Friday November 24, 2017
Home U.S.A. Exhibition on...

Exhibition on Khmer Rouge Atrocities in US Aims to Prevent Another Genocide

A special exhibition on the KhmerRouge terror in Cambodia at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum strives to educate visitors on the catastrophe and prevent another one

0
30
khmer rouge terror
Visitors watching a documentary video about a testimony at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. (Sreng Leakhena/VOA Khmer). VOA

Washington, Aug 08, 2017: As a steady flow of visitors slowly made their way through the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on a recent morning, some contemplated a special exhibition on the Khmer Rouge terror in Cambodia, which wiped out almost a fifth of the population.

Helen Wedgewood, an American tourist, was among those in the museum. After she studied the images and watched a short documentary film, she could not hold back her tears.

Helen Wedgewood, American visitor from Apache Junction, Arizona, visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. on Memorial Day 2017. (Sreng Leakhena/VOA Khmer)
Helen Wedgewood, American visitor from Apache Junction, Arizona, visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. on Memorial Day 2017. (Sreng Leakhena/VOA Khmer)

“I feel very sad that this happened. I can’t imagine that when it was happening nobody knew, and if people knew, that they didn’t care enough to intervene,” the nurse from Apache Junction, Arizona, said.

Ted Nguyen, a Vietnamese tourist visiting the United States with his family, told VOA Khmer, “Even though we are neighbors, I don’t know well about this. We need to have more of this kind of exhibition to help the new generation to know and remember this history.”

More than 1 million visitors

Wedgewood and Nguyen are two of the roughly 1.2 million visitors who will have seen the exhibition “Cambodia: 1975-1979” and a linked exhibition, “I Want Justice!” since they opened in May 2015, according to the museum. The exhibitions’ websites have been viewed online more than 200,000 times by about 82,000 visitors, officials said.

The Cambodia exhibitions, which appear alongside the museum’s permanent exhibition on the Jewish Holocaust during World War II, are scheduled to close Sept. 30, museum officials said.

Genocide: a basic lesson

Cameron Hudson, the director of the museum’s Simon Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, said the Cambodia exhibitions are helping to inform people that genocide and mass murder occurred throughout the world in the 20th century and could happen again unless actively prevented.

“For many Americans who visit the museum, it is the basic lesson of what happened in Cambodia,” Hudson told VOA. “But most importantly, it delivers a deeper message that genocide did not end with the Holocaust; that the Holocaust was not the only genocide to happen and that we continue to repeat the mistakes of the past.

“Part of our museum’s goal is to highlight … the feeling that governments should prevent and respond,” Hudson added.

FILE - Tourists view portraits of victims executed by the Khmer Rouge regime at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, formerly a notorious Khmer Rouge prison, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, April 9, 2015.
Tourists view portraits of victims executed by the Khmer Rouge regime at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, formerly a notorious Khmer Rouge prison, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, April 9, 2015. VOA

Greg Naranjo, the museum’s special exhibition developer and curator of the Cambodia display, agreed that Khmer Rouge-era killings offered an important lesson for Americans and other museum visitors.

“Knowledge and awareness is the first and most important thing that we can contribute for the prevention of genocide in general,” he said.

Cambodian Americans who visited the exhibitions said they were glad to see a large audience learning their country’s history.

“It’s a reminder in a good way, for both Cambodians and everyone in the world,” said Ben Bao, a 66-year-old Khmer Rouge survivor who is president of Cambodian Community Day, a cultural, educational and social organization in the Washington metropolitan area.

FILE - A Cambodian girl looks at images of Khmer Rouge victims displaying at Tuol Sleng genocide museum, formerly the regime's notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 26, 2015.
A Cambodian girl looks at images of Khmer Rouge victims displaying at Tuol Sleng genocide museum, formerly the regime’s notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 26, 2015. VOA
Explaining the terror

“Cambodia: 1975-1979” examines the bloodthirsty tactics the Maoist Khmer Rouge forces of Pol Pot used to establish their new state, Democratic Kampuchea, which they envisioned as a self-sustaining, farm-based society.

Soon after the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975, they forced its 2 million residents into the countryside, where they joined millions of others pressed into forced-labor brigades, building earthworks and rice paddies. The Chinese-backed regime ran dozens of interrogation centers where tens of thousands of people were tortured and killed, often for no clear reason.

About 1.7 million Cambodians are estimated to have died from disease, starvation, exhaustion and murder. Historians continue to struggle to establish a more exact toll — in Cambodia, every family has a story of loved ones who were killed or went missing.

The exhibit “I want Justice!” examines the efforts to bring the perpetrators to trial. It focuses in large part on attempts in Cambodia to prosecute aging Khmer Rouge leaders at the United Nations-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh, the capital city. It focuses on how survivors have sought justice, be it personal, cultural or historical.

Display organizers

Michael Abramowitz, director until earlier this year of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Levine Institute for Holocaust Education, was a key force behind the Cambodia exhibitions.

Michael Abramowitz, former director at Levine Institute for Holocaust Education, USHMM, and current president at Freedom House in Washington D.C. (Sreng Leakhena/VOA Khmer)
Michael Abramowitz, former director at Levine Institute for Holocaust Education, USHMM, and current president at Freedom House in Washington D.C. (Sreng Leakhena/VOA Khmer)

Abramowitz, the current president of Freedom House, said it was important to have a museum display on the Khmer Rouge horrors.

“In terms of the pure numbers, in terms of the percentage of the population, it is really one of the most terrible cases of state-sponsored killings in the 20th century,” he told VOA.

“I just think it is important for us, with all these cases, to remind ourselves that genocide is always possible,” Abramowitz said. “We must do everything we can to prevent it in the future by knowing the impacts from the past.”

FILE - Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), poses after an interview with Reuters in Phnom Penh April 17, 2015.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), poses after an interview with Reuters in Phnom Penh April 17, 2015. VOA

Youk Chhang, the director of the Documentation Center Cambodia (DC-Cam) in Phnom Penh, which provided most of the material for the exhibitions, praised Abramowitz’s efforts, adding that former U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph Mussomeli had also played an important role.

“Without [them], I do not think the exhibitions would have taken place,” Chhang told VOA.

Mussomeli said he had supported the exhibition because it would educate the U.S. public, adding that Cambodians also benefited from such exhibits and other educational initiatives abroad or at home.

Former US ambassador to Cambodia from 2005-2008, Joseph Mussomeli, who played a very important role in bringing the exhibitions to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, visiting the museum in Washington D.C. on Memorial Day 2017. (Sreng Leakhena/VOA Khmer)
Former US ambassador to Cambodia from 2005-2008, Joseph Mussomeli, who played a very important role in bringing the exhibitions to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, visiting the museum in Washington D.C. on Memorial Day 2017. (Sreng Leakhena/VOA Khmer)

“We shouldn’t get so distracted by our everyday life that we forget the past, because the past is the foundation of the future,” Mussomeli said. “Cambodians are so long-suffering, so stoic, that they don’t like to dwell on the past. … But it is important as a people to face the terrible things that happened. I think that will help Cambodia to become a better, healthier country.”

Remembrance in Cambodia

To that end, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been supporting DC-Cam.

Since 2004, when an endowment was established for the center, USAID has donated almost $10 million. In April, USAID provided the latest round of funding, $5.8 million, to anchor the endowment, which will sustain DC-Cam for about another 20 years, Chhang said.

The center was founded in 1995 with a mission to research and collect documents on the Khmer Rouge era. Museums, schools and other institutions have used its findings, as has the U.N. tribunal.

Chhang said DC-Cam’s main mission was to educate Cambodians and foster understanding and discussions of the horrors, part of a healing process for the country.

One of the most important activities, Chhang said, is developing a high school curriculum.

“All the students who studied about genocide know well about the genocide and have the ability to protect human rights and to prevent it from happening again,” he said, adding that survivors should also educate their children.

“It will heal the nation and it enhances knowledge, because no one can teach about the genocide better than those who have gone through it,” he said. “I suggest through VOA that parents should at least talk about the life they went through to their children, nieces and nephews.”

Khieu Samphan, center, former Khmer Rouge head of state, sits in a court room of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal, in Phnom Penh, Jan. 8, 2015.
Khieu Samphan, center, former Khmer Rouge head of state, sits in a court room of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal, in Phnom Penh, Jan. 8, 2015. VOA

Reflecting on US response

The U.S. has been a strong supporter of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, even though there are allegations that the U.S. did little to stop the Khmer Rouge regime when it was in power.

The U.S. and other Western countries agreed to let the Khmer Rouge fill Cambodia’s seat at the United Nations in order to punish Vietnam, an ally of the Soviet Union, for invading and toppling the regime.

Hudson, of the Simon Skjodt Center, said the exhibition included these U.S. foreign policy decisions from the 1970s, “because it’s also not a proud moment in our history, in terms of the lack of a strong response to try to stop what we knew to be genocide or crimes inside Cambodia.” (VOA)

Next Story

World Riddled with Genocide, War Crimes and Ethnic Cleaning; ‘We Must Do More’, Asserts UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

The UN Secretary-General believes that more efforts and stringent action must be taken to reverse the prevailing negative trends and save civilians from different crimes against humanity

0
33
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Wikimedia
  • UN Secretary-General asserted that more efforts must be made to prevent growing crimes against humanity
  • He asserted that the need of the hour is to save civilians from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and indiscriminate attacks happening all over the world
  • Antonio Guterres is the present UN Secretary General

United Nations, September 7, 2017 : UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for more efforts to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Civilians, including women and children, are being killed either deliberately or as victims of indiscriminate attacks, resulting in the high number of refugees and internally displaced people,” Guterres told a UN General Assembly informal dialogue on the responsibility to protect civilians on Wednesday.

“We must do more, and we must do better, to reverse these negative trends,” he said.

He said the UN must give greater attention to conflict prevention and he gave strong commitment to improving the capacity and coordination of the UN in atrocity prevention, Xinhua news agency reported.

The responsibility to protect still generates some discomfort for a number of UN member states. The main concern is that the principle will be used to impose international approaches on national problems, in ways that may harm national sovereignty, he noted.

“I have deep respect for national sovereignty. Indeed, the success of the UN in implementing its mandates depends on national actors being able to deliver on their sovereign responsibilities,” said the UN Secretary-General.

“Our shared challenge is to use the principle of the responsibility to protect to achieve the goals that were originally envisaged. I am convinced that open and constructive discussion among concerned states can overcome any remaining differences,” he said, adding that the UN member states have the primary responsibility to protect their populations.

“But should national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, then we must be prepared to take collective action, in accordance with the (UN) Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis.” (IANS)

Next Story

#BalochGenocide: An Unfortunate Reality to which the World must Pay Attention to

The United Nations has failed to break the ice. Human right violations have failed to bring the attention of global organizations

0
39
Balochistan Genocide
Pakistan is committing inhumane crimes against its own people in the Balochistan province creating an environment of genocide. Twitter
  • The Balochistan province of Pakistan is going through the worst Humanitarian crisis
  • The atrocities committed by the Pakistani forces as well insurgent groups have resulted in destruction of families of the Baloch community
  • It is important that the world community stands with Balochistan and investigate the human rights violations

Balochistan, August 18, 2017: The Balochistan province of Pakistan is in dire need of help from the international community. Ignored by its government at the center and oppressed by the military, the Baloch community is taking desperate measures to call for help from outside.

Balochistan has been an area of instability. Additionally, the coming of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is estimated to have adverse consequences for Balochistan.

ALSO READ: World Baloch Organisation Activist Azghar Baloch brings Human Rights Violations to the notice of International Community

The United Nations has failed to break the ice. Human right violations have failed to bring the attention of global organizations.

Abductions and murders surround the lives of Balochistan people. The Chairman of Human Rights Commission in Balochistan, Taj Baloch, has blamed the Pakistan army behind the Balochistan Genocide.

In Berlin, exiled Baloch activists and leaders organized an event titled ‘China’s One Belt One Road Initiative – It’s Adverse Impact on Balochistan & the region’ in which speakers expressed their concerns over the economic reform.

Even the World Balochistan organization has made serious attempts in gathering support for Balochistan from foreign nations. Recently, Azghar Baloch, an activist for the organization, made an appeal from outside the White House called on the international community to stand for the human rights of Baloch people.

Nawab Akbar Bugti was a strong opposer to Pakistan atrocities in Balochistan. He was vocal about the need for Balochistan to separate itself from the inhumane behavior of Pakistan. Nawab Bugti was assassinated on 26 August 2006 by the Pakistani military. To commemorate the anniversary of the martyr, Baloch Republican Party has called for a Balochistan wide strike.

This year when the G20 Summit was held in Germany, Baloch activists turned up outside the venue to protest for Baloch genocides and investigation into

– Compiled by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

Next Story

Commemoration of third anniversary of Yazidi massacre and their sufferings

Members of the Yazidi religious community in Iraq and around the world commemorated the third anniversary on Thursday

0
29
Yazidi Massacre
Yazidis in Iraq. Wikimedia

August 4, 2017: Members of the Yazidi religious community in Iraq and around the world commemorated the third anniversary on Thursday of the massacre of thousands of civilians in their historic homeland, Sinjar, at the hands of Islamic State group militants.

Amid expressions of grief and calls for action by the international community, Yazidi officials said the tragedy their minority group suffered in Iraq in 2014 continues: Thousands who disappeared while IS extremists were in control are still missing, and large numbers of other Yazidis who fled for their lives have not been able to return.

“The IS genocide against our people continues to this day,” said Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament. “We need the international community to support us in starting a new beginning.”

Also Read: Yazidi Woman who Survived Genocide Equates the Current Situation to Jewish Holocausts

Ancient roots for Yazidis’ religious beliefs

Yazidis, an ethno-religious minority group of about 550,000 people, mostly reside in northern Iraq, in an area also populated by Kurds and Arabs. The extreme and rigid version of Islam that Islamic State professes regards the Yazidis as “devil worshippers” who must either renounce their religious views or die.

Yazidism is linked to ancient Mesopotamian religions and combines aspects of Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. As an ethno-religious group, most Yazidis marry only within their community; those who do not are considered to be Yazidis no longer.

According to international organizations, IS was responsible for the killing and abduction of roughly 9,900 Yazidis and destroying 68 Yazidi shrines in 2014.

When the terror group entered the Yazidi ancestral city of Sinjar, Aug. 3, 2014, they murdered roughly 5,000 men and boys and enslaved thousands of women and children. Those who managed to escape were trapped on Sinjar Mountain, leading to an international outcry and response, including U.S. airstrikes.

[sociallocker][/sociallocker]

World decried ‘genocide’ against Yazidis

The United States, United Nations, European Union, Canada and other countries maintain that Islamic State’s all-out assault against Yazidis amounted to genocide.

Those who represent the religious minority say that recognition is welcome, but more action is necessary to rescue the Yazidis whose lives are still controlled by Islamic State.

“We have managed to rescue 3,054 people, but 3,360 people are still under IS,” Dakhil, the Yazidi member of Iraq’s parliament, said during an appearance this week at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington.

She said more than a thousand Yazidi children, ages 4 to 10, have been brainwashed and trained by IS to conduct suicide attacks.

“Those children now have forgotten their names, language, and parents. They have been trained to kill Yazidis and Christians,” Dakhil added.

Refugees live under harsh conditions

Dakhil appealed to the international community to help those who fled, to assist them in returning to their homes or resettling again in the Yazidi community.

According to Yazidi organizations and advocates, about 400,000 displaced Yazidis are living in refugee camps in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, and another 90,000 have emigrated to Europe and the United States.

Those who reside in refugee camps complain about harsh living conditions and a lack of basic services.

“We have been placed in those refugee camps without clean water or other basic services,” Kachal Jardo, a displaced Yazidi from Sinjar who lives in a camp north of Nineveh Plains, told VOA.

Jardo contends Iraqi officials have failed to protect 43 mass graves that hold the remains of Yazidis executed by IS. And Yazidis have not been allowed to exhume the remains for reburial, he said.

“Those mass graves are abandoned and no one knows what is going to happen to them. Only God and foreign countries can come to help us find our missing people and bring them home,” Jardo said.

Sinjar is still in ruins

Iraqi Kurdish officials estimate the mass graves hold the bodies of hundreds of Yazidis massacred by Islamic State fighters.

U.S.-backed Kurdish forces known as the Peshmerga removed IS from Sinjar in November 2015. But more than 80 percent of the city’s buildings and infrastructure are in ruins. Yazidi officials said residents have not been able to return, mainly because of disputes among anti-IS groups over control of Sinjar.

Experts say efforts to rebuild Sinjar and bring it back to life also should address issues such as who will govern the area and what will happen to its Arab population.

Yazidis claim Sinjar’s Arabs cooperated with IS and served as guides for the extremists during their bloody massacre.

“Sinjar could be a flashpoint for an internationalized tension … where you have the sensitivities between minorities themselves, and you have regional countries like Turkey and Iran who have a stake in this,” said Sarhang Hamasaeed, an Iraqi expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Reconciliation a difficult goal

Restoring security to Sinjar and other territories in the post-IS era, Hamasaeed said, will ultimately depend on local communities’ reconciliation.

“Reconciliation for the minorities, at least in the first stage, would be for them to be able to go home. It touches on their security: Will our neighbors attack us again?’“ the Iraqi analyst said. “To prevent that, there have to be not only protective measures, of how do you put up a security parameter around those minorities, but how do you work on that relationship [so that] at least in the first stage it’s a nonviolent coexistence.”

Vian Dakhil of the Iraqi parliament said she recognizes the importance of reconciliation between Yazidis and other Iraqi groups, but such a task could be difficult and time consuming.

“How can I tell someone in my community who lost 68 people of his relatives to come back and trust the neighbor who reported him to IS?” Dakhil asked. (VOA)