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About these Stories

Today, more than three decades after the devastation brought to Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodians overwhelmingly continue to bear the psychological scars of this most brutal of regimes, both as individuals and as a society as a whole. Healing and reconciliation by processing the past and breaking the culture of silence have only just begun. The outcomes are encouraging, but the road ahead is still long …

These are the life stories of survivors of the Khmer Rouge as told by the survivors themselves to TPO therapists during trauma treatment. Often, it is the first time that they have told their story to anyone. Restoring and telling their painful life stories, under the guidance of a specialized therapist, helps survivors deal with unresolved past experiences, process the effects of trauma, and contributes to their psychological healing, something they had to wait more than three decades for. They have chosen to also make their stories available as written testimonies – having them read out loud and delivered to them by monks from a local pagoda during a public Buddhist ceremony helps the public acknowledgement of their suffering, the de-stigmatization of survivors and restores their dignity. It also allows them to ease the suffering of the spirits of ancestors and pay respect to deceased relatives. Finally, it is also their wish that their stories be used as historical records of what happened during the Khmer Rouge regime and that they serve as educational material for the younger generations, in the hope that it never ever happens again. It’s in that spirit that they have all kindly agreed to have their testimonies and photo published. At the end of each story they each share what they hope to achieve with their testimony.

Read online or download the stories in English or in Khmer as PDFs:

This stories gallery was developed in the context of TPO’s ‘Justice and Relief for Survivors of the Khmer Rouge’ project which supports witnesses and civil parties participating in the proceedings at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), also informally known as ‘The Khmer Rouge Tribunal’. This project is funded by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit; German Society for International Cooperation), Swiss Foundation, UNVFVT (United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture) and the Australian Embassy (via the Direct Aid Program of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade). These funds enable TPO, in close cooperation with the Witness and Expert Support Unit (WESU) and the Victims Support Section (VSS) of the ECCC, to provide a variety of psychological services to survivors of the Khmer Rouge who are Civil Parties in the ECCC.

This stories gallery was made possible with funds from GIZ (German Society for International Cooperation) and the Australian Embassy’s Direct Aid Program in Cambodia.

With thanks to San Sinuon (translations),  Meng Kimlong (photos), Annelies Mertens (editing) as well as TPO’s counselors, and in particular to Youn Sarath and Dr. Sothara Muny from TPO Cambodia for their work on this gallery.

Last but not least, our biggest gratitude goes to the brave survivors for sharing their personal stories with the world.