Good evening everyone,
Thank you for coming to the opening event of “Cambodia reawakening: one year after the Khmer Rouge”, a photo exhibition by John Burgess supported by Footprint café and co-sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh.
My name is Ke Simon and I am Anjali House Director. I have been working for Anjali House since its creation, 10 years ago. Anjali House is a day center supporting 120 underprivileged children and young adults from age 5 till 19 years old. We provide free education, access to basic hygiene and healthcare as well as family support.
Today is a special day as it is the realization of our young adults’ work. Each young adult has reacted to John Burgess’ photos, showing how people of Cambodia were taking their life back after the tragedies done by the Khmer Rouge. For us, it was a very important project to offer to these young adults, who are, of course, the young generation of Cambodians. We…they…should never forget the past and must learn from it.
I remember when I was in high school. We learned about the Khmer Rouge in class. That was 20 years ago. Today, the teachers in public schools barely talk about that time period. This is dangerous…
Every young Cambodian must know how and why it happened. The effects of the Khmer Rouge are still very much present in all our lives. All of our students’ families have suffered because of the Khmer Rouge. Some fathers we know have one or two legs amputated. They were soldiers or simply were working in the fields and stepped on a landmine. The war destroyed their lives. But their sons and daughters – our young adults – bring them…bring us…hope. The texts, stories and poems Anjali House’s young adults have written and that you will discover tonight, link Cambodia’s past to its present and future, link reconstruction to stability, and hope to ambition.
Past and future are like brothers and we should not allow ourselves to forget. As one of our Young Adult students Srey Norng, who is 15 years old wrote “Remember: 3 years, 8 months and 20 days. Khmer Rouge killed 2 million people. Notice it in your mind forever.”