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roots.

The face of Cambodian-Americans today is a mixture of confidence and pride. 

The face of Cambodian-Americans today is a mixture of confidence and pride. 

Cambodian refugees began immigrating to different parts of the world in large numbers in 1979. Due to the Khmer Rouge and the ongoing civil war, the biggest wave of refugees immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s. 

Assimilation proved difficult because of the cultural differences between American and Cambodian culture. Many Cambodian teens often carried the burden of trying to fit in with American Culture while maintaining the traditions in a Cambodian household which lead to identity problems. 

Fast forward to 2016, decades after resettling in the United States and various other countries the face of Cambodians have changed tremendously. The diaspora all over is more educated, artistic, confident, and prouder than ever. 

While the Cambodian diaspora community is dispersed all over the world one thing remain. We are grounded and defined by the foundation of our roots. 

roots. by Red Scarf Revolution

roots. by Red Scarf Revolution

The face of Cambodian-Americans today. 

The face of Cambodian-Americans today. 

Silhouette by Red Scarf Revolution

Silhouette by Red Scarf Revolution

Team Red Scarf by Red Scarf Revolution 

Team Red Scarf by Red Scarf Revolution 

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Danny Van, Genocide Survivor

dannyvan

Danny Van passed in Autumn 2015 after a battle with cancer. Today, February 9th, marks the 100th day since his passing and for his friends and family, it's an especially difficult day. Born Chieu Ear in Prey Veng, Cambodia but better known simply as "Van," he grew up with several brothers and sisters and was raised by caring parents. 
 

His story is similar to many Cambodian-Americans of his generation. He was threatened with death, forced to leave his homeland, and worked tirelessly to build a new life for his family in a foreign land.

 

Though he was a refugee for a moment in his life, he did not let that define him. When starting anew in America, he brought no hate with him in his heart. Van raised his children with all the love he had, helped his friends in any way and every way he could, and took care of his family without wavering. 
 

In his last year, Van had the opportunity to witness his eldest son get married, celebrate the birth of his first granddaughter, and see his youngest son grow up to be the man he always knew he would be. He was also able to visit Cambodia with his wife of 37 years and see his mother, siblings, and extended family one last time. 
 

Van's life is not mourned, but rather celebrated for being a devoted husband, loving father and grandfather, and a pillar in the Cambodian community of the Bronx. He is and will be missed and loved.

 

In his own words by Eric Van, son.

Original Post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BBlA8eItDh-/?taken-by=khmerican

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"Naga Sheds Its Skin" Exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum

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"Naga Sheds Its Skin" Exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum

The Wing Luke Museum presents: Naga Sheds Its Skin

December 11, 2015 - November 13, 2016

The Khmer people have been affected by war, impacting their culture and identity. Despite these challenges, the community continues to shape the U.S. and Cambodia

“Le Drapeau” by Red Scarf Revolution is featured in the exhibit and is available at the market at the museum. 

http://www.wingluke.org/exhibitions
 

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My Father's Scarf by Samantha Pok

samsdad

My dad left the world during the ‪#‎KhmerRouge‬ genocide when I was just a baby. I was told that because he had several skill sets, he needed to be executed immediately. The Khmer Rouge lured him to a ditch, pushed him in, and buried him alive. The next day his siblings found the scarf we was last seen wearing pushed up from the burial site. I know he would've been a great dad. Happy Father's Day, Dad.

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Life after the Khmer Rouge

fc_tee

FOUND Cambodia - a not-for-profit research project

FOUND Cambodia is a not-for-profit research project which is constructing an archive of Cambodian personal photographs that traces some of the socio-cultural changes Cambodia has witnessed since 1979. It is a constantly growing archive of everyday Cambodian photography, brought to light from individuals’ and families’ drawers, albums, and closets. The images provide a vernacular lens to how individuals in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia have experienced the social and cultural revival following the regime’s fall. Further, the project also includes photographs taken before the Khmer Rouge came into power. These images serve as poignant testimonies of the effects that macroscopic socio-political changes bear on the individual.

A unique glimpse into Cambodians’ day-to-day lives over the past four decades, ‘FOUND Cambodia’ serves as a visual research archive for anyone interested in understanding societal changes through the eyes of an individual.

Buying one of our fund-raising tee shirts will enable the work of collecting and archiving these personal photographs to continue. All the profits go towards building the archive.

Visit Found Cambodia 

Support FOUND Cambodia by purchasing the Thoughts of Angkor t-shirt. 

Read more on Charles Fox and the Found Cambodia Project: The Guardian Life after the Khmer Rouge.

Charles Fox is a photographer based out of Phnom Penh Cambodia. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram. Visit his website http://www.charles-fox.com/

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Cambodian Genocide Memorial Week

shawnchan

April 16th, 2015 the state of California recognizes April 13th to April 17th as Cambodian Genocide Memorial Week. This historical milestone sets a very important tone by showing the resilience of the Cambodian people all over the world. 

We in the community are immersed in it and some are tired of hearing about it. In truth, not many people outside of the Cambodian community are aware of the tragic history. This is a momentous stepping stone  in bringing the Khmer Rouge's terror into the mainstream.

"Awareness is powerful" - Komarey Kao

Only 40 years ago Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge and the infamous "Killing Fields" took place. An estimated two million Cambodians were murdered by execution, starvation, and disease.  

In Phnom Penh, the Khmer Rouge turned a high school formerly named Chao Ponhea Yat into Security Prison 21.  Infamously known as S-21 and Tuol Sleng, the security prison was used to interrogate, torture, and execute those who were believed to be traitors of the Khmer Rouge. An estimated 17,000 or even 20,000 were tortured and executed from 1975 to 1979. It is believed that there were only 12 survivors from S-21. 

An eerie coincidence that this senate resolution to honor the victims of the genocide was randomly given the number 21. I believe it was meant to be. Senate Resolution 21 (SR-21) states:

"The Cambodian Genocide Memorial Week will honor the survivors and their descendants for their courage and contributions to our state and country. This week will serve as a way to remember those who lost their lives in Cambodia and in genocides around the world; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate of the State of California, That the Senate hereby recognizes the week of April 13 to April 17, 2015, inclusive, as Cambodian Genocide Memorial Week, and calls upon all Californians to observe the week by participating in appropriate activities and programs; and be it further"

Read the full Senate Resolution 21 

Thank you, Senator Ricardo Lara and his amazing staff for working so hard for the Cambodian community to introduce this resolution. It means so much.

Watch videos of this historic moment:

CAMBODIAN GENOCIDE MEMORIAL WEEK

SENATE FLOOR PRESENTATION of SR 21

VIDEO OF PRESS CONFERENCE

SenatorLara

Thank you Seak Smith, Suely Saro, and everyone who was part of giving us this important moment in history. 

We will continue to shine with hope, love, and unity towards a brighter future.  Applaudes for everyone who came out to show support on this day of history, remembrance, and healing. 



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Tribute to Soy Song Lao by Suely Saro

SoySongLao

On the 40th year since the Cambodian genocide began and the 23rd year of her death, I remember Soy Song Lao. My aunt was an orphan that survived the violence of the Cambodian genocide with her siblings. We were 10 years apart, but our spirits connected.  She was like my sister. I love her. She bought me my first roller skates, taught me to love literature and most importantly to be kind. I witnessed her joy of reading, her heart break, and her desire to fight for what’s right. Her life was cut way too short and I lost a sister too early.

 

She was a USC student, 21 years old, and 7 months from graduating to get her BA in International Relations. She was ready to travel the world when she died. She was murdered. It is painful for my family to lose her to the same violence we escaped from. Just as we were beginning to distance ourselves from the trauma of the genocide and adjust to life in America, we were reeled into it all over again.

 

I remembered the day my mother received the news that her youngest sister was brutally stabbed 35 times and not likely to wake up from her coma. Grief racked my mother’s body and all I heard was her wail. The pain of the loss of her sister was more than she could bear. We were all stunned. Aunt Soy never escaped the killing field, it came to her.

 

Grieving and mourning is healthy. When I think of her, I take that moment to grieve by acknowledging that she is gone. I no longer let her loss lead me in life, instead, I let my love for her sustain me. Ultimately, It is love that leads us to healing.  

You can read about what happened in the LA Times: http://articles.latimes.com/1992-11-15/local/me-857_1_usc-student

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My hero by Ashley Harlow

PhotoGrid_1428954357818.jpg

April 13,1931 - The most amazing man was born... Uon Mao-My grandfather,the MAN who raised me since I was a baby. Born in Takeo, Cambodia. Worked for the American Embassy in Phnom Penh. Helped my mom and family escape from the khmer rouge and their death camps and brought them to America. He came here as an immigrant with barely anything.. He became a SUCCESSFUL AMERICAN CITIZEN and made something of himself and provided a safe home for our family. By far one of the STRONGEST people I know!! He's a real HERO.

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Mom By Sophaline Mao

mom

Before April 17, 1975, my Mom enjoyed her teenage years in the capital city of Cambodia - Phnom Penh. She studied at Tuol Svay Prey High School (which later became the infamous Tuol Sleng Prison where 20,000 people perished), helped my grandmother at her fabric shop and loved music and performing arts.

She dreamed of being a Royal Ballet Dancer, but my grandfather encouraged her to study instead as she would always be traveling and away from the family. Her high school photos that remain are my Mom's most prized possessions.

She buried them in the ground to hide her past identity from the Khmer Rouge soldiers. She risked her life so that she could hold on to this treasure to remind her of happier times. For this, I am so thankful. Love you Mom.

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Reason By Sophaline Mao

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Reason By Sophaline Mao

5 years before I was born in the KhaoIDang Refugee Camp, my parents' lives were thrown into darkness during the Khmer Rouge regime spearheaded by Pol Pot.

They worked endless days in the rice fields, witnessed unspeakable atrocities, suffered from malnutrition and starvation, yet they had hope. When I start to have thoughts of entitlement, I am reminded that resilience is in my DNA. Hard work, determination, grit, compassion, and the will to move forward has always been the driving force in bringing me to today.

Pictured here: My Late Father, My Mother (carrying me in her arms), my Paternal Grandmother and My Cousin. We were the only ones to escape Cambodia's Killing Fields leaving behind other surviving members of our extended family. When people ask why I am so driven, I tell them...my parents didn't escape death for no reason. I AM their reason.

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Reframe by Danielle Khim

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Reframe by Danielle Khim

It is one of the most tragic events in my life and millions of others Cambodians alive, dead, unborn, it affects us all. I was one of the fortunate as I survived. Too young at age six through ten and yes very fortunate. I was separated from my siblings and parents. Grew up with other children and attended rice patties to scare the scare crows away from the rice patties. Leeches were terrifying me; lice on over my body and of skin diseases marked scars till today, lack of basic needs, all took a toll on me. Yet, I remained strong and high spirited. I prayed to the voice that tells me, soon and one day, this will be over and I will make it. My youngest brother died of malnutrition at the age of 3 years old. My older brother died at age vaguely 7- 8 years old from sickness and among other things I don’t know as he was separated from me and my Mom. They took my father away and he did not make it. Yes, my mom, brother and I attempted to escape from a starving village with high rise of water and men were disappearing by the numbers and left with women to buried men. My brother and I escaped first to meet up with my Uncle. My Mom was supposed to follow us right afterwards so it does not look obvious and suspicious. She got caught from escaping and was put on a pedestal of humiliation more than not of the Scarlett letter, “A”, but of going against the Angkar and tried to escaped. She was tortured, beaten, and humiliated in front of a crowd. She escaped the 2nd time with my brother and made it. Six months passed, she came back for me near dawn and to rescued me.

Anyway, I am going to pause for now as the stories of tragic events, survival goes on and on. I  was isolated from the community for a long time as I felt ashamed, not good enough, dealing with the emotional trauma and doing things I love such as hiking, camping, and backpacking.

Recently, I found my purpose and passion and I became a Hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner. I can help people overcome PTSD with my private practice and working as an adjunct with Clinical Psychologist. I do take the time to learn about my community with all types of various volunteering works in the community as I deeply want to understand our people. I cannot wait to see how our communities are becoming more and more resilient. It is through sharing stories like these, providing services to the community whether be of volunteering, hypnotherapy, psychology, therapy, music, art, cultural events, gardening, and meditation together will help us overcome our tragic past and shape us to become a person of service to others. 

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I cannot complain by Sonn Sam

“I believe that I cannot complain.” by Sonn Sam

His name was Samdang Sam; he was my brother.  He died of starvation a little before his second birthday.  I never met Samdang, but he’s probably the person who has most impacted my life.

My mother followed the tradition of strict discipline found in most Cambodian households; she shared stories of the horrific struggles she and my father endured to make it to America as she taught me right from wrong.  My parents are survivors of one the most gruesome genocides known to man. Approximately two million people were brutally murdered in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, a communist regime led by Pol Pot. Once Pot was in power, my parents and Samdang, like all of the other citizens, were forced into a life of slavery.  

They were sent to labor camps and their sole purpose was to harvest rice that fed the Pol Pot regime.   My parents were led to work at sun-up and each day my brother was given to soldiers of the camp.   My mother told me how she cried every waking moment, not from working like a mule in the rice fields, being whipped and/or beaten for resting because of exhaustion, or being fed one spoon of rice a day, but from the fear that she might not see her child alive when she returned to the camp.

My mother spoke of how Samdang was an energetic and playful child, always smiling, even in the midst of the tragedy that unfolded. However, as time passed his playfulness dissipated because he just didn’t have the energy.  One spoonful of rice does not provide nearly enough nutrition for a developing infant.  Samdang grew weaker and weaker.

One story in particular resonates with me.  One day while working in the rice fields, my father caught a baby crab and immediately tucked it into the inner lining of his uniform pants. While secretly creeping by a camp bon fire he threw the crab in, and came back for it a few minutes later.  He then gave the crab to Samdang.  Its shell was burnt to a crisp but the meat was somewhat cooked enough to eat.  My mother explained how indescribably painful it was for them to see their weak child slowly eat while they too were starving.  Shortly after, Samdang died in my mother’s arms.   

 

Stories like Samdang’s have shaped my core beliefs about life. Through these stories I believe that life is about sacrifice, courage, and love.   I believe that I have absolutely nothing to complain about and everything to appreciate.  I cannot complain because complaining only focuses on the negative, and my parents taught me that their survival depended on their optimism and the fierce fighting spirit of love for their family. I believe that I cannot complain because I’ve learned that the true measure of human worthiness is not what we gain, but in the sacrifices we are willing to make for others.

And most importantly, I believe that I cannot and will never complain or take anything in my life for granted because until his last moment, my brother never did.  

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My grandfather is a hero by Philip Khiev

My grandfather's name was Sawn Khiev. Prior to the war, he was working as an accountant in Battambang. When the fighting broke out, he was drafted into the Khmer military and worked as a military police officer. He was quite known for his daring gun battle against the Khmer rouge in which he and his brother held a bridge with only a machine gun and hand grenades, resulting in him getting shot in the shoulder. When the Khmer rouge defeated the Khmer government in 1975, my grandfather was taken from his home and beaten to death only 500 yards from the house. He knew what was going to happen to him, but because he had a pregnant wife and 4 kids he had no choice but to go, afraid of what would happen to his family if he ran away.  My father was 11 when this happened. Although I never met Sawn, I can tell he was a good and selfless man who put his family and country before him.

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April 19th 1975 by Pisoth Pin

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April 19th 1975 by Pisoth Pin

On April 17th, 1975 they came and took my father, and I assumed they (Pol pot) killed him. I don't remember much about my father... But, what I remembered and I never forget my mother blood soaked sarong from having my sister born on April 19th 1975.  Forced out our home to country side and seeing my mother cried and her blood. There's no word when you're just a child. To these day I still can detected my mother  sadness in her eyes from missing my dad after all these years. We never talk about it.

40 years later! Now that I had my own son and expecting a girl this month.  I hope she not born on April 17th or 19th.  But, the expected due date is on April 19th 2015. Waoh!!  

Life goes on... And I told my son that we're lucky that we lived in United State. Here, there's no war, no running around like papa, and we had a place to call home if you're working hard for it.  No body can crew you up only yourself... 
Be good and I promised him that I'll  be the best dad I can be. Because I don't remember having a dad myself.

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Lok Gru Chen by Saron Khut

omchen

April 17, 1975.  

I was barely 4 years old lived in a small town near the border of Cambodia and Thailand.  My father was a teacher and my mother was a seamstress in Chongkal, O’darmeanchey Province.  My family was talking about the Khmer Red (Khmer Rouge).  I have no idea what that mean but I was scared.  They said that Khmer Red has taking over the country and that they don’t know what to expect.  Before April 17, 1975, some of my family members (aunts, uncles, and cousins) left to Thailand but my father decided to stay because my grandmother was old and he didn’t want to leave her.  This was a big mistake that would cost him his life.

Several months later, in the middle of the night, the Khmer Red soldiers came to my house and took my father away.  That was the last I seen him.  They said they were taking him to a concentration camp.  My mother said that she knew that he would never be back.  She said he cried and asked her to save him some “omboke” because he was hungry.  Mom said that I was asleep and did not know that he hugged me and my two sisters with tears rolling down his face.  My father, Junda Chhun (Gru Jen) was beaten to death outside of town.  His body was left for the coyotes to feast.  

April 17, 1975 is a horrible date for all Khmer.  1.7 million Cambodian perished.  It is not a memorable date but it is a day to remember so it will never happen again.

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April 17th, 1975 by Sorany Var

YEAR ZERO: April 17, 1975

In Cambodia, today marks the day Phnom Penh fell to the hands of the Khmer Rouge who systematically slaughtered millions of people- especially those with an education.  They eradicated all institutions of democratic government and ended peace, thus beginning the most painful, bloodiest, and most traumatizing series of events to happen to any people in recent history. The ripples of this painful past resonates still today; you don't need to look far.

I hate it when people use the term, "anniversary" to describe it because there is absolutely nothing to celebrate. It should be called a, "Day of Observance. "  We should acknowledge this day for what we have slowly reconstructed - the parts of our beautiful culture that were so violently ripped away. 

Do not be ashamed that you are Khmer. 

What is there to be ashamed of? Our people are innately artistic. We are architects of the largest modern cities in the world that are still standing today. We are musicians, artists, poets, dancers, film makers, writers, athletes, teachers, engineers and so much more...

Do not be afraid to talk about issues that really matter to our people- the ones that can create real and lasting change. Where ever you are; Cambodia, USA, France, Australia, Canada, etc... I'm asking you to recognize that there has been a disconnect between our generation and our parents' generation. I'm not trying to push a political revolution, but a revolution in your mind... I'm just asking you to remember that you are Khmer. 

If this generation, the children born during the Khmer Rouge era and the Khmer diaspora born throughout the world ignores that calling, then the efforts of the Khmer Rouge will have succeeded. Think about that for a second: if you forget who you are and where you came from, the efforts of the Khmer Rouge will have succeeded long after the concentration camps have been demolished. 

I am proud to count many friends in Cambodia who are genuinely dedicated to rebuilding Cambodia's infrastructure.. I am proud to see friends here in USA uphold traditions and create new ones...

Let your parents' efforts of struggle and survival not be in vain! Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on this and I truly hope it has touched you in some way. 

Love and peace always! 

- Sorany Var

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A retelling of a story as told to me by my mother. By Shawn Chan

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A retelling of a story as told to me by my mother. By Shawn Chan

Can't believe this is really happening, 2 million Khmer souls will be officially honored, I was born in the midst of it all.

April 17th 1975, they seem to appear from nowhere, out of the jungles they came, men dressed in all black with red scarves, armed with machetes and machine guns, they stormed the city. Daring anyone to challenge them, they shouted and screamed from the top of their lungs, “this was our city! our state!, our country Now!, we are taking it back for the people!, we will liberate Kampuche of foreign control! With that the great city Capitol of Cambodia, “Phnom Penh" fell into their hands and under their control. 

For months prior, there were rumors and stories of an uprising, no one knew for sure; but something was happening everyone felt it. Then just weeks leading up to this day, every airport and landing strip in the city, became bombarded with commercial planes, private jets and Army helicopters evacuating, foreign leaders, along with Cambodian generals, captains and high ranking officials, political leaders and members of the royal family, unbeknownst to the general public; a storm was coming. 

The citizens that were left in this great city, when these soldiers in black came marching in, were confused, some were scared and went into hiding, while others looked on with curiosity. Some ran along beside the rag tag army of soldiers in black; like kids following a parade, cheering with the soldiers. 

Everyone knew it was a take over, but thought how bad can it be. These men in black with red scarfs carried weapons, but they were Cambodian, they were speaking Khmer, they screamed Cambodian pride, they were here to "free and liberate Cambodia from foreign oppression" they shouted. The people of Cambodia should have nothing to fear. 

So amidst, the smell of gun smoke and diesel fuel, followed by the sounds of rumbling tanks and old military cargo trucks with soldiers firing machine guns shots of celebration into the air; the citizens of the city celebrate and cheered with the new regime as they marched into the city on April 17, 2015 just a few days after the Cambodian New Years. 

-Two days later I was born, April 19th... 

-A week later all citizens were told to grab their belongings and head to the country side…

-A month later it sets in, people where forced to live and work in the country side to help rebuild a new Cambodia… 
Anyone who refused were shot and killed, anyone who were part of the old government were shot and killed, anyone who was accused of, or even looked liked a traitor were imprisoned and tortured, their families, elders, grandmothers and fathers, their children, babies were shot and killed, no one was spared. 

It was day one of “Year Zero", it was a cleansing of a country of everything it was before April 17th, 1975. It was the beginning of the bloodiest years of Cambodian history. Four years later, over 2 million dead, and millions more force to live in countries they knew nothing about all across the globe. From Australia to France, Europe to Spain, Canada to Hawaii, from Italy to North America, we came and made these countries our home, for years we lived never really understanding, what had happened, how many died or where we were from.

40 years later the baby born in Cambodia, in the midst of chaos, just 2 days after April 17th 1975, who celebrates his birthday in November, because the dates were changed when he entered America; is missing work, as he sits at his computer and tries to writes about the pride that he feels inside of him. With goosebumps arms he types away, fighting back tears he types, he feels the spirits of his father, his grandparents, his people, his country, he is overwhelmed, as the words flow, it may not make sense but he types on. In a few weeks he will be helping, honor and memorialize the 2 million men, women, and children of year zero. 

It matters not who, what, why, how it happened, you can research if you feel the need to know, At this time all that matters is April 17th 1975, millions died so that we may live. They lay in shallow nameless graves, just plies of dried up bones removed of blood and flesh, some have been found, others washed away by the rains and rivers, or buried somewhere deep in the jungles and countryside of Cambodia. Who mourns them, who remembers them, who cries for them, they were our bong pa’owns, pa’s, pou’s, mings, oums, tahs, yays (bothers, sisters, fathers, uncles, aunts, grandparents) 40 years, and I have the chance to help honor 2 millions Khmer souls, with a remembrance and memorial that they deserve in the city that they inspired, Long Beach "Cambodian Town" California -ssc

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40 years after the fall of Phnom Penh

For the whole month of April, we'll be featuring stories from everyday people like me and you of their memories or what they've heard from their parents, aunts, and uncles about their experiences with the Khmer Rouge and how it affects them today.  We must never forget to honor lives lost and also for those who survived, who endured the pain and suffering that still haunts us today. #remember4171975 #fuckpolpot #redscarfrevolution

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