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CSUEB alumna publishes memoir about escaping the Khmer Rouge

Image of Mai Bunla and an image of a book cover, Shoulders to Freedom

Mai Bunla '95 published her new memoir about escaping from Cambodia on her brother's shoulders. (Photo: Mai Bunla, Amazon)

  • September 18, 2013 5:00am

Cal State East Bay alumna Mai Bunla ’95, sociology, recently self-published, Shoulders to Freedom: A Cambodian Diaspora Memoir, about escaping the Khmer Rouge regime, beginning a new life in the United States, and finding herself along the way.

Bunla was born into an ethnic Lao family in Cambodia. Her oldest brother, Ai Sang Thout, on whose shoulders she was carried to freedom across the border to Thailand, was captured by the Khmer Rouge.  His fate stayed a constant nagging in her life for over 21 years until Bunla finally returned to Asia to search for her brother. 

After graduating from Cal State East Bay, Bunla volunteered with the Peace Corps in Nepal then worked at several U.S. government agencies, including Immigration & Naturalization Service and the Department of Homeland Security. She is also the co-founder of The Nyaw Project which advocates for the relatively unknown Nyaw ethnicity in Laos.


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