Photos by Asia Morris.
Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the Cambodian Killing Fields, and a day of mourning, where local Cambodian-Americans organize to pay their respects to those who perished during the brutal Khmer Rouge communist regime.
The Killing Fields Memorial Center, Inc., a nonprofit organization that has organized the annual commemoration on every April 17 since 2005, held the event at the future home of the Killing Fields Memorial Garden in Long Beach.
Attendees participated in Buddhist requiem prayers and traditional ceremony to remember the three million victims who fell during the Khmer Rouge regime of 1975-1978.
Kanno Nuon lighting a candle in memory of the victims of the Killing Fields.
Kanno Nuon, vice president of the Killing Fields Memorial Center, Inc. who arrived in the States in 1981 and moved to Long Beach in 1983, said today is a day of remembrance, to honor those who have passed and to remind “the young kids not to forget.”
Conceived by the Long Beach Cambodian community and spearheaded by Councilman Dee Andrews of the Sixth District, the campaign involved having Long Beach City Council lease the 6,120-square-foot property, located at 1501 East Anaheim Street. On March 21, the city council approved a grant of $150,000 to speed up the garden’s construction.
The grant consists of the Sixth Council District’s one-time infrastructure funds transferred from the Capital Projects Fund in the Public Works Department into the Legislative Department operating budget, according to the meeting details.
The recent funding follows city council’s agreement on May 3, 2016 to let Killing Fields Memorial Center, Inc. lease the property for five years with an annual base rent of $1, under the stipulation that the nonprofit organization raise the adequate funds for construction of the memorial garden project within three years of the commencement date (July 1, 2016), or during months 37 through 60 of the lease term.
The Cambodian Veterans Association will also be helping with the garden’s completion by financing the construction of the memorial stupa, said Paline Soth, secretary of the Killing Fields Memorial Center.
“This has been going on for seven years,” Soth told the Post. “It was seven years ago, April 17, 2010, Councilman Dee Andrews came in, he stood right here he said, ‘This land is your land.’ He was adamant about giving us a place. So he’s been genuinely with us. He feels our pain.”
The Killing Fields Memorial Garden is expected to be completed within 18 months, according to the release.
“This is long overdue for my Cambodian brothers and sisters who escaped the Khmer Rouge for four decades, and don’t have the chance or ability to go back home,” Councilman Andrews said in a statement. “This is the place that they will feel like home, so they can reminisce, pay respect, and share stories of the Killing Fields.”
Last week, led by Supervisor Janice Hahn, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion to recognize April 17 as “Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day” for the first time in the county’s history.
Services will begin this evening at 5:00PM with a flag ceremony, testimonials, requiem prayers and a candlelight vigil.
The site of the future Killing Fields Memorial Garden is located at 1501 East Anaheim Street.