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In Illinois, a Day of Remembrance

Killing Fields Memorial and Wall of Remembrance. Photo courtesy of The Cambodian Association of Illinois.

WASHINGTON DC - The Cambodian Association of Illinois is preparing for its annual Day of Remembrance, a moment of reflection for the survivors and victims of the Khmer Rouge.

Phavann Chhuan, head of the National Cambodian-American Association, told VOA Khmer via Skype that the day of commemoration helps Cambodians in America overcome many of the challenges associated with Khmer Rouge atrocities.

Those issues include post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues suffered by survivors of the Khmer Rouge. Phavann Chhuan said the April 6 remembrance ceremony is to “commemorate those who died in the genocidal regime, and to share the sadness and suffering with the victims’ surviving families.”

The impact of the Khmer Rouge is still being felt today, he said. “Not just for people who lived through the regime…but also in the next generations.”

Children of survivors are often forced to deal with the trauma of their parents, leading to their own depression, poor academics and other second-generation challenges.

The Day of Remembrance is recognized by the state of Illinois and receives some funding and support from the state, thanks to a state resolution in 2012, said Dary Mein, executive director of the Cambodian Association of Illinois.

“I hope that one day—or sooner is better—that all Cambodian associations in the United States can have a resolution from US Congress,” she said. That could mean more support and health services from the government to serve Cambodian communities in the US.

Yorn Van, head of the Cambodian Association of Minnesota, told VOA Khmer that many of the hundreds of thousands of Cambodians now living in the US suffer trauma from the Khmer Rouge. A day of commemoration, which allows people to air their grieving, is important for their healing process, he said.

“These issues should be revealed publicly,” he said. “Don’t hide it any more. The hiding is over.”