‘The nightmare will always be there:’ Cambodians mark anniversary of genocide • Long Beach Post

Huoy Lor recounted the terrifying day 44-years ago when Khmer Rouge guerilla soldiers entered Phnom Penh and forced her family into the countryside. She was 28.


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“The soldiers pushed us with their guns,” Lor said. “They didn’t tell us where we were going. They said: ‘It’s just for a few days and then you can come back.’  But most of my family died.  One hundred people in my family were gone.  We never came back.”

Huoy S. Lor was 28 when guerrilla soldiers entered Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975. In the genocide that followed, she lost most of her family to starvation and disease.The Long Beach Cambodian Community held a Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Lor was one of several people who came to the Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day event Wednesday night at the Long Beach Fire Union Hall in Signal Hill.

More than 100 people were there to commemorate the anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975.  Genocide survivors retold their stories and offered moments of prayer to honor those who were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime ruled by dictator Pol Pot.

Pol Pot’s goal was to create a self-sufficient agrarian society. To that end, his regime was responsible for the genocide of more than two million people who died from mass executions, forced labor, malnutrition and disease. Some estimate than 25 percent of the Cambodian people were killed.

Sopich Sek prays during Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day ceremonies on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Engly Tung also lost dozens of members of his family. Many victims in the genocide were beaten to death by Khmer Rouge soldiers, many of whom were 16-years-old or younger.  Victims were often struck on the head with butts of guns or shovels.

“These young soldiers were brainwashed,” Tung said before the event.

“They did what they were told. Some even beat their parents to death.”

Tung is among those who think the genocide number may have been as high as three million. “I don’t know if genocide is even the right word.  Genocide is what we saw under Hitler. One race eliminating another race. Pol Pot eliminated his own people.  Without a doubt he was the worst person to ever have lived on this planet.”

Engly Tung, health navigator at United Cambodian Community, lost several dozen relatives during the Cambodian Genocide. He listens to a speaker at Genocide Remembrance Day on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Lor said she lost her newborn son under Pol Pot. “I was four months pregnant when I was forced to leave Phnom Penh. My son was born in a jungle. I was skin and bones. I had no milk to give to my child.

“I won’t go to sleep tonight because I know that nightmare will be there,” she said.

“For as long as I live, it will always be there.”

Audience members meditate during Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day ceremonies on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Suzanne Thyda Keo prays during Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day ceremonies on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

A monk from Ang Metry Temple listens to a speaker at Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Nut Sar listens to a speaker at Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day ceremonies on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Cambodian genocide survivor Huoy S. Lor listens to a speaker at Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day on Wednesday. She lost most of her family during Pol Pot’s reign of terror. The Long Beach Cambodian Community held a Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia gives a speech at Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

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