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Monk’s Poetry Describes Grim Refugee Camps

A recently discovered book of poetry by a Cambodian monk paints a grim picture of the refugee camps established in Thailand after the Khmer Rouge period.

The poems of the late venerable monk Akaktipo Ly Van, the former abbot of the Glory Temple in Lowell, Mass., describes crimes committed by Thai armed forces, as well as landmines.

The book, “O! Maha Mount Dangrek,” was discovered on January 12, 2008 on the day of the abbot’s death, hidden among his possessions for nearly 30 years.

It was translated and edited by Samkhann Khoeun, co-chair of Cambodian Expressions, and published in English and Khmer. Cambodian Expressions has now launched the bilingual Cambodian Refugee Poetry and Smot Project, which will tour 14 Cambodian-American communities across the US.

“The main objective is to promote poems about the tragedy of Cambodian refugees,” he said. “We are also asking for Cambodians’ help to purchase the books and CDs and make some contributions, so that we are able to further promote the poetry books and bring them to Cambodia in the future.”

The poetry describes the plight of thousands of refugees who traveled to camps along the Cambodian-Thai border in 1979 and the early 1980s after the Khmer Rouge were toppled. Many suffered attacks by bandits and Thai border rangers. Thousands of their families made it to the Dangrek Mountains. Many were gunned down or suffered from landmines.

Samkhann Khoeun said the books and CDs will be accompanied by chanting and classical music performances by Cambodian Living Arts.

“The money is to support the Light of Cambodian Children organization, which educates Cambodian children in Lowell to be good people,” Samkhann Khoeun said. “We will also use the money to set up scholarships under the name of late venerable Akaktipo Ly Van for Cambodian students.”

The tour started on April 1 and will travel through Lowell and Lynn, Mass., Providence, R.I., Philadelphia, Penn., and Long Beach, Calif., among others. The book is also available at