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Norng Chen KimTy, daughter of Norng Chan Phal, a child survivor at S-21’s Khmer Rouge secret prison.
Norng Chen KimTy, daughter of Norng Chan Phal, a child survivor at S-21’s Khmer Rouge secret prison. Photo by Ouch Makara for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC

Remembering the victims of genocide

Dear Editor,

On December 9, the United Nations marked the first international day to commemorate the victims of genocide. The convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, which was signed into enactment on this same day in 1948, begs the United Nations and the world to act.

Over 100 years ago, the Armenian population suffered incredibly under the Ottoman Turkish empire. Since this genocide, which still lacks recognition in the parts of the world today, we have seen genocides and mass atrocities time and time again. When these acts come to light, they are followed by declarations, resolutions and international conventions, and yet we remain vulnerable to further acts of genocide.

Mass atrocities are not confined to a specific group, religion, culture, or political orientation. This is a disease which plagues all mankind, as Cambodians know all too well. We too share a collective history of mass atrocities and genocide. We too have suffered this plague.

We must recognise that our commitment to ending genocide not only in words and commemorative days, but in deeds which will stand the test of time.

Recognising our failure to overcome genocide may be well the first step to recognising that we must take responsibility for our collective in action against this disease.

We may not solve the problem of genocide and mass atrocities that define our world today nor may there be an immediate cure: But we can take action today that will make a different tomorrow.

Education is a crucial aspect. It can temper a generation’s thoughts of war and channel a youth’s energies into productive endeavors that promote peace and a respect for the dignity of an individual and respect for one’s diversity.

Education will not solve all of the problems of the human condition, but it is a reasonably effective way to begin changing human nature for tomorrow.

Youk Chhang
Documentation Center of Cambodia



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Rich Arant's picture

"On the morning of 4 August 1991 at the Office of the Party Center (4 Nguyễn Cánh Chân), Comrade General Lê Đức Anh and Comrade Hồng Hà worked with Comrade Ministers Trần Quang Cơ and Nguyễn Dy Niên on the program for the meeting of the Vietnamese and Chinese Foreign Ministers."

Comrade Lê Đức Anh:"Truthfully speaking, we were also the victims of Pol Pot’s genocide. When they came across, our fellow countrymen in An Giang were horribly massacred. But for our own sake, for the greater duty, because of major issues, we must let it go." (The major issues being revolutionary socialist fraternity and meeting preconditions for the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with China.)

In a world where ideological fraternity trumps even the mass murder of one's own innocent civilians, the old rule still applies -- before you commit genocide, find yourself a superpower backer. The Khmer Rouge, North Korea, and Syria's Assad know the ropes well.

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