Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day Honors Millions Killed - NBC Southern California

Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day Honors Millions Killed

Historians estimate the 1970s genocide nearly whipped out one fifth of the nation's population.

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    Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day Honors Millions Killed
    AP
    Cambodian former Khmer Rouge survivors, Soum Rithy, left, and Chum Mey, right, embrace each other after the verdicts were announced at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.

    The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared Wednesday Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day in memory of the 1.7 million or more people killed by the brutal regime of the Khmer Rouge.

    Supervisor Janice Hahn said Long Beach -- which is part of the Fourth District that she represents -- has the largest population of Cambodians outside of Southeast Asia.

    "The Cambodian genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979 is a horrific period in our world history," she said. "Roughly 2 million Cambodians were executed or starved to death, and those who survived Pol Pot's regime were severely traumatized by their experiences."

    The board established the remembrance in 2017, nearly 1 1/2 years before a United Nations-backed tribunal determined for the first time that the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot committed genocide against the Muslim Cham minority and Vietnamese.

    Suely Saro of the Asian Pacific Islander American Professional Network of Long Beach said Cambodians are resilient.

    "The lotus flower is very important in Cambodian culture," Saro said. "It is a symbol of revival. It blooms beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud. And, like a lotus flower, Cambodians have and will continue to rise above our deep, dark history and blossom beautifully into our future."

    Historians estimate that the communist campaign to eliminate classes and return Cambodian to its agrarian roots was responsible for killing roughly one-fifth of the country's population. Some were executed outright or tortured, while others starved to death, died of disease or were worked to death.

    In November, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, an international tribunal, sentenced two surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge to life in prison.

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