When the soldiers who stopped their truck saw the light-skinned Hue, Mui and Kim Chi, they examined their papers carefully and discovered that they were actually from Vietnam. They detained Au, Hue, Mui, and Kim Chi. The checkpoint guards confined the family in a high-fenced area some distance away from the road and they enforced strict war zone security measures. The troops did not abuse the people in the confinement, but they were not gentle or respectful. Everyone was fed like the troops. They had enough to eat, but rations were simple cans of rice. Tin cans had become the common measure and utensil during the Khmer Rouge years, and here they continued to reuse tin cans in this way.
Local civilians came in and out of the military compound where they were confined. Eager bartering over extra food, cigarettes, and necessary clothing occurred while the soldiers weren’t looking. The locals charged exorbitant prices for the exchanges made inside the compound. Even though Hue had many items of jewelry, and other small valuables, sewed into the seams of the family’s garments for safe keeping, she did not want to use these to make purchases inside the prison, unless it was absolutely necessary. Mostly she kept what she could for the future.
Mosquitoes pestered all the time. There were no mosquito nets for sleeping. Everyone was accustomed to mosquito nets while they slept, so the nights were miserable at first, and people feared the spread of malaria.
They stayed near Sisophon for several weeks. Then they were transported south toward Battambang to an official, gated jailhouse. There were more restrictions and more tension.
Hue knew that the children, and the others who were imprisoned there, could not hold out for long under such a strict regime. She brushed her hair, and made herself as presentable as she could. Not that it was hard for her to look pretty, for Hue was always a lovely woman with the charm of one who could make an impression. She soon attracted the attention of the Vietnamese General in charge of the prison, and she gradually revealed her story in a sympathetic way, as she worked to win the trust of all of those in charge.
The soldiers in charge of the prison resented the waste of time spent in dealing with captives from their own people, so they made life harsher than it needed to be. They had their hands full. They were occupying Cambodia. They were trying to restore normal trade and civilian life after years of Khmer Rouge destruction. They were still fighting opposition forces at the frontier. When the officers could see that some prisoners were willing to be cooperative and helpful, and even do favors for them, they began to relax the rules and encourage more freedom for the Vietnamese captives.
Through one of the civilians who came into the prison, Hue managed to smuggle out that letter to Grandmother Tien in Vietnam explaining that only Long and Phuong might have managed to make it out of Cambodia, and the rest of the family would find their way back to Go Dau as soon as they could. Au, Mui, Kim Chi, and their mother and stepfather were confined in another detention center near Phnom Penh for several weeks.