Profound and unforgettable

filled star filled star filled star filled star filled star
kayla.keefer Avatar


Under the Naga Tail is one of my top reads of 2023 not only that but it is one of the most profound books I have ever read. It tells the harrowing story of Mae Bunseng Taing who grew up to endure communism’s take over of Cambodia and the brutal regime of the Khmer Rouge. Mae had his life turned upside down once his family was full of successful entrepreneurs. Mae himself had his own business selling rice. In one of the early scenes that would foreshadow the events ahead. A “soldier”bought about five bundles of rice and ordered Mae to bring it to the train station and that he would pay him when it was delivered.

When Mae delivered the order expecting full payment he was aghast to find that the solider had shortened him a significant amount. So much so that Mae was determined to get full payment that he followed the man on the train. Demanding the rest of the money the soldier was shocked and handed him a wad of cash. Mae was furious but the soldier assured him that he would come back to give the rest. It was of course a lie and since that moment nothing in Mae’s life would ever be the same. Imagine just for a moment that one day soldiers telling you they were bringing “freedom” to your city or town and that they will overthrow the evil government.

That’s what happened to Mae and his family when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. Nothing in Mae’s life would ever be the same. Their takeover excited Mae’s village the fighters were restoring the government in the name of the king or so they said…. The takeover started slowly the Khmer Rouge started a price gouge on the food and services. Causing a mad rush amongst the villagers. They then demanded that everyone give up their possessions. They were a community now all equal. Everything belonged to “Angkar” everyone had to swear loyalty to Angkar or else you were a traitor.

Punishable by torture, hard labor and death. The book shook me to my core. It is sometimes hard to put into words how I felt reading this. I being simply a reader living with the upmost privilege and it is a privilege to be born into in America, Europe etc. With all our problems and issues they pale in comparison to what Mae and his family and the people of Cambodia experienced under the horror of Khmer Rouge. These people took ultimate pleasure in taking everything from the people.

From their possessions, dignity and for thousands their very lives. When Mae, his father and many members of their family are sent out of their home to walk thousands of miles to no where. To be forced to make homes out of dirt and twigs. I have absolutely nothing to complain about. When Mae was excited to drink filthy, excrement contaminated water it shattered me. When Mae came under the rule for a short but terrifying tenure of “Don” an especially vicious member of Khmer Rouge. I was astonished by the man’s cruelty. He was someone with absolutely no soul.

The worst of it though and it is very hard to compare the horror Mae experienced was when he and his family finally felt like they had escaped the genocide and horror of Cambodia. Only to be led into Hell under false pretenses by Thai soldiers. Who were vicious and ruthless themselves. They were forced onto “Ghost Mountain” Preach Vihear mountain which was a killing field literally. Full of land mines. There was no where for any of the refugees to go. If they did try to escape the Thai soldiers patrolling would shoot them on sight.

They had no where to go but to wait to die an excruciating death. Mae, his father and the others trapped had to hear and see others getting blown up and starving to death. They were literally waiting to die. Mae’s story and his will to live and survive will stay with me forever. I was livid, awestruck and amazed by his extraordinary story.