Cambodia today can look with horror at the stacks of skulls in display cases at
the Genocide Museum, stand bewildered at the detailed records the Khmer Rouge
kept of the millions they killed, or watch where they step as they walk through
the Killing Fields where teeth, bits of bones and shreds of clothing are
working their way out of the mass graves.
But all of
this pales before the first-person stories told by Arn Chorn Pond during a
Suncoast Saturday presentation. He was a teenager in the 1970s, living in a temple
and going to school there, when the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia.
five-year rule, they killed 2 million persons, including 20,000 at the temple
where he lived. Forced to participate or else be killed, Pond survived by doing
such things as pushing dead bodies into mass graves and playing revolutionary
songs on the flute. He watched thousands of persons being killed.
afraid to become friends with anyone,” he said, “because they might die
tomorrow. You feel powerless. If you start to open your heart, you die.”
particular, his heart went out to the children, thousands of whom he saw die.
These included his own brother and sister, who died of starvation.
very hard for me to cry,” he said.
of desperation, he ran away, living on the run in the jungle for many months
until some girls looking for firewood found him unconscious and brought him to
a refugee village.
he was brought to Franconia, N.H., where he became adopted by the Rev. Peter
Pond’s family. He graduated from high school and college, and eventually became
convinced that Americans, particularly politicians and people of influence,
needed to hear his story.
he has received many international awards, spoken all over the world on behalf
of Amnesty International, and initiated many programs for children in Cambodia,
where he now lives.