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Khmer Rouge Survivors Head to US for Shooting Remembrance


A Kent State University student lies on the ground after National Guardsman fired into a crowd of demonstrators on May 4, 1970 in Kent, Ohio. (AP Photo)

A Kent State University student lies on the ground after National Guardsman fired into a crowd of demonstrators on May 4, 1970 in Kent, Ohio. (AP Photo)

The 46th Annual May 4 Commemoration, is held to remember four students who were fatally shot by Ohio National Guard troops just days after Nixon announced armed intervention in Cambodia.

Deadly anti-war protests in the United States over Richard Nixon’s decision to attack Cambodia in 1970 and the controversial US bombing campaign is explored at a three-day event at Kent State University.

The 46th Annual May 4 Commemoration, is held to remember four students who were fatally shot by Ohio National Guard troops just days after Nixon announced armed intervention in Cambodia. The three-day event is supported by Kent State's College of Arts and Sciences.

Display of the Kent State shooting event that killed four students in the protests against Vietnam War, on May 4th, 1970, at the May 4 Visitors Center, Kent State University. (Courtesy Photo of Kent State University)

Display of the Kent State shooting event that killed four students in the protests against Vietnam War, on May 4th, 1970, at the May 4 Visitors Center, Kent State University. (Courtesy Photo of Kent State University)

Dr. James Tyner, a professor of geography at the university who is co-organizing the event, said it was intended “to raise awareness of the historical connection between Kent State and Cambodia.”

The Kent State shootings came amid widespread opposition to expanding the war in Indochina.

“So what we want to do is to highlight to our students, and the public, the legacy of this decision [to expand the war],” he said. “How this decision to go into Cambodia impacted not only politics in the United States, but also impacted politics in Cambodia.”

While many of the US students know about the Kent State shootings, they were unaware of the wider consequences of the government’s actions.

“So we want to call attention to Cambodia’s civil wars from 1970 and 1975 …to the Khmer Rouge regime, and then to question the legacy of May 4 and the legacy of Cambodia’s genocide, and how both events have or have not been remembered and memorialized,” he said.

Tyner has researched extensively on Cambodia's geography and the history of the Khmer Rouge regime. In 2008, he wrote a book about Cambodia, titled "The Killing of Cambodia: Geography, Genocide, and the Unmaking of Space.”

About 2 million tons of bombs were dropped on Cambodia during the US campaign, killing at least 50,000 people, according to estimates, while many place some blame on the US for pushing people into the arms of the Khmer Rouge.

Chum Mey, a former prisoner of S-21 security center, is one of the guest speakers for the three-day public forum on “Cambodia After Kent State” at Kent State University, on Monday, April 26, 2016. (Courtesy Photo)

Chum Mey, a former prisoner of S-21 security center, is one of the guest speakers for the three-day public forum on “Cambodia After Kent State” at Kent State University, on Monday, April 26, 2016. (Courtesy Photo)

Chum Mey, a prominent survivor of the Khmer Rouge’s most infamous political prison, S-21, spoke about his experiences on Tuesday. He said “it was important to spread genocide education and for American public to understand why Khmer people killed Khmer people.”

Loung Ung, author of “First They Killed My Father,” which is being made into a movie directed by Angelina Jolie, spoke yesterday about her experiences surviving the Khmer Rouge genocide and discussed girl’s education in contemporary Cambodia.

Today Linda Saphan, a genocide survivor, and John Pirozzi, director of the award-winning documentary “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten,” is screening the documentary to the public at the Kent State event. The film is about the Khmer Rouge’s impact on the country’s formerly booming pop music scene.

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