The Cambodian Genocide: Do Survivors Learn to Forgive, or Is It Something Else That Helps Them Adjust to Life Post-Genocide?

by Regenie Tee for Prof Pines' Rhetoric class

I heard my father talking about it with my mother all of the time. They both survived it, and now they appeared comfortable discussing their experiences. They recalled the pain, suffering, and trauma that they had to undergo before finally arriving in America in 1982, but how could they so openly reminisce about such a horrific period in their lives? Perhaps they wanted to remind themselves about how grateful they were to be alive; my mother told my father that she was lucky to feel safe in her own home, in comparison to the constant fear that she had faced every single day between 1975 and 1979. I have overheard their conversations about it for as long as I can remember. My eldest brother, Kevin, who survived it as a child, also mentioned it occasionally. However, I was born many years later after they had already settled down in America. At eighteen years old, I found it especially difficult to imagine that my parents had to avoid the chances of getting brutally murdered when they were around my age. I look at them now, and they seem perfectly stable and happy; I almost cannot believe all of the misery that they had to endure.

The event that I am discussing but not naming above is the Cambodian Genocide. I deliberately refrain from mentioning it by name, because so often others seem to have forgotten that the Cambodian Genocide ever was. For a long time, I resisted talking about it. I did not meet a single Cambodian while I was growing up in East Boston, Massachusetts. Additionally, Boston Public Schools’ academic curriculum did not teach students about it. Other than at home and occasionally with relatives, I never had to truly face my family’s shocking history; I never mentioned it because I did not think that anyone would understand something that I did not quite understand myself. However, this changed when I arrived at college. My social sciences professor used it as an example of Communism in one of his lectures. My rhetoric professor assigned a research paper and asked us to choose a historic event that was meaningful. I did not think for even a second, but already knew exactly what my historic event would be. I felt that this was finally my chance to sit down with my father and try to understand a historical period that I had been always reluctant to identify: the Cambodian Genocide.

In 1970 Cambodian Lieutenant-General Lon Nol convened the National Assembly and seized power of the Cambodian monarchy in a coup. Lon Nol replaced its leader, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, and became president of the first Khmer Republic, a pro-American military government. In turn, Prince Sihanouk allied with the Khmer Rouge, a radical communist guerrilla organization1 lead by Cambodian revolutionary Pol Pot, and attacked Lon Nol’s army; civil war began. At the same time, Cambodia was caught up in the Vietnam War, and Lon Nol established close ties with the United States and South Vietnam, permitting them to operate on Cambodian territory against Vietnamese communists and the Vietcong.2 However, when Prince Sihanouk had been in power, he made a pact with the People’s Republic of China3 and North Vietnam to allow the existence of permanent North Vietnamese bases in Cambodia and military supplies from China to reach Vietnam by Cambodian ports.4 When Lon Nol seized power, U.S. troops felt free to move into Cambodia, and about 70,000 South Vietnamese and U.S. soldiers charged across the Cambodian border to fight against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops.5 South Vietnamese and American troops destroyed numerous towns and all of its citizens simply because they were suspicious that communist forces existed in Cambodia. United States President Richard Nixon secretly allowed the U.S. to bomb Cambodia through a bombing campaign, as a part of their involvement in the Vietnam War.6 Over four years, The United States dropped about 500,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia, which was more than three times the amount dropped on Japan during World War II.7 These attacks caused death and destruction on a massive scale because there was no true effort to distinguish between enemies and innocent Cambodians.

Thousands of civilians who resented the bombings or had lost family members joined the Khmer Rouge’s revolution; therefore, the number of Khmer Rouge troops had significantly increased by the time the U.S. bombing campaign ended in August 1973.8 The Khmer Rouge took control of about 75% of Cambodia’s territory, and they attacked the Lon Nol government in Phnom Penh (Cambodia’s capital city) with rockets and artillery.9 In 1975, President Lon Nol resigned, fled the country, and settled in the United States because he faced certain death if he fell into Khmer Rouge hands.10 Soon afterwards, the Khmer Rouge took power, bombarded the airport, and blocked off river crossings. About 500,000 Cambodians had died by the end of the civil war, but the worst part—the Cambodian Genocide—was still to come.11 The Cambodian Genocide, which was an effort by the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, to form a communist agrarian utopian society, resulted in the deaths of about 25% of the country’s population from overwork, starvation, disease, and executions.12

It made sense for me to start my research paper about the Cambodian Genocide with a personal, primary source; I really wanted to dive deeper into my own family history with my father, Sean Tee, before I looked for information anywhere else. I interviewed him face-to-face about his experiences under the Khmer Rouge regime. He was eighteen years old and living as a student in Battambang, a provincial capital, when the Khmer Rouge took control of the city in 1975; his family lived some 140 km away in Pursat. The Khmer Rouge announced with a loud speaker that, “You cannot stay because there are enemies fighting in this city, so you have to leave. You need to escape for your life, or else you will die.”13 This disturbing threat was a way to convince the Cambodian people to follow their commands. The Khmer Rouge claimed that after evacuation, everyone would be able to return to their home in Battambang city after a few days, but of course, this was not true. My father saw that the Khmer Rouge drove “people out of the city in many different directions”14 to the countryside, ripped away their homes and their possessions, all without mercy. For four years as a captive in his countryside community—a community surrounded by guards—my father witnessed the starvation and murder of his own people, and his day-to-day life consisted of hard labor because the Khmer Rouge forced everyone to work in the rice fields in the beating sun. The Khmer Rouge killed people ruthlessly, but they did not kill indiscriminately: “They did not kill any hard workers or farmers. They killed teachers, soldiers, and any rich people. Intellectuals.”15 He said, “You had to write down your biography, and what you did before you got there.”16 My father had to lie and say that he was a worker, and not a student, so that he could save himself.

In order to eat, my father escaped from multiple villages in different locations in Cambodia that were led by the Khmer Rouge: Kralanh, Samrong Knong, Pomosrey, and Phnom Sampov. In 1977, when he felt settled down in the village located in Phnom Sampov, he married a women named Chan Lun (my mother). But in 1978 the armed forces of Vietnam invaded Cambodia in an effort to overthrow the Khmer Rouge. The Cambodian-Vietnamese War began with isolated clashes along the boundaries of Vietnam and Cambodia between 1975 and 1977; this event marked a turning point in the first and only extended war fought between two communist regimes.17 When the armed forces attacked Phnom Sapov, the Khmer Rouge could not control the civilians any longer. This was my parents’ chance to escape and be free from the terror of the Cambodian Genocide. This great background information that my father provided me with ended up only being the first part of the interview, because I found myself looking for more specific details and wanted to learn more about his life after the Cambodian Genocide. This lead me to interview him a second time.

In 1979 my parents escaped to the Khao I Dang refugee camp located in Thailand after having my brother, Kevin, and they stayed there for two years. My father wrote to many sponsors, who were volunteers willing to provide support to refugees during the resettlement process; finally, an evangelical church in Massachusetts decided to sponsor him. Right before he left, my mother gave birth to a second son named Yoursa. My father flew to America with my mother and two brothers. He remembers, “On the airplane, I saw city lights at night, and I thought, ‘Wow, there are a lot of lights.’ I noticed the lights. ‘I felt safe. I’m not scared anymore.’”18 I asked him what he decided to do after he arrived in 1982. He said, “I applied as a refugee for financial aid. I went to school at Bunker Hill Community College. I cried when I had to [learn how to] write in English, but I had a very good English teacher who helped me a lot. Some of my friends gave up and just worked, but I kept going. This was my opportunity. My friends asked me, ‘You have a family and you want to go to school too?’ They made a joke out of me. I felt bad that they did not finish school, but I had to keep going.”19 Even though it was hard, he did keep going. He speculates that having an education helped him more in moving on with life. He went to college and received a Bachelor’s degree in Electronic Engineering Technology at Wentworth Institute of Technology, and now he works as a system analyst for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He says, “I moved on with my life. I had to struggle for a good life.”20 Finally, I asked, “Do you forgive the Khmer Rouge?”21 and he responded with, “I don’t forgive them, but now I have nothing to do with them.”22 Over time, he was able to disconnect himself from the pain that came from his memories of the Khmer Rouge because they no longer had the power to prevent him from moving forward.

I was fascinated by my father’s strong will to move on from such a painful, haunting past, and desired to know more about how other Cambodian survivors dealt with their memories. I asked myself, how did survivors of the Cambodian Genocide adapt to their lives and manage the trauma? I searched for another story about a survivor who started a new life in America, so that I could compare their responses, and I found a memoir called Golden Bones: An Extraordinary Journey from Hell in Cambodia to a New Life in America.23 Sichan Siv was a survivor of the Cambodian Genocide and was born in Pochentong, Cambodia, in 1948. However, after he arrived in America in 1976, people kept asking him to write a book about his experiences. It took him thirty years to finally sit down and write Golden Bones; he was very reluctant to revisit a painful past, but Sichan Siv realized that, “the benefits of sharing the story would outweigh any temporary sadness.”24 He wanted to share his story and have it be educational. Now, like my parents, he talks about his experiences very openly.

Siv escaped from a Khmer Rouge labor camp by foot to Thailand in 1976, where he spent several months working in a refugee camp giving English lessons with CARE—a relief organization that worked in the holding centers and in the border camps. In the 1970s, refugees who desired to resettle in the United States needed to have a sponsor that was a relative, friend, church, or organization. Siv had no one. However, his CARE supervisor, Ruth, helped him get in contact with Nancy Charles, her husband Bob, and their children Julia and Peter from Wallingford, Connecticut; they sponsored him and welcomed him into their home. Eventually, Siv had permission to enter into the United States. While on his flight to New Haven, Connecticut, he “…looked out the window and saw an incredible land. No burned-out buildings. No abandoned towns and village. No people in black pajamas… Everything was simply beautiful…”25 Like my father, Siv admired America and felt safer after he laid eyes on its beautiful landscape. Siv told himself to “Forget the painful past and focus on the brighter future. Adapt and be adopted.”26 The Charles family was very generous to him and helped him adjust to his new life in America, but Siv wanted to be on his feet and start his own life at the bottom of the ladder, so he began to work as an apple picker. He later moved on and became a store manager trainee at Friendly Ice Cream, and then earned a degree in International Relations at Columbia. He ended up working in the White House and then the United Nations. Evidently, he was fortunate to have support from an American family when he first arrived in the United States and he became very successful.

According to Siv’s memoir, when he returned to visit Cambodia in 1992, he looked for a man named Chim Chun. Siv met Chun in late May 1975, when they were both prisoners of the Khmer Rouge. He found Chun and his family, and was amazed that they all survived; he said, “Perhaps their peasant background helped them adapt better to the extreme hardship all Cambodians were submitted to.”27 I thought that this was a strange, backhanded compliment because it seemed like he claimed that a Cambodian needed to be a peasant in order to have had the skills to survive the Cambodian Genocide. I was a little confused about why he made this comment. I wondered: did he have some form of bitterness towards those who had family left after the Cambodian Genocide ended? Did he look down upon his own people? As a result of these questions, I searched for other stories about survivors who visited Cambodia after being in America for a long period of time. I turned to a collection of memoirs, called Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors. The author, Dith Pran, is a photojournalist for the New York Times and is best known as a refugee and survivor of the Cambodian Genocide.

In his Compiler’s Note, he said that, “It is important for me that the new generation of Cambodians and Cambodian Americans become active and tell the world what happened to them and their families under the Khmer Rouge.”28 He thought that the people who had passed away during this devastating time needed justice and should never be forgotten; the memoirs, which were written by survivors of the Cambodian Genocide, served to keep their spirits alive and to help readers understand the human tragedy. He emphasized that the writers had all been children when the Cambodian Genocide happened, and grew up in the new generation with disturbing memories because the majority of them had lost many family members. They each have a self-portrait included with their memoir, along with a description of what their life looked like after the Cambodian Genocide. For example, “Youkimny Chan was sponsored in 1980 by Catholic Social Services in Rochester, Minnesota, where he lived until he completed his education.”29

These stories were very sad, but they were also enlightening. The memoirs included specific information about how people adjusted after their childhood trauma; some spoke about their strong feelings that still existed after many years later. Sopheap K. Hang said, “Sometimes it’s frightening for me to look back at my past experiences. Once in a while I wonder about my uncles and how they were killed. It is very hard for Cambodians to let their memories go.”30 However, some of the survivors who were children during the Cambodian Genocide actually had better success at moving on in the United States compared to most adults, because they felt less connected to their home country. Susie Hem in Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors stated, “I went back to Cambodia. When I arrived there, it was so strange to me because I had grown up in the United States.”31 She pitied the people, and the country that she described as being “dirty.”32 Her attitude towards Cambodians when she went back to visit Cambodia was similar to Sichan Siv’s. Did Siv and Hem feel superior compared to Cambodians now that they had lived their lives in the U.S.? And did they adopt this attitude of not identifying themselves with their own people in order to try and convince themselves that they had moved on? The author of the memoir, Heaven Becomes Hell: A Survivor’s Story of Life under the Khmer Rouge, Ly Y, seemed like he had a similar perspective.

Ly Y worked as a journalist for the Associated Press (AP) in Cambodia and was also a survivor. After the Cambodian Genocide, he planned to leave for Thailand to a refugee camp and noted, “I had no regrets about my plan to leave. I no longer believed in my homeland.”33 Ly Y, Chanda (his wife), and Outtara (his infant daughter) stayed in the Khao I Dang refugee camp in Thailand, where they would be able to process their papers for resettlement in the United States. Ly Y did not want to live or be near his homeland any longer because all that he was left with were “horrifying memories and ongoing, ceaseless nightmares.”34 Luckily, “Matt Storin, who became editor of the Boston Globe, and his wife, Keiko, were [their] sponsors.”35 The family arrived in Dorchester, Massachusetts on November 12, 1980. When Ly Y reflects on what happened in Cambodia, he still cannot believe that the Khmer Rouge—which consisted of his own people—did what they did. Siv, Hem, and Y cannot help but view Cambodia unfavorably after the horrors that they went through.

Even in America, it was difficult for Ly Y’s family to have enough food. They were not familiar with American habits, and had to learn not to throw their bowls and cups away; because of the unfortunate filthy living conditions during the Cambodian Genocide, they were used to drinking and eating from lotus leaves, bamboo cups, or coconut shells. Ly Y became a janitor at the Boston Globe, and recently retired after working in the newspaper’s post office. He thinks that his wounds from the past will never heal, and that those who killed innocent Khmer people, “should pay for the torture, the executions, the death penalty charges without trials.”36 Ly Y’s painful memories were very vivid and deep, and he conveyed the impression of not forgiving the Khmer Rouge for what they did to innocent Cambodians. It did seem like Y was less able to move on than my other sources, because he was someone who wished to see the Khmer Rouge pay. After gathering this, I moved on to my next source and examined factors of forgiveness.

Phuong Pham, Patrick Vinck, and Mychelle Balthazard are adjunct assistant professors at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Michelle Arévalo-Carpenter is an overseas operations director at Asylum Access in the San Francisco Bay Area; Asylum Access is a human rights organization. Sokhom Hean is a lecturer at Royal Phnom Penh University, and a director at Center for Advanced Study (CAS) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Their journal article, “Dealing With the Khmer Rouge Heritage,” explored forgiveness after mass atrocities, and more specifically, the Cambodian Genocide. In the article’s introduction, we learn that, “On March 31, 2009, at the beginning of the first trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), [Duch] admitted his crimes and sought forgiveness from his victims.”37 Even though the ECCC’s goal was to prosecute leaders most responsible for crimes committed during the Cambodian Genocide, “advocates of the Court also hope that the trials of the Khmer Rouge leaders will help victims to forgive perpetrators such as Duch for their crimes.”38 Some studies showed that there was a link between forgiveness and improved psychological well-being. However, my father said that he did not forgive the Khmer Rouge, and his psychological well-being seemed to be perfectly fine.

Pham, Vinck, Balthazard, Arévalo-Carpenter, and Hean refer to a 2008 nationwide study conducted while the first ECCC was occurring; the survey proved that a majority of Cambodians still felt some hatred towards Khmer Rouge leaders. 72% wanted them to suffer, 37% would take revenge, and 40% would take revenge into their own hands if they had the chance. 36% claim they forgave the Khmer Rouge, but researchers found that feelings of hatred were more predominant among those who actually lived under the regime.39 The authors believe that the passage of time, individual experiences and traumatic experiences, and political culture and religion influence how Cambodians may see forgiveness. They also explained that around 95% “of Cambodians are adherents of Theravada Buddhism”40 and its principles are relevant to forgiveness. A question that the authors asked was, “What then does forgiveness mean?”41; “some Buddhist monks have stated in interviews that forgiveness, ot pay to’h, is essentially refraining from acting on feelings of revenge or resentment.”42 Pham, Vinck, Balthazard, Arévalo-Carpenter, and Hean said it was unclear whether or not the Khmer Rouge tribunals would play a part in helping Cambodians find forgiveness. The authors state we must note that the nature of the apology is important (that it appears sincere and genuine). If we follow the Buddhist definition of forgiveness, we might say that Ly Y did not forgive the Khmer Rouge for their atrocities, because he still had feelings of revenge or resentment. If Ly Y was a participant of Pham, Vinck, Balthazard, Arévalo-Carpenter, and Hean’s survey, it seems he would have been a part of the 72% Cambodians who wanted the Khmer Rouge to suffer. Still, the search for forgiveness is very complex.

In the memoir, Behind the Killing Fields: A Khmer Rouge Leader and One of His Victims, Sambath Thet’s search for forgiveness was also very complex. Thet, a victim of the Khmer Rouge lietenant Nuon Chea, bravely took the time to see Chea not as a murderer, but as a human being. Gina Chon, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and a co-author of this monograph, also sought to understand Pol Pot’s top Khmer Rouge lieutenant named Nuon Chea, and wanted to see him as a person rather than a murderer, even though he rationalized the atrocities of the Cambodian Genocide. He was Pol Pot’s right hand man, and was nicknamed “Brother Number Two.” Most of the information given comes from Nuon Chea’s perspective “based on more than 1,000 hours of interviews obtained over a six year period”43, and readers learn a “tale of a man who made the ultimate moral transformation a human being can make.”44 According to Behind the Killing Fields, while Chea agreed that many victims of the Cambodian Genocide died needlessly, he still believed that he had good intentions when he was a Khmer Rouge lieutenant; the Khmer Rouge made sacrifices for the benefit of their country by eliminating people who they thought were threats, such as spies and traitors.

Sambath Thet, one of Chea’s first-hand victims, gave a parallel story about the Khmer Rouge; he was also the coauthor of this memoir, and wrote for the Phnom Penh Post. Thet suffered greatly during the regime and held Chea responsible for the deaths of his parents and brother, but he did not think of revenge. He needed to understand the rationale for the tragic event that lead Cambodia down a path to destruction by interviewing the former lieutenant. He chose understanding over revenge in order to reveal the forces that created so much destruction in his homeland. After having opened their hearts and minds, they learned that Chea was someone who made mistakes and knew that he needed to take responsibility for them. They ended up feeling really sorry for Chea and tried to write to him when military police officers took him to jail; they viewed him now as a loving father and a kind friend. They became very close to Chea, and Thet “felt shocked and strangely empty to see his friend gone.”45 This source offered me a very close, sincere perspective of a Khmer Rouge leader. This source showed the initial thoughts and concerns that the authors had about Chea; I felt like I could trust the authors’ changing attitude towards him. They made an effort to understand a man who people normally wrote off as just being a murderer. I found their effort to understand Chea very surprising, and wanted to continue to delve even more into how and why people forgive. Therefore, I read another article that analyzes forgiveness.

Michael Paterniti, a longtime GQ Correspondent and author of the article “Never Forget,” graphically discusses details of the four years of terror that Cambodians had to endure under the Khmer Rouge. He visited Cambodia, and a Khmer Rouge prison camp named Tuol Sleng 30 years after the Cambodian Genocide. He includes many short essays that describe how people physically and emotionally dealt with the horrors of the Cambodian Genocide, but focuses on the experiences of one survivor in particular, named Chum Mey. Mey survived the notoriously brutal S-21 death camp, but left without ever seeing his wife again. It was common for people to lose family members and grieve for long periods of time; as one survivor put it, “My family was killed in 1975, and I cried for four years. When I stopped crying, I was blind.”46

Michael Paterniti expressed his own thoughts about visiting Cambodia’s killing fields and death camps. After visiting S-21, he found that, “In my case, the aftermath of a visit to S-21 left me with (a) a suffusion of paranoia and (b) a feeling of utter futility. It was the futility that stuck with me, though, the gut-wrenching realization that somehow the Khmer Rouge had gotten away with their experiment and that they had razed a country of its lawyers and leaders, intellectuals and activists (all those who might have had the expertise and wherewithal to hold them accountable for their crimes).”47 Paterniti also learned a lot about Comrade Duch when he attended his pretrial hearings. Comrade Duch directed the S-21 camp and killed many people. Duch, during the Khmer Rouge Tribunal also known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), said, “The burden is still on me—it’s my responsibility. I would like to apologize to the souls of those who died.”48 His defense attorney, François Roux, claimed that Duch was now a Christian and was a changed person, but Paterniti does not seem to believe it; he asks himself, “Changed how? By sudden guilt?”49

While he did not experience the Cambodian Genocide and can therefore be considered an outsider or more objective, Paterniti was emotionally impacted by all of the information that he learned from his visit to Cambodia. With the help of Chum Mey, he learned lot about the torture that Cambodians had to go through under the Khmer Rouge regime. Paterniti had a highly critical perspective of the Khmer Rouge leader, but Gina Chon and Sambeth Thet were able to believe that Nuon Chea made a moral transformation. I think that the extent to which people seek forgiveness plays a major role in whether or not they successfully achieve it. However, I wonder what other factors play- roles in a survivor’s ability to move on. The survivor in Paterniti’s article who revealed that he cried for four years after his family died inspired me to look for a study that would help me find more information. What I found was helpful in some ways. Although my next source did not explicitly address forgiveness, it did support my father’s insight into how a person’s educational background may have affected his or her recovery from the Cambodian Genocide.

According to the journal article called “Prolonged grief disorder three decades post loss in survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, “[d]uring the Cambodian Genocide, millions of Cambodians “suffered mass human rights violations, including forced labor, torture, and mass executions.”50 Between 1.5 and 2 million Cambodians died—one fourth of the population—and left many of their spouses, relatives, and friends bereaved. Psychologists Nadine Stammel, Carina Heeke, Estelle Bockers, Sotheara Chhim, Sopheap Taing, Birgit Wagner, and Christine Knaevelsrud investigated the long-term psychological consequences of the traumatic losses that Cambodians confronted during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979. The study happened in Cambodia between October 2008 and May 2009. The goal was to determine the rate and potential factors that contributed to prolonged grief disorder (PGD) in survivors of the Cambodian Genocide.

The Cambodian psychologists engaged in 90-minute (average) face-to-face interviews with 775 Cambodians who had lost at least one family member during the event. The researchers assessed symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Even after a period of 30 years post loss, 111 individuals (14.3%) had PGD, and it was moderately associated with symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Additionally, “The loss of a spouse, a child, or a parent was associated with higher symptom severity of PGD than was the loss of a sibling or distant relatives. PGD was predicted by the relationship to the deceased and symptoms of depression and PTSD.”51 The majority of people were able to adjust to loss and return to their daily routines after a certain time; in some cases, however, individuals failed to recover because their grief reactions became increasingly severe and took the form of PGD. PGD is a prolonged inadequate adjustment to the environment or situation bereavement, indicated by intense longing and yearning for the deceased over a period of at least 6 months. There was evidence that more than one loss prolonged the grieving process and weakened the ability to carry on with life. Individuals with PGD lost significantly more members within their close families during the regime than those without PGD.52

Additionally, the researchers considered gender, education, and culture in this study. Females and less educated individuals were more likely to suffer from PGD. Suffering from bereavement a period of 30 years post-loss might also be linked to Cambodian culture; many believed that the deceased continued visiting the living in the shape of ghosts or in dreams. But the deceased may not reincarnate, especially if they die under violent circumstances or did not receive proper funerals in line with traditional rituals. This article provided interesting statistical information and noted specific factors that explained why a large percentage of individuals in the study had prolonged grief disorder.

After this research, I realized that I did not find articles from psychologists or others who specifically discussed the role of forgiveness and Cambodian Genocide survivors. Certainly, I can make connections between my sources and make assumptions, but I do not think that the information I have is consistent enough to come up with a definite answer. In fact, this research has left me with more questions: Why do some learn to get past grief and anger, and others do not? Is it about forgiveness? Is it about educational achievement? Or is it something else?


1.      Dith Pran, Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), ix.
2.      Paul R. Bartrop and Steven Leonard Jacobs, Modern Genocide: The Definitive Resource and Document Collection [4 volumes], ABC CLIO, 2014.
3.      Gina Chon and Sambath Thet, Behind the Killing Fields: A Khmer Rouge Leader and One of His Victims, (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), 28.
4.      Tom Butt, “The Death of Cambodia’s Norodom Sihanouk Brings Back Some Old Memories,” Tom Butt E-Mail Forum, October 16, 2012, accessed April 16, 2015.
5. Staff, “Pol Pot,”, A+E Networks, 2009, accessed April 16, 2015.
6.      Pran, Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields, ix.
7. Staff, “Pol Pot.”
8.      Ibid.
9.      Pran, Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields, ix.
10.  Chon and Thet, Behind the Killing Fields, 15.
11. Staff, “Pol Pot.”
12.  Chon and Thet, Behind the Killing Fields, 2.
13.  Sean Tee, interview by Regenie Tee, Boston, March 22, 2015.
14.  Ibid.
15.  Ibid.
16. Ibid.
17.  Kislenko, Arne. “Cambodia, Vietnamese Occupation of (1978–1992).” ABC-CLIO SCHOOLS. January 1, 2011. Accessed April 24, 2015.
18.  Sean Tee.
19.  Ibid.
20.  Ibid.
21.  Ibid.
22.  Ibid.
23.  Sichan Siv, Golden Bones: An Extraordinary Journey from Hell in Cambodia to a New Life in America (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008).
24.  Ibid., xiii.
25.  Ibid., 171.
26.  Ibid., 177.
27.  Ibid., 311.
28.  Pran, Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields, x.
29.  Ibid., 18.
30.  Ibid., 33.
31.  Ibid., 112.
32.  Ibid.
33.  Ly Y, Heaven Becomes Hell: A Survivor’s Story of Life under the Khmer Rouge (New Haven, CN: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies, 2000), 179.
34.  Ibid., 218. 
35.  Ibid., 221.
36.  Ibid., 224.
37.  Pham, Vinck, Balthazard, Arévalo-Carpenter, and Sokhom Hean, “Dealing With the Khmer Rouge Heritage,” Peace Review 23, no. 4 (2011): 456, doi: 10.1080/10402659.2011.625818.
38.  Ibid.
39.  Ibid., 457.
40.  Ibid., 458.
41.  Ibid. 
42.  Ibid., 459.
43.  Chon and Thet, Behind the Killing Fields, 4.
44.  Ibid.
45.  Ibid., 157.
46.  Michael Paterniti, “Never Forget,” GQ, July 2009, Accessed April 1, 2015.
47.  Ibid.
48.  Ibid.
49.  Ibid.
50.  Nadine Stammel, Carina Heeke, Estelle Bockers, Sotheara Chhim, Sopheap Taing, Birgit Wagner, and Christine Knaevelsrud, “Prolonged grief disorder three decades post loss in survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia,” Journal of Affective Disorders 144, no. 1 (2013): 87-93, doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.05.063.
51.  Ibid.
52.  Ibid.


Bartrop, Paul R., and Steven Leonard Jacobs, eds. Modern Genocide: The Definitive Resource and Document Collection [4 volumes]. ABC-CLIO, 2014.

Butt, Tom. “The Death of Cambodia’s Norodom Sihanouk Brings Back Some Old Memories.” Tom Butt E-Mail Forum. October 16, 2012. Accessed April 16, 2015.

Chon, Gina and Sambath Thet. Behind the Killing Fields: A Khmer Rouge Leader and One of His Victims. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. Staff. “Pol Pot.” A+E Networks. 2009. Accessed April 16, 2015.

Kislenko, Arne. “Cambodia, Vietnamese Occupation of (1978–1992).” ABC-CLIO SCHOOLS. January 1, 2011. Accessed April 24, 2015.

Paterniti, Michael. “Never Forget.” GQ. July 2009. Accessed April 1, 2015.

Pham, Phuong, Patrick Vinck, Mychelle Balthazard, Michelle Arévalo-Carpenter, and Sokhom Hean. “Dealing With the Khmer Rouge Heritage.” Peace Review 23, no. 4 (2011): 456-461. doi: 10.1080/10402659.2011.625818.

Pran, Dith. Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

Siv, Sichan. Golden Bones: An Extraordinary Journey from Hell in Cambodia to a New Life in America. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008.

Stammel, Nadine, Carina Heeke, Estelle Bockers, Sotheara Chhim, Sopheap Taing, Birgit Wagner, and Christine Knaevelsrud. “Prolonged grief disorder three decades post loss in survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.” Journal of Affective Disorders 144, no. 1 (2013): 87-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.05.063.

Tee, Sean. Interview by Regenie Tee. Personal Interview. Boston, March 22, 2015.

Y, Ly. Heaven Becomes Hell: A Survivor’s Story of Life under the Khmer Rouge. Edited by John S. Driscoll. New Haven, CN: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies, 2000.

This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave A Reply