I, Little Slave

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Raised in the hierarchical society of traditional Laos, Bounsang Khamkeo earned his doctorate in political science in France and returned home in 1973 to a country in political chaos in the wake of the Vietnam War. He worked for the government until 1981 before being imprisoned by the communist Pathet Lao government after running afoul of a politically ambitious boss. I Little Slave is the account of his seven-year struggle in prison to stay alive and keep sane in spite of harsh physical privation and endless ...
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Overview

Raised in the hierarchical society of traditional Laos, Bounsang Khamkeo earned his doctorate in political science in France and returned home in 1973 to a country in political chaos in the wake of the Vietnam War. He worked for the government until 1981 before being imprisoned by the communist Pathet Lao government after running afoul of a politically ambitious boss. I Little Slave is the account of his seven-year struggle in prison to stay alive and keep sane in spite of harsh physical privation and endless psychological abuse. Khamkeo's story is a moving and important one at a time when political oppression and crimes against human rights are on the rise throughout the world.
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What People Are Saying

Keith Quincy
"This memoir of the Laotian death camps is the first full account of the Pathet Lao's secret jungle prisons. As gripping as A Cambodian Odyssey, it is a jolting reminder of the atrocities that states rush to commit once fanaticism—political or religious—rips off the precious shackles of human decency. What a miracle that Dr. Khamkeo survived to write the story. And what a gift to us is this haunting narrative of undaunted will."
J. David Kinzie
"This is a book about war, torture, and refugees. More importantly, it is a book about survival. To me, the fact that Bounsang survived is part of his extraordinary story. But the fact that he survived intact, as a caring, sensitive human being, is even more surprising. His book offers hope for us who work with traumatized refugees—to see some who have survived with their convern, generosity and love intact."
Brett Dakin
"Bounsang Khamkeo has given us all a tremendous gift: an extraordinary story of the power of the human spirit to overcome almost unimaginable odds. I Little Slave is not just a riveting story that will keep you glued to the page. It is also an important reflection on the seemingly limitless ability of humans to inflict pain on one another. In an age when the temptation to sweep aside civil liberties and give into fanaticism is all around us, I Little Slave is a book worth reading."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597660075
  • Publisher: Eastern Washington University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2005
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

BOUNSANG KHAMKEO grew up in Laos but left at the age of seventeen to study in France. Thirteen years later, in 1973, he returned to his homeland, having recently completed a doctorate in political science at the University of Toulouse. Eager to help his country recover from the devastation of the Vietnam War years, he joined the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he continued to be employed after the Pathet Lao seized power in December 1975. In 1977 he was assigned to work with the Interim Mekong Committee, an intergovernmental organization devoted to regional development, and in the fall of 1978 was appointed the executive secretary of the Lao National Mekong Committee. He was arrested on the evening of June 1, 1981, at the home of the president of the Lao Mekong, with whom he had argued in the course of a business meeting. He was subsequently accused of entirely fictitious crimes and spent the next seven years, three months, and four days as a political prisoner.

In September 1988 the Laotian government chose to release Khamkeo from prison, and he was able to return to his family in Vientiane. His safety was by no means guaranteed, however, and in March 1989 he, his wife, and their two daughters fled Laos. After spending two months in Thailand, they emigrated to the United States, where Khamkeo was reunited with his two sons, who had left Laos prior to his release. Today, he works as a behavioral health counselor at Oregon Health and Science University, in Portland. He lives with his wife, Vieng, in Vancouver, Washington.

It was after leaving Laos that Bounsang Khamkeo began to work on the present volume. "Deep in my soul," he writes, "I had come to understand that if someone witnesses a great wrong and fails to speak out, he loses his place as a righteous man. And so I found my reason to survive and the purpose for my existence: to bear witness."

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Maps

Prologue
Return to Laos
Storm in Vientiane
Communists in Power
The Mekong Committee
The Day of My Arrest
Incarcerated at Vientiane
Imprisoned at Red Cliff
Slave Laborer at Red Cliff
Transferred to Sop Hao Number 7
Slave Laborer at Sop Hao Number 7
The Prisoners Force a Hearing
The People's Court
Released at Last
Dire Warnings
Farewell to Laos
Epilogue

About the Author

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 22, 2009

    personal experience of Communism and prison camps in Laos

    Khamkeo had editorial help from a few individuals in the writing of his book. The text is not awkward like the title. Khamkeo is able and fluent in English. His story both unique and representative maintains an engaging literary quality over the roughly 400 pages. Returning from France to his homeland of Laos after the Vietnam War was over with the intention of helping his country return to normalcy, the author was arrested and put into a prison camp in 1981 after an argument with an official of the communist Pathet Lao government. He was kept in prison until 1988. The lengthy memoir is about this whole time from the early 1970s to the late 1980s, with about half given to each period. The second half of Khamkeo's time in prison is naturally more gripping, and at times harrowing. But the first half has its own significant themes and drama as well--namely, the totalitarian, capricious, demanding rule of the Pathet Lao. Whereas the second part deals with how the author survived the hardships and threats of his years in prison, the first part deals with the more subtle, yet nonetheless engaging, informative, and at times suspenseful story of how he and others had to accommodate the rigid rule of the Pathet Lao while they were at the same time trying to bring improvements to a Laos which like the other nations of Southeast Asia, was disrupted and changed by the Vietnam War. 'I Little Slave' brings to light these uncertain and hostile conditions in Laos following the Vietnam War which have not received as much attention as those in Vietnam and Cambodia. After being released from prison, Khamkeo managed to flee Laos and today lives in Oregon and works for a state health agency.

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