A "Shared Suffering, Shared Resilience" forum was held in Lowell,Mass., earlier this month, the second of ten such fora to be held targeting Cambodian-Americans
- From: Chim <ChimS1@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 24 Dec 2008 19:27:08 -0800 (PST)
'Shared Suffering' Fora Highlight Trauma, History
By VOA Khmer, Im Sothearith
Original report from Washington
24 December 2008
A "Shared Suffering, Shared Resilience" forum was held in
Lowell,Mass., earlier this month, the second of ten such fora to be
held targeting Cambodian-Americans, many of whom suffer from post-
traumatic stress following experiences under the Khmer Rouge.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by war, terrorism or natural
disasters, and affects all nations, communities and
individuals,directly or indirectly. In 2005, 162 million people
worldwide were subjected to experiences that could lead to PTSD,
according to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress. Nearly 30
percent of Cambodians suffer from the disorder, according to research
by the World Health Organization.
The "Shared Suffering" forum in Lowell, held by the Applied Social
Research Institute of Cambodia, sought to address the issue,
and,despite poor weather that caused a change in venue, around 100
Dr. Nou Leakhena, founding director of the institute, said her
research showed that 33 years after the Khmer Rouge, Cambodian
communities still struggle with feelings of hopelessness and
helplessness, which lead to damaging behavior such as
gambling,alcoholism and domestic violence.
The "Shared Suffering" fora are meant to help Khmer Rouge victims
share their experiences and to help prevent future genocides.
"They are a talking testimony of history, and their stories are
valuable not only to history, but to policy-makers and lawmakers to
ensure this kind of atrocity never happens again," she said. "Not only
in the context of Cambodia, but worldwide.
"Teddy Yoshikami, director of program development at the
institute,said the forum helped communication and a process of
Victims needed "to communicate more of this story, and all the
suffering that happened...and then the healing process begins," she
The forum also helps educate Americans about world events and
"For us, that's important work," said Dr. John Kuo Wei Tchen, founding
director of the Asia/Pacific/American studies program at New York
University, which supports the forum. "It can educate the American
public about ongoing issues, Asian Americans in this country and
[reduce] stereotypes of people that we often have.
"The forum can also help as testimony for the Khmer Rouge tribunal,
now underway in Cambodia and set for its first trial, of prison chief
Duch, next year.
"This is a rare opportunity, in which those who have left Cambodia
will have a chance to talk about what happened to them and to give
testimony," Tchen said. "So this forum is a way of preparing for the
actual testimony that people will be giving at the tribunal.
"Chhan Touch, a Khmer Rouge victim and forum participant, said he was
honored to testify so that a younger generation would be aware of
"Khmers, both those in the United States and those in Cambodia, need
to share," he said. "Khmers in the United States have also been
through difficulties under the Khmer Rouge. Although we are now in
America, our voices can be heard in Cambodia, so this can be evidence
for the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
"Most of the organizers of the forum did not experience the Khmer
Rouge, but they remain committed to holding the forum not only for the
victims, but to confront a universal problem.
"Well, it's a cultural and moral obligation for me, as a Cambodian
woman, as a Cambodian, as a Cambodian academic," Nou Leakhena said."It
is my responsibility to use my academic status as a medical
sociologist, as a faculty member of a university, to help promote
greater understanding about the Khmer Rouge's history as it has
impacted our communities.
"Yoshikami, who is Japanese and was born in concentration camp during
World War II, said she is well aware of the suffering and denial of
rights faced by victims. Her parents, like many Cambodian parents, do
not talk about their traumatic experiences, she said.
"When you know the reality of what has been happening, it is so
muchmore important now than ever to really begin to support each other
globally and to maintain human rights and justice around the
world,"she said. "Otherwise, we are going to destroy ourselves.
"The next "Shared Suffering" forum will be held in Portland, Oregon,
in June 2009.
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