Topic: Rathana Ken

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Hamilton City Libraries Oral History Programme, Interview with: Rathana Ken, Accession no: OH0086, Date: 24 June 1990. Interviewed by Margaret Smith as part of the Taking Root in a new land Oral history project 1990


Rathana Ken was born in Koh Kong, Cambodia in 1969 and was the seventh child of ten.

Pre-New Zealand

Rathana talks about the new city of Koh Kong and her parents work. She then talks about having to leave cambodia because of the possibility of war, and the reactions of friends and family. Then she talks about a relavtive in Thailand and the family oging their by boat. Rathana describes arriving in Thailand and obtaining residence cards and what they mean. Then she talks about how her parents supported themselves. After this she talks about her schooling experience and what she did during leisure hours. Her Father then returned to Cambodia to persude the remaining family members to flee while they had the chance.

Refugee Camp

Rathana talks about why they had to go to the camp and the experiences she had their. She talks about thing such as Bribing the registration, Transportaion and food and housing. Rathana and her family had to live by very strict rules set by the Thai police. After this she talks about water, retrieving it for drinking, cooking and showering. Rathana then talks about The hospitals, Thai guards,the camp school and the persecution of a refugee. Rathana talks about how they had family ties to New Zealand and an interview in the Camp. She talks about how she ancipation of acceptance by New Zealand and the preparation for the travel to a new country. Her family was tranfered to Transit Camp Chonburie and they departed in 1981. Rathana talks about the plane journey, the departure, the people and the month of arrival. They arrived in Auckland and Rathana describes her first impressions of the weather, people and the food on arrival.


Rathana talks about Sponsors and their work, and of her first impressions of Hamilton, the housing for her and her sisters and brothers families. Rathana talks about primary school and the frustrations she had. She talks about the teachers interest in the culture and language, and she talks of the difference between Thai and New Zealand leisure time. Rathana then talks about High school andthe difficulties she had, of the attitudes of various people and subjects. After this Rathana talks about Citizanship and the meaning to Rathana and her family. She talks about Employment and finding a job, plus her ambitions for the future, she gives her opinions on New Zealands attitudes to work compared to Khmers. Rathana talks about clothing and comparisions of courting in the different countries. Finally she talks about Teenagers and the difference in attitudes of both them, and their parents, she finished off with some reflections on what might have been and retaining culture and language, and her ties to Cambodia.

Rathana Ken - Oral history

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Complete recording available on Level 3 of the Garden Place Library


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Rathana Ken

First Names:Rathana
Last Name:Ken
Place of Birth:Cambodia