Cambodian survivor brings hope (Cambodia)


According to Loung Ung, 18,000 people per year are injured or killed by land mines. Ung is currently the National Spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine-Free World and advocates the removal of land mines from fields throughout the world.


(07.11.2005)

Loung Ung spent the first eight years of her life in the middle of a war. She was only a child when her parents and two of her siblings were killed in her native town of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

"Twenty-five years ago I was living on the streets, eating out of garbage cans and hating the world," Ung said Tuesday night in the Multipurpose Room of the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus. "I can't believe I'm here."

John Lennon's "Imagine" blared from the speakers as pictures flew across the big screen depicting other survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia.

According to Ung, 18,000 people per year are injured or killed by land mines. The striking images of these victims flashed across the screen at the end of Ung's lecture.

Ung was born to small farmers in Phnom Penh, a town the size of Oklahoma. When the Khamer Rouge invaded the city, there were 7 million inhabitants, Ung said.

At the end of the regime, only 2 million people remained.

Ung revealed stunning statistics - citing the discovery of more than 20,000 mass graves and 1 million skulls.

Ung's very early childhood was peaceful despite the ominous war atmosphere. She recalled going to the movie theater with her family when she was five-years old.

Her father was her chair, armrest and cup holder, she said. Her life revolved around family, friends and studying languages such as French, English and Cambodian.

"My charmed life came to an end," Ung said.

The Khamer Rouge invasion occurred on April 17, 1975 when Phnom Penh was evacuated in just 72 hours, she said.

According to Ung, the soldiers came in storms of trucks, screaming they would all be killed and that the people could go home in three days.

"I didn't know about politics, but I lived it," she said.

The Cambodians were given official clothes and haircuts to cut off all of their diversity, Ung said. She related the removal of diversity to the integration of the four University campuses, only in Cambodia there was no discussion about who would keep their rights and diversity.

"Life consisted of only Mondays," Ung said. "You would work from dawn until dusk, whether you were age 6 or 60."

The threats became more real when people began disappearing around her. The Khmer Rouge saw being different as dangerous, Ung said.

They began killing the doctors, lawyers, civil servants and politicians first. They next moved on to teachers, students, dancers, musicians and journalists.

Even fathers became a threat, Ung said, because they were the leaders of their families.

"When soldiers came for my father, we knew something was wrong," Ung said.

She told the heartbreaking story of how he held each one of his children like he never wanted to let go. Ung said she watched him walk into the sunset with the Khmer Rouge.

"There was so much beauty on Earth when there was only hell in my life," she said.

Ung prayed that her father's death would be quick and painless, but she knew that this would not be the case. Because bullets were so expensive, the majority of the victims were killed with blunt objects.

After losing her mother and two siblings, Ung's anger brought her to a training camp. She was so angry and full of rage that she learned how to hate people and how to fight.

The Vietnamese ended the genocide in 1979, said Ung, but it was too late.

The people who died were the elite. They were architects, politicians and teachers who did not survive to help rebuild Cambodia.

After visiting Cambodia, Ung realized that she wanted to work to help the people of Cambodia. She is currently the National Spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine-Free World and advocates the removal of land mines from fields throughout the world.

"It's not the big numbers, it's the big actions that help," Ung said. "Peace is not a thought. It's an action."

Von: 04 November 2005, http://www.dailytargum.com by Krista Kohlmann

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