Dith Pran Reflects on Working Toward Peace

On April 17, 1975, the communist Khmer Rouge came to power. At first, everyone was happy because we thought peace had finally come. But we were wrong. The Khmer Rouge pointed guns at us and forced us to leave the cities. Families were separated from each other. People died along the way to the forced labor camps. At the camps we worked fourteen to sixteen hours a day, every day, and were given one bowl of watery rice to eat. People were dying everywhere around me. We lived in constant fear. I prayed to Buddha that if I survived, I would tell the world what the Khmer Rouge did to their own people. They took away our families, freedom, our lives. They starved, beat, tortured, and killed us. One thing they couldn't take away was our spirit.
I'm not a politician. I'm not a hero. I'm a messenger. It's very important that we study genocide because it has happened again and again. We made a mistake because we didn't believe Cambodians would kill Cambodians. We didn't believe that one human being would kill another human being. That's why we allowed them to kill us. I want you to know that genocide can happen anywhere on this planet. Together we can prevent genocide from happening again. Together we can make a better future for our children.



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