clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cambodians plan memorial to victims of Khmer Rouge

CHICAGO — The Cambodian community in Chicago plans to build a heritage museum and memorial to the people who died under Pol Pot's reign of terror in the 1970s.

The memorial is an effort to heal the scars of genocide that still exist, more than 20 years after the Khmer Rouge was toppled, organizers say.

"The suffering is so deep. At night some people still have nightmares," said Kompha Seth, executive director of the Cambodian Association.

"The goal of the memorial is to let the people feel it's OK to suffer, to heal and move on."

Cambodian Prince Norodom Sirivudh endorsed the project Thursday in Chicago at a reception of the Cambodian Association of Illinois.

"Your idea to decide not to forget the past, memory, I think is very important," said Prince Sirivudh, who was forced into exile in 1971 and did not return to Cambodia for 20 years.

"A nation, a people who forget the past and who don't take into account their history cannot build a future."

The indoor memorial, a wall of 80 glass columns almost 20 feet long, will feature the names of up to 4,000 victims inscribed in the glass, officials say. It will face the east toward Cambodia and end with a panel of white, the color of mourning for Cambodians.

The Cambodian American Heritage Museum will feature exhibits that focus on culture, history and refugee life in the United States, officials said.

The group expects to complete the project by January. So far, members have raised $700,000 toward their $1.8 million goal.

Up to 2 million Cambodians were killed, mainly by starvation, overwork or execution during the 1975-79 communist Khmer Rouge rule.