Born in Cambodia’s Kampong Thom province, Saing Heang Seng was a civil engineer before the genocidal government of Pol Pot took power in 1975. He and his immediate family escaped the country in 1979, finding shelter in Khao-I-Dang refugee camp in Thailand before resettling in Australia as refugees in 1980.
On arrival, Saing settled in Newcastle where he worked as a labourer to support his family and further his education at TAFE. In 1986 he moved to Sydney with his wife Seangchhun and their only son Mony, working as a taxi driver.
Saing began helping the Cambodian community to resettle in Sydney, visiting boat people held in Villawood Detention Centre and lobbying for their right to stay. In 1992 he was elected President of the Khmer Community of NSW Inc, working hard to unite the community and give young people a hopeful future.
Raising funds to complete the temple at Bonnyrigg, Saing also helped renovate monks’ accommodation at the Salvation and Cambodian Culture Association’s premises at Canley Vale, although he was diagnosed with liver cancer before the project was completed. He is widely regarded as a prominent community leader who wanted to see it grow harmoniously.