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Heroines of Cambodia

All female survivors of Democratic Kampuchea are heroines of Cambodia.

Seventy percent of the survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime were women; most of them were widows.

Since the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, women have been a central force in the reconstruction of the nation.

They reshaped the nation’s economy during the tumultuous decades of the 1980s and 1990s, when civil war with the Khmer Rouge ensued and economic sanctions stunted chances for development.

Furthermore, it was through their unwavering efforts that Cambodian culture, education and traditions – which nearly vanished at the hands of the Khmer Rouge – were reinstituted in the social fabric of daily life.

Under these difficult circumstances, the women of Cambodia demonstrated great strength and resilience.

In honour of their heroism and courage, I propose that a statue be built.

The statue will symbolise both their struggle and that of the nation’s.

Most importantly, the statue will be a memorial for those who perished under the Khmer Rouge.

It will also remind young Cambodians and citizens of the world of the country’s tragic past; a past that shall serve as a lesson against future atrocities.

Standing 20 feet high, the statue will be of a woman holding her young child.

This height, 20 feet, represents the 20th century; a period in which Cambodia suffered enormous political, social and economic hardships.

The body of the structure will be divided into seven parts.

The bottom third of the statue will be buried beneath the soil, representing the three million who died in the genocide.

The remaining four parts, located above the ground, symbolises the four million who survived.

Facing west, the direction of death according to Buddhism, the back of the statue will capture the rising sun’s warmth.

As the sun rises from the east, its shadow will appear in the same direction of the statue. As the sun travels westward across the sky, this shadow too will shift directions and begin to appear behind the statue.

This moving but constant shadow symbolises the souls of the three million people who have passed away.

At sunset, the golden rays of the sun will shine upon the statue’s countenance; this glow represents eternal remembrance.

Humans cannot live without memories; memories remind us of who we are and where we came from.

Both the dark shadow and amber glow are symbols of the memories of genocide. The statue will evoke sorrow and compassion, not anger and revenge. It will be an artistic achievement which signifies peace and progress for Cambodia.

An appropriate location for the statue is Samdech Hun Sen Park, situated along the riverside.

This is a large public area that will allow many visitors to view the statue.

As people behold the statue of the proud Cambodian woman carrying her child, they will be reminded of the lessons of genocide so that in the future, such a tragedy never occurs again in Cambodia or elsewhere.

This national statue should be erected during the historic trial of Khmer Rouge leaders.

 

Youk Chhang

Director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia

 

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