About 1,000 ruling party supporters and hundreds of monks, gathered at the mass graves at Choeung Ek yesterday to mark the annual “Day of Anger”, commemorating victims of the Khmer Rouge.
Dozens of actors dressed as Khmer Rouge soldiers performed a dramatic re-enactment of the evacuation of Phnom Penh, carrying AK-47s, pistols and hoes to enact the executions of innocent people that followed. Former Phnom Penh governor Kep Chuktema, Great Supreme Patriarch of the Mohanikay Buddhist sect Tep Vong and senior party officials presided over a ceremony memorialising the victims of Cambodia’s genocide.
“I think that the commemoration and drama today attracted people to learn about the genocidal regime, even if they as individuals were not alive during [that period]”, Chuktema told reporters at Choeung Ek yesterday.
“The drama performed exactly what happened during that time . . . we cannot forget it, because it was real life.”
Sar Vannith, 38, said he was a child during the Pol Pot regime and could not remember clearly what occurred.
“It was my first time participating in the memorial, and the drama today reminded me of the suffering that happened to me, my family and many other Cambodian people.”
Acha Ma, a 52-year-old Buddhist layman, told the crowd that 8,985 dead bodies were found at Choeung Ek when the Khmer Rouge fell in 1979.
“When we came here, we had goosebumps of fear. We seemed to be able to hear calls for help and sounds of crying from torture. Today, we have to pray for the victims to rest safely in heaven,” he said.
Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said though “anger is not the answer”, Cambodians remember the genocide in different ways.
“[The Cambodian People’s Party] created this when there was nothing there to remember and this is to their credit . . . but now people can choose to remember in whatever way they wish.”