Chen Tay is returning to Cambodia after fleeing from the Kmher Rouge with his family. This will be Chen's first visit to his country of birth and the Ballina Chiropractor will be visiting as a part of a specialist medical team providing medical assistance to the people of Cambodia. Photo Patrick Gorbunovs / The Northern Star
Chen Tay is returning to Cambodia after fleeing from the Kmher Rouge with his family. This will be Chen's first visit to his country of birth and the Ballina Chiropractor will be visiting as a part of a specialist medical team providing medical assistance to the people of Cambodia. Photo Patrick Gorbunovs / The Northern Star Patrick Gorbunovs

Facing up to dark past

IN 1979 Chen Tay's family fled the killing fields of Cambodia.

It was one of the darkest times in modern history, when an estimated two million people, or 30% of the country's population, died from starvation, torture or execution at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Chen - who now lives and works in Ballina as a chiropractor - admits his family was lucky to get out of the country.

But he hasn't been back to his homeland since, and says there are still "missing pieces of the puzzle".

Tomorrow he leaves for Cambodia, joining a mobile medical team of doctors, nurses and dentists who will visit villages and conduct health checks.

"It's going to an incredibly emotional experience," he said.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to return home and share the gifts and skills I have acquired in Australia."

With a strong emphasis on education by his parents, Chen graduated from school and was the first person in his family to go to university, completing a five-year chiropractic degree.

He is now settled on the Northern Rivers with his wife and children.

His trip to Cambodia is with International Children's Care Australia, a development organisation that works to alleviate poverty and build a brighter future for disadvantaged children in developing countries.

"I really want to help," Chen said.

"Mum and Dad don't want me to go to Cambodia ... they lived through those awful times.

"I'll be busy with the medical team, but I'll do some of my own exploring."

Chen is also excited to teach the local children how to play cricket.

"I'm bringing a cricket kit and donating it to the kids," he said.

"I think Cambodia is one of those rare places where you can watch a game of cricket while munching on fried crickets."


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