"No justice for
Though many Cambodians and international organizations have fought for Khmer Rouge officials to be brought to justice, those who participated in the genocide have a complex legacy within their country’s history. Former regime leaders occupy all levels of society, from high-ranking government positions to produce-growing grandmothers. Even with stated cooperation from the Cambodian government, prosecutors have had a hard time convicting anyone besides the regime’s most powerful leaders. A war-crimes tribunal, assembled with UN assistance, concluded its work in late 2022, despite having only delivered three convictions in almost 20 years since its formation. Among those three is the real-life Duch. Even in Cambodia, where concrete reminders of the violence remain, educational curriculum does not cover most of the Khmer Rouge’s crimes.
Time to Reflect
Consider other countries that have rebuilt after genocide. What might it mean to achieve justice in this context?
One of the main themes in Cambodian Rock Band is the aftermath of large-scale tragedy, especially its impact on relationships between generations. Leaving Cambodia, many refugees found that their new communities didn't understand what they'd experienced. Since the Khmer Rouge targeted academics, the already-difficult process of assimilating to a new cultural environment was compounded for some immigrants by a limited educational background. In the play, we see Neary learn more about her father’s experience under the Khmer Rouge as Chum struggles to decide what he can and cannot share with his daughter. Both characters’ arcs represent a universal story of art’s power to be cathartic after trauma. In 1998, Arn Chorn-Pond founded Cambodian Living Arts, an organization which supports all kinds of Cambodian creatives with grants and fellowships. Vibrant communities have been established by Cambodian immigrants in places like Long Beach, CA and Lowell, MA.
Close to Home
This short 2019 documentary, Donut People, is about Cambodian-owned donut shops in the Houston area.
Independence Monument, Phnom Penh
Projection of Cambodia's population density in 2030. To explore and layer different data sets, visit Open Development Cambodia.
“Art is important. And this play basically situates by saying, ‘No matter how much you destroy the civilization, art will endure. Artists will come back.’”
- Director Chay Yew
Phnom Penh’s Central Market in 2021