Photo Exhibit Recalls Khmer Rouge Atrocities

Kimseng Men

For the first time, Cambodians are feeling comfortable enough to openly discuss life under the Khmer Rouge.  A UN tribunal is underway.  On trial four are people accused of genocide.  And a new photo exhibit has opened in Phnom Penh, showing a side of life rarely seen in 1978.  These pictures were the images the Khmer Rouge wanted the world to see.

However, In those days, people were forced to perform back-breaking labor, starved to death, tortured, and killed.

The photos on exhibit were taken by former New York Times reporter Elizabeth Becker during a visit organized by the Khmer Rouge regime. It was in late 1978, just days before the regime's collapse.

The photos are now on display for the first time in Cambodia, at a time when former Khmer Rouge leaders are on trial for causing the death of some 1.7 million lives.

"I've seen a renaissance of Cambodians talking about their history," said Becker.  "You see films. For the first time last year a Cambodian won the international journalism award, the Knight International Journalism, for his work documenting what Nuon Chea did. This is fabulous."

Nuon Chea was the deputy to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot and is now on trial, charged with war crimes, including genocide.

Pol Pot, whom Becker interviewed on the last day of her guided tour, escaped justice when he died of disease in the jungle in 1998.  He left behind a public where the divisions between the Khmer Rouge factions and their victims were still unresolved.

"These people have spent nearly 40 years going to the same Buddhist temple together," said Becker.  "Their kids are in the same school. One of them was the executioner; the other was the one whose family was killed. It's all like thrown together."

Sarem Neou lives in the U.S. now, but is still not able to escape her memories of the Khmer Rouge.  She lost her husband, a daughter, and other siblings, then became a prisoner at one of the Khmer Rouge correction centers.  Over the years she has found her own way of healing.

"When I talked about it for the first time it was hard," said Neou.  "When I first settled down in Minnesota, I could not even listen to Khmer music. I cried every time I listened to it. Therefore, I decided not to listen to any. It took me a long time for almost 10 years. We had to take part in community work to help other people."  

The court has sentenced Kaing Kek Iev, the chief executioner also known as "Duch," to a life behind bars.  Cambodians are hotly debating whether to expand the Khmer Rouge Tribunals to more cases.

For Elizabeth Becker, sharing her memories with the Cambodian public is a way to make sure they never forget their painful history.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs