Renderings courtesy of Prach Ly.
It will be the one of the few memorials in the entire nation that recognizes one of human history’s most devastating massacres and it will appropriately be located in Long Beach’s Cambodia Town.
The Long Beach City Council recently approved converting a parcel of land into a memorial garden at 1501 E. Anaheim Street.
The militant and destructive Khmer Rouge rule over Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 when the regime was able to overthrow the then-U.S.-backed government once the U.S. left neighboring Vietnam. It then led to the murder of millions of Cambodians, with estimates claiming the loss of 2.4M Cambodians (of the 3.3M deaths that occurred during the time of civil unrest). The lesser known of genocides, the Khmer Rouge—through the push of fundamental communism—destroyed Cambodia’s middle-class by essentially removing them from the human spectrum. What was truly going on was the systematic killing of hundreds of thousands of the Khmer Rouge’s so-called enemies, many of which were simple Cambodian people.
To make sure not too many questioned the Khmer Rouge, the regime would use film—purely propaganda—to show the country how “great” things were. The great Democratic Kampuchea. This propaganda is the only documentation left of the era—and what is missing, of course, is the missing picture behind all the images those suffered saw (as noted in the Academy Award-nominated film The Missing Picture by Rithy Pahn).
An entire community was almost annihilated from history.
The Cambodian community here in Long Beach is a vibrant one, boasting the largest Cambodian population anywhere outside of Cambodia itself. Many of the Cambodians here are immigrants and it is not uncommon to hear stories of struggle and pasts engulfed in violence, as many witnessed the disastrous results of the Khmer Rouge.
A U.N.-backed trial finally started in 2003 and has faced immense trouble, with its second judge leaving the trial this past March after feeling that the Cambodian-led side was preventing further investigation into the crime—the second such accusation by an outside judge.
The Cambodian massacre won’t be the only genocide recognized at the park; the Armenian and Rwandan genocides, as well as the Jewish Holocaust, will be remembered at the space that harkens to classic Cambodian architecture and culture.
The nation’s other memorial, placed at the National Cambodian Heritage Museum and & Killing Fields Memorial in Chicago, is a Wall of Remembrance that bears some of the the names Cambodians who died during the genocide.
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