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US Cambodian Seeks to Unite Victims

Nou Leakhena founded the Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia as a way to bring Cambodians together, to help them heal, and teach them to trust .

Working with those traumatized by the brutality of Cambodia's wars, the Khmer Rouge or the current government, Nou Leakhena , who is Cambodian-American, is slowly building a community of understanding, healing, and, she hopes, justice.

The Institute is also compiling data on trauma suffered by Cambodians.

"The root of the problem is that the people themselves don’t trust each other, even the Khmer people in America," Nou Leakhena, PhD, said in a recent interview. "The key factor for the local Khmer people in seeking justice is whether they should be united between Khmer and Khmer and build up strong solidarity among each other, then demand justice by itself before asking for assistantce from outside.”

The Institute is recording information from victims of the Khmer Rouge, and helping people identify whether, under the laws of the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh, they are victims.

The Institute held a forum in March that gathered around 100 participants, who shared their experiences and testimonies.

"It is our belief that the testimonials given will not only benefit the mental health of the participants in the immediate and long term, but they will also help provide critical evidence to be used in the prosecuting Khmer Rouge leaders in captivity," Nou Leakhena said.

The Institute not only wanted to help tribunal proceedings, but to assist modern Cambodia.

"There are all kinds of human rights violations happening in Cambodia now," she said. "The powerful and rich violate the poor and the powerless."

Koy Saveun, a participant for the Institute's March forum, said the gathering was important to help him "clearly identify what justice is."

"Before you seek justice in society, you had better seek justice from yourself and your family," he said.