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[INTERVIEW] Nightline and Loung Ung

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  • madchinaman
    http://abcnews.go.com/onair/Nightline/000609_Cambodia_chat.html After the Killing Fields Khmer Rouge Survivor Loung Ung June 9 — Loung Ung Loung Ung was five
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 12 1:13 AM
      http://abcnews.go.com/onair/Nightline/000609_Cambodia_chat.html

      After the Killing Fields
      Khmer Rouge Survivor Loung Ung

      June 9 —
      Loung Ung
      Loung Ung was five when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. Both her
      father, who worked in the Royal Cambodian Secret Service, and her
      mother were killed by the regime.

      In 1980, Loung escaped to Thailand with her brother and sister-in-
      law.
      Today, Loung is a spokeswoman for the Vietnam Veterans of
      America Foundation's Campaign for a Landmine Free World. Loung
      recalled her survival from the Khmer Rouge and touched on the legacy
      of Pol Pot in a conversation with Nightline.
      After her appearance on Nightline, Loung Ung joined us in an
      online chat today.
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      Moderator at 1:52pm ET
      You can read more about this story by clicking here now.
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      Moderator at 1:58pm ET
      Welcome Loung Ung. Let's begin.
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      Nasser Ali from ousd.k12.ca.us at 1:58pm ET
      I am a second-grade student in Oakland, CA. Why didn't the Khmer
      Rouge let you listen to music?
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      Loung Ung at 1:59pm ET
      That's a very good question. I don't know for sure, but I think music
      meant that you were giving your loyalty to something else other than
      the government. If you love music and you're more loyal to your music
      than the government, it's a threat to the government.
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      Johnny Phommasyha from ousd.k12.ca.us at 2:00pm ET
      How did you escape Cambodia?
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      Loung Ung at 2:01pm ET
      In 1979, my oldest brother Meng and I escaped Cambodia on a boat, and
      we went to Thailand, to the refugee camps. We stayed in Thailand for
      six months and eventually were sponsored by a church group to come
      and resettle in America as refugees.
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      Davy from disney.com at 2:01pm ET
      Hi Loung. How did you get involved with the Campaign for a Landmine
      Free World? And how many land mines currently exist in Cambodia?
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      Loung Ung at 2:03pm ET
      In 1995, I went back to Cambodia for the first time. Before that, I
      knew very little of Cambodia, except for the history. When I went
      back to Cambodia I saw all of the amputees, in the market, in
      restaurants, in the streets, in temples. There was not a place I went
      to where I did not meet an amputee.
      That's when I decided I needed to try to help somehow. In
      Cambodia there are over 40,000 amputees because of land mines. For a
      country the size of the state of Oklahoma, we have over six million
      land mines.
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      Moderator at 2:03pm ET
      What motivated you to become a spokeswoman for Campaign for a
      Landmine Free World?
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      Loung Ung at 2:05pm ET
      I decided to join the Campaign for a Landmine Free World because I
      realized that there were no Cambodians in the U.S. who were speaking
      out about land mines in Cambodia. With all the land mines in the
      ground, it affects me personally, even in America.
      Like most Cambodians, I still have a sister and a brother who
      live in Cambodia, and I worry every day whether or not their next
      step will allow them to live. My sister and brother have survived the
      war, and I hope my work will allow them to survive the peace.
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      Moderator at 2:06pm ET
      Bill in Texas asks: Did the Khmer Rouge represent a majority of the
      population? If they didn't, why didn't the people just take up arms
      to overthrow Pol Pot and his bunch when they started to brutalize the
      people?
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      Loung Ung at 2:07pm ET
      The Khmer Rouge did not represent a majority of the population, but
      they were the population that had arms and guns and food. The people
      were not able to rise up against them, because we were kept prisoners
      in our own country.
      We lived in villages isolated from one another, we were not
      given food, and their ultimate control was that they took children
      from parents, to live in camps. That's why we could not fight, they
      took our power.
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      Moderator at 2:07pm ET
      Peter asks: What are the prospects for Cambodian society and culture
      to ever return to its prewar (1960s) sophistication? Or, sadly, has
      it been decimated beyond repair?
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      Loung Ung at 2:08pm ET
      I'm very optimistic about the future of Cambodia. The last two years,
      the country has been politically stable, the last of the Khmer Rouge
      has surrendered, tourism is on the rise, the economy is growing,
      investors are going into Cambodia, and though the scars of war will
      always be there, my belief is that human strength and spirit is much
      stronger than the evils of mankind. Like many other countries who've
      struggled out of war, we will do also.
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      Brian at 2:09pm ET
      Were you and your brother the only ones from your family to survive?
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      Loung Ung at 2:10pm ET
      I have a brother and a sister-in-law in Vermont. I have a brother and
      a sister in Cambodia. My brother Kim just moved to Vermont after 12
      years of living in France. I have grandmothers, aunts, uncles, all in
      all about 100 Ungs, who are thriving in Cambodia after the war.
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      PHATRY PAN dmrafiki@... from spmodem.washington.edu at 2:11pm
      ET
      For me and fellow members of the Khmer Student Association at the
      University of Washington, it was YOU that INSPIRED us to take action.
      But for you, who was the ONE that influenced you mostly?
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      Loung Ung at 2:11pm ET
      It's the history that influenced me. It was the memory that motivated
      me. It was the memory of my parents, of my country, of a childhood
      lost. These memories have always been there and have always stayed
      alive in me, and ultimately it is the Cambodian people who have
      inspired me.
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      Jordan Chhit from ousd.k12.ca.us at 2:12pm ET
      I am a third-grade Cambodian American. What was it like for you when
      the Khmer Rouge wanted you to be a soldier for them?
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      Loung Ung at 2:13pm ET
      It was very difficult. Like many other children, given a choice, we
      would always choose to play, we would always choose the path of peace
      versus the path of violence and war. I did not have a choice. I did
      not want to pick up a gun, but I had to in order to live. I hope
      Jordan will never have to pick up a gun in his life.
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      Moderator at 2:13pm ET
      What is your reaction to the mock trial of Pol Pot?
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      Loung Ung at 2:14pm ET
      The trial of Pol Pot was a sham. The Khmer Rouge put him on trial in
      the jungle. We still don't know what happened to him. I believe that
      until the rest of the Khmer Rouge leaders are brought on trial in
      front of a credible tribunal, any other trials will continue to be
      shams, to be a fraud. I felt betrayed when Pol Pot died and took with
      him all the answers.
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      Robyn from proxy.aol.com at 2:15pm ET
      Are you teaching your experiences to the younger-generation of
      Cambodians?
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      Loung Ung at 2:17pm ET
      I am. In the last two years I have spoken at over 50 colleges and
      universities in America. In most of the universities I've been to,
      there are Cambodian students in the audience. Afterward they would
      come up and we would connect. It is through these personal
      connections that I hope I've been able to influence them to find
      their own voice. It is through personal connections that I think we
      can all teach each other the path of peace.
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      Yunji from disney.com at 2:17pm ET
      What led you to write your memoir? Also, what is the reaction of the
      people still living in Cambodia to your work?
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      Loung Ung at 2:19pm ET
      I was inspired to write my memoir because of my nieces in America. As
      I watched them grow up, I saw that they were studying American
      history, Chinese history, Russian history, but never Cambodian
      history. I wanted my nieces to remember. I wanted them to be
      connected to Cambodia. I wanted them to know me better.
      The reaction of the people in Cambodia to my work has been very
      supportive. Many have told me they are proud of me. Many have come up
      and called me daughter, sister, aunt. Many have told me that I remind
      them of the loved ones that they lost. They're supportive.
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      Michele from tnt1.fort-collins.co.da.uu.net at 2:19pm ET
      Have you ever met any former members of the Khmer Rouge? Were you
      able to ask them the ultimate questions: why did they do it, and,
      more importantly, how could they do it (torture and murder so many
      people)?
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      Loung Ung at 2:21pm ET
      I have met former child soldiers of the Khmer Rouge, like myself.
      Like many of us, we didn't understand, and never understood what
      happened. I have not met a Khmer Rouge in the central committee, and
      I do not have the faith or the strength to meet them now without
      wanting to hurt them. I will never understand why they did it.
      I think the world can understand a little of why, of what
      happened, by the many books that are out there on Cambodia. Hopefully
      my book will be able to help people to be able to understand why we
      endure what we endure.
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      Moderator at 2:22pm ET
      How is the effort to clear the world of land mines going?
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      Loung Ung at 2:24pm ET
      It's going very slowly. A land mine costs anywhere from one to three
      dollars, but to clear it and remove it from the ground costs from
      $500 to $1,000. It's because we are using basic tools to remove land
      mines. It consists of a bayonet and a metal detector.
      Governments have not allocated money to research and develop new
      technology to clear land mines. However, I believe if we can put a
      range rover on Mars, we can develop a new technology to clear the
      land mines out of the ground much faster. So, there are 70 to 80
      million land mines in 70 countries, and we need new technology to get
      them out.
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      Moderator at 2:24pm ET
      Jim in Dallas asks: Is there an identification process going on for
      the many dead, so that their families can give them proper burials
      and gain closure?
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      Loung Ung at 2:26pm ET
      Thank you for the question. There are very little they can do to
      identify the remains of loved ones. During the war we were herded
      from one place to another like cows. We moved so many times that our
      family lost track of us. Most people have destroyed documentations of
      who they were because they were lying about their identity.
      The people who were killed in the killing fields in Cambodia, in
      the many mass graves in Cambodia, they have no way of telling their
      family where they were. A proper burial is very important for
      Cambodians, but many are not able to have it.
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      Moderator at 2:26pm ET
      Do you find that the movie The Killing Fields is all people know
      about the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot?
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      Loung Ung at 2:28pm ET
      The movie The Killing Fields showed a fairly accurate picture of the
      Khmer Rouge regime. I don't think a lot of people knew who Pol Pot
      was. I did not know who Pol Pot was. He was a name that we whispered,
      in fear. He was the government that we scream at to show our loyalty.
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      John from proxy.aol.com at 2:29pm ET
      Hi Loung. Do you think the United States should bear some
      responsibility for the destruction of Cambodia, since its secret
      bombing of neutral Cambodia led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge?
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      Loung Ung at 2:30pm ET
      I do think the U.S. does share some responsibility for the war in
      Indochina. To many Americans, there was only the Vietnam war in
      Southeast Asia. For people in Laos and Cambodia, the Vietnam war,
      what we called the American war, was the third Indochina war.
      However, instead of brooding about what could have been done, I've
      chosen to devote my life to do what we can now. I think we should
      devote more energy to help the aftermath of the war.
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      Fabian at 2:31pm ET
      Would you ever consider going back to Cambodia?
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      Loung Ung at 2:32pm ET
      I have been to Cambodia seven times. I'm returning again this month.
      However, whether or not I can live in Cambodia again some day — I do
      hope to do that.
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      Peng from inre.asu.edu at 2:32pm ET
      How did you feel (how was the experience) when you first arrived in
      America?
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      Loung Ung at 2:34pm ET
      Ha, ha. It was very difficult at first to get used to living in
      America. I arrived in Vermont on June 20, 1980. I was 10 years old, I
      did not speak a single word of English, didn't have any friends, I
      didn't know the culture, so it was difficult at first. There were
      things that were scary for me that others did not understand.
      For example, when friends took me to the Fourth of July
      celebration, I was very traumatized and embarrassed. Everybody was
      enjoying themselves and having such a good time. I wanted to have a
      good time, to be normal, to be like them, but I could not because I
      was afraid. The fireworks reminded me of the war.
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      Moderator at 2:35pm ET
      What do you want people to come away with from your book?
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      Loung Ung at 2:36pm ET
      That we are survivors. That your past does not have to destroy your
      future. That people do not generally hate and want to harm each
      other. That cruelty and evil is not a natural way of order in our
      world. For me, I wrote it because I did not want the Khmer Rouge to
      win the battle. I did not want them to have power over me. I hope
      others will realize that they are very strong people, and that when
      they are tested, they will come out strong. We are all much stronger
      than we think.
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      Channy from ppp.temple.edu at 2:37pm ET
      The Khmer Rouge has left many scars for those who survived, both
      physical and emotional. How can you ever cope with that?
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      Loung Ung at 2:39pm ET
      The healing takes many years. Each year, I heal a little more from
      the wounds of the war. There are many times when the war still haunts
      me in my sleep. There are many times when the war threatens to take
      over my day. But I surround myself with kind, compassionate people
      who take care of me. I live a healthy, decent, hopefully dignified
      life.
      And for me, the ultimate way of healing has been to become an
      advocate for human rights, to know that my work might contribute to a
      better world for my nieces and nephews.
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      Brian at 2:39pm ET
      Have you encountered any negative resistance from Cambodia since you
      have been speaking out? Also, what is the name of your memoir?
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      Loung Ung at 2:40pm ET
      The name of the memoir is First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of
      Cambodia Remembers. Thus far, I have not encountered negative
      responses from people. Everyone has been so very supportive of me.
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      Robert at 2:40pm ET
      Do you see any parallels between Cambodia and any other country from
      another area? For example, Tibet, Cuba, or various African countries,
      etc.?
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      Loung Ung at 2:43pm ET
      There are many parallels to state violence. Cambodia was called the
      Asian holocaust, because many (saw) the parallels between Cambodia
      and the Jewish holocaust. After World War II, the world said, never
      again — and yet it kept happening again and again and again, in
      Rwanda, in Bosnia, East Timor, Sierra Leone.
      In these wars, civilians are the targets. Soldiers don't fight
      soldiers, soldiers kill civilians. This is, to me, the major
      parallel. In modern wars, the civilians are the victims. It used to
      be, in the last century, 90% of war casualties were soldiers, 10%
      civilians. Nowadays, that number is reversed. Ninety percent of war
      casualties are civilians and 10% are soldiers.
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      Tim Hall from proxy.aol.com at 2:43pm ET
      How can we help you in your chosen cause?
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      Loung Ung at 2:44pm ET
      Thank you for your offering to help. Please log onto our Web site at
      www.vvaf.org, or call 1-800-BAN-MINES. You can log on and put your
      name on our mailing list, and we will connect you to our network, and
      you're officially part of the campaign.
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      ratanak reth at 2:45pm ET
      In addition to your efforts and that of your organization, how else
      can others contribute to the healing of Cambodia?
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      Loung Ung at 2:47pm ET
      We need to have many goodwill ambassadors to Cambodia. We need to
      have people going in and investing in Cambodia, financially,
      personally. We need people to see Cambodia in a positive light, not
      as killers and genocidal Khmer Rouge only, but as a beautiful country
      to visit, very friendly people, a place that has a beautiful history
      of its own, despite the war.
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      Amara from amax1.dialup.hou1.flash.net at 2:47pm ET
      Are you confident that Cambodia's current government will work in the
      best interest of the people?
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      Loung Ung at 2:48pm ET
      I'm hopeful that the current Cambodian government cares about the
      people. I'm confident that with the transparency of the government,
      with the world connecting to each other via media, satellite,
      Internet, with nonprofit groups in Cambodia working as watchdogs over
      the government, that the government will be forced to think of what's
      best for Cambodia. There is always hope.
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      Moderator at 2:48pm ET
      Do you believe the Khmer Rouge will ever be held accountable for
      their crimes?
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      Loung Ung at 2:50pm ET
      I don't think all the Khmer Rouge will be held accountable for their
      crimes. However, I am optimistic that the leaders of the Khmer Rouge,
      those in the central committee, will be put on trial later this year
      or next year, to answer for the crimes they've committed. Two weeks
      ago, the United Nations and the Cambodian Government agreed on a
      charter to create a mixed tribunal to try the Khmer Rouge leaders.
      This is a very hopeful step.
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      Moderator at 2:51pm ET
      Jim asks: You have an incredible amount of strength to have made it
      through your ordeal. In your book you attribute much of that to your
      anger. Has any of that anger mellowed?
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      Loung Ung at 2:52pm ET
      That anger has mellowed a lot, because now I'm a peace activist. I
      now also realize that though the anger kept me strong physically, it
      was the love that kept me alive. My love for my parents, my siblings,
      were never far from me, and I did not see this until Publisher Weekly
      mentioned it in their review. I did not see it until Publisher Weekly
      said, this is a book about love.
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      Amara from amax1.dialup.hou1.flash.net at 2:54pm ET
      What do you think should be done to strengthen relations between the
      Cambodian and U.S. governments?
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      Loung Ung at 2:55pm ET
      Cambodians need to have a presence in Washington, D.C.. We need to
      have many more ambassadors of good will going and visiting Cambodia.
      And I think we need a lot more Americans to realize the U.S.
      involvement in Cambodia, and realize our responsibility to the
      country. This way, we, the public can force the U.S. government to
      strengthen its relationship to Cambodia.
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      Moderator at 2:55pm ET
      What is your hope for the future of Cambodia?
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      Loung Ung at 2:56pm ET
      That the people will have enough to eat, will have clothes to wear,
      schools to go to, and ultimately, that our land will be free of
      mines, because Cambodian people are connected to the land.
      For more information on my book and on the Campaign for a
      Landmine Free World, please log on to www.vvaf.org. The title of the
      book is First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia
      Remembers. And thank you for all who logged in with their questions,
      and I hope you visit Cambodia. I'll see you in Cambodia.
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      Moderator at 2:59pm ET
      You can continue this conversation on the Nightline message board by
      clicking here now.
      Thank you for joining us today.
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