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Author Hopes To Shed Light Khmer Rouge Trauma

“Out of the Dark: Into the Garden of Hope” by Sam Keo, a Cambodian psychologist.

Cambodians who survived the Khmer Rouge will have to live with the emotional scars of the regime, but staying positive can help them move forward, says Sam Keo a Cambodian psychologist who has written a new book.

“Out of the Dark: Into the Garden of Hope” is an attempt to help Cambodians move past the trauma, he said on “Hello VOA” Monday.

“The disease that we endured during the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime cannot be completely healed,” said Keo, who is a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles. “It stays on. But we can help them work as normal for certain periods of time, until they run into big stresses.”

“Out of the Dark” is an exploration of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and Keo’s own struggles with it, he said.

Keo was in high school when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, forcing him into work camps where he was beaten, tortured and left for dead.

His father was killed by soldiers of the regime, and four of his younger brothers died of starvation and disease before the age of 10.

Overcoming such trauma is not easy and going back into the past does not help either, Keo said.

“We have to forgive ourselves because if we flash back to that split second, and ask, what would they have done?” he said. “If we jumped to help, we all could have been killed, and no one would have lived to tell the tale.”