The Union Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC) on Monday held a ceremony ahead of the Kingdom’s Victory Day in the presence of Minister of Environment Say Sam Al and the Phnom Penh Municipal Hall’s senior leadership.

Sam Al, also the municipal president of the UYFC, was joined by nearly 300 others, in the commemoration which was held to remind the younger generation of the spirit of patriotism.

The ceremony was organised at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre where members of the UYFC performed a play depicting the brutality of the Pol Pot regime.

At the closing ceremony, monks recited a prayer to honour those who had died during the tragic era.

A press release from the UYFC recounted the cruelty that ensued during the Pol Pot regime.

It said infrastructures nationwide had been destroyed and millions of people were starved and killed in the course of three years, eight months and 20 days.

Sorn Sameth, 67, a former soldier under General Lon Nol, attended the ceremony. Sameth recalled how he had survived the regime by concealing his identity and posing as a palm tree climber.

“I came here today because I wanted to remember the pain of that period – a time which should not be forgotten. During the Khmer Rouge period, I was constantly plagued with the fear of being killed but I didn’t know where to run.

“No matter where I went, it was the same. So, I continued to live in fear,” he said.

Kim Foch Meng, 18, and a Grade 10 student of Prek Kompus Hun Sen High School in Dangkor district said she grew up hearing her parents’ recollection of the period. She attended the ceremony as a mark of respect for the pain and suffering the people had endured.

“I never experienced what they went through, but my parents told me all about it. I will remember it forever,” she said.

Another high school student, Chea Mengsong, 20, said he joined the ceremony for the same reason.

“I don’t want to see the Khmer Rouge regime returning. Listening to my grandmother’s stories, I am really grateful that I live in this period. Just hearing the name of the Khmer Rouge gives me the chills,” he said.

Documentation Centre of Cambodia director Youk Chhang said the ceremony has allowed the Cambodian people to recall the tragedy they had lived through.

He expressed hope that today’s commemoration would encourage the younger generation to learn about the Kingdom’s history to prevent its recurrence.

“If we forget the crimes committed against us, the same evils could arise again. This day reminds us of our nation’s tragic past. Although some people have differing views about it today, remembering it is a way of rendering justice to the victims of the regime,” he said.