Cambodia’s Traumatized Generation 

They survived the Vietnam War and the Khmer Rouge genocide. They still bear the mental and physical scars – and so do their descendants.

The future of post-conflict countries depends upon how governments and their people confront, reconcile, and move forward from their past. Survivors are the key stakeholders in this process, not only because they are the teachers and storytellers about this past, but also because they are the barometer for their nation’s development and achievement of a better future.

Cambodia in the late 1960s and early 1970s was consumed by the Vietnam War and between 1970 and 1975, Cambodia was torn apart by internal conflict, foreign intervention, and ultimately the destruction of society. In April 1975, Khmer Rouge forces captured the entirety of the country and for the next four years, the Cambodian people suffered indescribable horrors including genocide, crimes against humanity and unimaginable human rights violations. Following the collapse of this regime, the Cambodian people continued to be plagued by internal conflict, which was accentuated by international isolation that perpetuated, if not aggravated, the instability, famine, and the most horrendous human conditions. All told, Cambodians suffered through nearly four decades of war, genocide, and inhumanity.

It is believed that approximately 7 million Cambodians survived the Vietnam War period, and approximately 2 million Cambodians died during the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. This means that approximately 5 million Cambodians survived both.

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