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American peace fellows meet with Khmer Rouge survivors

Participants in a peace-building exchange between Chicago and Phnom Penh meet Khmer Rouge survivors
Participants in a peace-building exchange between Chicago and Phnom Penh meet Khmer Rouge survivors last week at the Kraing Ta Chan Community Peace Learning Center. PHOTO SUPPLIED

American peace fellows meet with Khmer Rouge survivors

A group of 10 American peace fellows from Chicago head home today after participating in an exchange hosted by the Peace Institute of Cambodia that saw them meet survivors of the Khmer Rouge.

Since arriving on April 4, the young Americans – activists participating in Jane Addams Hull-house Museum’s Cities of Peace program – have taken part in team discussion, story-telling, a study tour, cooking, building a “memorial kitchen” and performance sessions.

The exchange is about giving activists, scholars and NGO workers the opportunity to learn different approaches to peace and conflict resolution and foster cultural awareness and understanding, said the Peace Institute’s Long Khet.

Moses Williams, 24, one of the peace fellows from Chicago, said he was interested in learning about discrimination in different parts of the world in order to find solutions to common problems.

Williams said he wanted to learn from the Cambodian experiences and bring Cambodian peace fellows Chicago so they could learn from the US experience.

Khmer Rouge survivor Soy Sen, 59, at the Kraing Ta Chan Community Peace Learning Center shared experiences of living during the Democratic Kampuchea era.

“I found that they really concentrated to listen to my sharing with other survivors,” Sen said.

“I told them about my life when I was in prison since 1974 until 1978. I have a long bad experience because I needed to work hard and got less food.

“I told them about the situation at that time such as how we live, how we eat and how we got tortured and they asked questions. Although I felt unsafe, I still want to share to other next generation.”

A delegation of 10 Cambodian youth fellows are set to visit Chicago for the second leg of the exchange in July.

“I want to develop my knowledge about peace and understanding of Cambodian and US history,” said Hout Hongsea, 22, a Cambodian peace fellow. “I also want to build more networks of peace fellows in Cambodia and Chicago.”

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