Recovering From the Cambodian Genocide

September 25, 2015
Teresa Suh  Harvard-Westlake  11th grade

Teresa Suh
11th grade

On April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s regime invaded Phnom Penh and commenced their four-year regime over the Cambodian people. They were dehumanized, brutalized, and killed, and about 2 million people died as a result.

Child soldiers were recruited to grow up with the Khmer Regime and discriminate against their own people. The Khmer Rouge would lash people and pour acid onto their wounds. They’d drown victims until they confessed to crimes they did not commit. Babies’ heads were bashed against trees. So many agonizing memories were ingrained into many Cambodian minds.

On July 18th, 2015, I took a trip along with several other Harvard-Westlake students and teachers to visit this scarred country. I focused my interests on music and how it has affected the Cambodian people.

Arn Chorn Pond was a child soldier whose life was saved by music. Because of Arn’s flute skills, the Khmer Rouge allowed him to live as entertainment. He has suffered tremendously from his experiences of hurting fellow Cambodians and witnessing so many murders.

During my stay, I was fortunate enough to meet and talk to him. According to Arn, music has a power that can really help Cambodians heal or find strength to cope with what they have gone through.

Music is a defense mechanism that allows one to grow. Arn used to shake from just the thought of his past and suffered from nightmares about his previous sufferings.

It is through music that he is able to tell his story and express a myriad of emotions. Moreover, music serves as an outlet that conveys the deepest remorse and pain of his fellow Cambodian people. Despite the fact that many Cambodians remain fixated on the past, unable to move on from the atrocities they went through, Arn was able to make progress and move on, although not completely. Even still, he has moments where he falters.

The genocide was truly an unforgettable that continues to haunt the Cambodian population.

Coping with issues no matter how traumatic is important in any situation; it is vital to find a means of survival that fits one’s needs.

Arn had music. Another had dance. Everyone is different, but finding the right way to cope is critical to one’s emotional needs.

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