, in any case, is the one who has to stay at home, and… she was the one who had to take care of my[grandmother] and…  That’s who… I’d say my aunt had more freedom than my mother.  My grandmother has always lived with my mother and me, and never with my aunt, for example.  Yeah, it’s still pretty fuzzy and she really doesn’t talk about it much. But, yeah, because she made her life in Cambodia, and she doesn’t deny it, but it’s a page in the book. Now she is making her life in France, even though I think she will return to France for her retirement.  Because there, she goes back there almost once a year, during the summer holidays. And… after that, she has other plans. Today, she has bought land and wants to set up guest rooms ideally. Have a small activity on site. Because, life in France is much more expensive than in Cambodia. And, it is clear that there, she will be able to live there more… easily, we will say.

[i] So she has the will to settle there permanently?

[r] Yeah, I think so. I think, yeah or do, six months – six months, because she still has her grandchildren here whom she loves, and whom she will want to see grow up. But I think she’ll want to settle down. In any case, finally, to go there in a more sustainable way when she retires. In a few years, yeah. It’ll be a pied-à-terre for me, when I have my French nationality. [Laughs]

[i] And how do you see the future?

[r] Well, me in France, to be honest. Paris, again this year. I ideally continue in what I do and what I love, in the company I am currently in.  I have evolved quite a bit as a salesman and I am delighted about it.  I’m waiting to see how I’m going to deal with the separation with my mother. If she really decides to go to Cambodia, it’s going to be weird. And, clearly, if she goes to Cambodia, I will need the nationality to be able to visit her as often as possible. After that, not far from my brother ideally. Even if I go to the provinces, it will be in the same country anyway. Today, with transport, we quickly connect the big cities. Because I absolutely want to see the little ones grow up, my two nephews. I have a niece who is in Cambodia, but I[only] see her very rarely, unfortunately.  Then, always accompanied by my friends and relatives. And then Cambodia, yeah. Cambodia, I would like to. Ideally, if I can go back every year, that would be great. Because I know that it is a wonderful country of the pictures I have seen, of all the echoes I have had. Make Cambodia from top to bottom, clearly. Thailand, too, since I was born in Thailand, I am not allowed to return to Thailand either. So neither Cambodia nor Thailand, on my side. And… Thailand, it looks… it’s a great country. So I’d like to go too. Future made trips normally. [Laughs]

[i] And in the other countries of Southeast Asia, did you go there?

[r] No. No, no, no, no. It’s true that I have… I’ve travelled mostly to Europe. I went to England, Belgium, Spain, and that’s all in the end. I didn’t get a chance to travel any further. For financial reasons and then, quite simply, for opportunities. I have this need, too, yeah, to… Latin America, for example, attracts me a lot for their culture. Because, because I grew up surrounded by Uruguayans too. And… I speak Spanish, it’s my second language learned during my studies. And it’s so… it seems so different from my Cambodian and Asian culture that yeah, I absolutely want to do Latin America. The United States, of course. Canada, at last…. Yeah, if I could live the second part of my life made of travel, I would. So I only did London, Belgium, and Spain.

[i] But, does it make you dream to see all these countries?

[r] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, totally. It makes me dream of flying for more than an hour. [Laughs] It makes me dream about… to meet with… I mean, what you see on TV[vision], in a certain way and….  To meet locals, almost ideally. One of my biggest fantasies, I think it would be to make a <i>backpack</i>, well…. With the backpack and… To make several countries in Latin America, even if only in Eastern Europe.  Here, in a backpack, make guest houses or… to be in… Really immersed in the local people’s homes to see how they live on a daily basis, and see what the difference is with France. See the difference compared to what I know about Cambodia. And that’s how we get rich, I think. And… I don’t know, I don’t know if it’s because I am, I’m part of a migrant people, who gave me that taste. But in any case, I lost too much time because of the papers. Because I am a refugee and because I cannot travel as I wish, as soon as I have my nationality, clearly I think that… One of my passions there will be travel, because I will… I will invest money and time.

[i] And these are trips you’re planning alone or with friends?

[r] The… Alone, I’d have a little trouble. I must admit, seeing myself really travel alone in <i>backpack</i> mode. I’d have a little trouble, yeah. More with friends or family, yeah. Or my current companion, we absolutely want to do Cambodia. Well, he’ll be present normally, in the travel project.  Because there are, there are plenty of aunts out there to see, plenty of cousins. I go there, I only have to pay for the plane ticket. I have my cousin who lives there… and then I know that on the spot, it[is] worthless, I’ll see… I’m a little afraid to see the… in quotation marks the dark side of the country with… Poverty is not to be fooled. Hygiene, lack of hygiene, in some places. And prostitution, on the other hand, is childish and scary. I[don’t] know how I will react. I know it’s growing more and more. Finally, there was Thailand, and everyone knows it. And I know that in Cambodia, it’s growing more and more and it’s the kind of thing that could happen to me… yeah, me… Not disgusting with the country, maybe it’s too much. But, to give me a bad face of the country. We’ll see about that.

[i] How do you imagine the emotions you will have when you go back there?

[r] I convince myself that I won’t cry. [Laughs] Even to see my father. Father, I don’t think I’ll cry. I think I’ll be touched because I’ll finally see it, but I really have no connection…. Yeah, almost sentimental. It’s… I’m really talking about a biological father, huh. It’s horrible to say, but it’s… I think that’s the reality. After that, I think I will be much more overwhelmed by emotions in front of the Angkor temple. Because I’ve seen so many pictures of him. I’ve seen so much in documentaries, that… this majestic aspect and all this architectural work that is colossal and quite… And it’s a huge thing they did, though. I think so, the temple of Angkor, the first time I’m going to be in front, I’m going to be… I’m going to shake. And I think I’m even going to be moved if only to see children running around barefoot. This kind of images that we necessarily make ourselves, in relation to documents, in relation to photos… There is a lot of talk about orphanages in Cambodia as well. It’s….  All… all these things. Yeah, I think I’m gonna cry after all. [laughs] I’ll try… I’ll try not to. But I know very well that I… I’m going to crack. And… and that… it’s going to be… I’m going to have trouble coming back to France, I think. I’m already thinking about that, about that kind of…. of things. That’s why I think I’ll go back a few times.

[i] So you’re looking forward to it?

[r] Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. I’m really looking forward to it. The only thing that blocks it is naturalization. As I was saying earlier, really, really, eh, the… the best thing that can happen is that they accept that I can go there while being a refugee. And not to lose this refugee status, because no matter what we say, even if…. I was saying earlier that the administrative difficulties are real as a refugee. I think it’s worse if you don’t have refugee status.  I think it’s even more complicated because you have to contact the country of origin for some papers, which is not the case. I am dependent on OFPRA. There’s only one in Paris, but it’s pretty well organized. They are… they have nevertheless improved well in their organization.  But, yeah, if I didn’t have to become French to travel. I don’t think I will. If I didn’t have to become French to vote, I[don’t] think I would. I would remain Cambodian.  Macron has to hear me! [Laughs]

i] We’re going to reach the end of the interview, do you have anything to add?

[r] No… I am delighted with this study. I am delighted to be a part of it, because I think it is important. And I think it’s important to leave a trace. From… these different migratory flows and… Especially today and what we are going through with all the wars and those who complain about… migrants from Italy, from this or that country. We must not forget that…. We must not forget solidarity, I think that this policy of stateless people or refugees is based on nothing else. And that one day, it could happen to anyone. And that, just because you are a refugee doesn’t mean that… you can’t succeed in life. Just because you are a migrant does not mean you cannot succeed in life. I think we have examples of this every day. And… I think I’m one of those examples too. Beyond that, thank you! [Laughs] Thanks for asking me.

[i] Thank you very much!