In France, Billon Ung struggles to uncover the truth about her husband’s disappearance in Cambodia

In April 1975, the Khmer Rouge were close to taking power in Cambodia. Faced with the threat, Billon Ung left her country, leaving behind her husband, the president of the Cambodian National Assembly Ung Boun Hor. She would never see him again. Convinced that France had handed him over to Pol Pot’s men, she is fighting for the government to acknowledge its responsibility.

Billon Ung opens the door into her home in Nogent-sur-Marne, where she lives in a red-brick apartment building. The pocket-sized apartment in the department of Val-de-Marne is decorated with a jumble of souvenirs: a poster of the Bayon temple in Angkor, Cambodia, stands next to a Swiss cuckoo clock that comes alive with each rotation of the dial. Ms. Ung apologizes for the mess, moves one pile of files, then another. She has an archive to show us.

She finds it at last; an old issue of Newsweek dated May 19, 1975, the pages of which she carefully unfolds. In the middle of a report on the capture of Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge, there is a black and white photo of her husband, Ung Boun Hor. The then-President of the Cambodian National Assembly is clearly frightened, two gendarmes are holding his arms. “Ung Boun Hor is expelled by the French,” the caption reads.

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