Never again?

Never again?, originally uploaded by edward_casabian.

January 7th marked the 28th anniversary of the end to the genocide in Cambodia. We spent the previous day in the Tuol Seng genocide museum, known as S-21 during the period of Khmer Rouge rule from 1975-1979. The museum tells the story of the horrifying prison camp, in which only 7 people are known to have survived out of the 14,000 held captive. It was a sobering experience, similar to a visit to Dachau in Germany or the Armenian genocide museum in Yerevan. Pictures show events that most people would not think possible; one exhibit showed the skulls of victims and identified the method in which they were killed (many were killed with blunt objects as the Khmer Rouge deemed bullets too “expensive”).

S-21 was but one of many places where the terror of the genocide was realized. In total, the Khmer Rouge killed nearly a quarter of the population of Cambodia. You can see the genocide everywhere you look in Cambodia; just a few days earlier we visited the city of Battambang. Courtney and I hired moto drivers to tour the city. We saw killing fields where people were thrown to their deaths. We listened to our guide, Baht, tell his story during the period of the Khmer Rouge. Though he considered his family lucky (only his oldest brother was killed), listening to his stories it is hard for me to consider anyone lucky who lived in Cambodia during this time period.

During our visit to the genocide museum, I sat down and began leafing through a comment book for visitors who wanted to write their impressions of what they had seen at the museum. Overwhelmingly, the message was clear. People from all over the world wrote that we can never let this happen again.

And yet it is happening now in Darfur, but there are things people can do. At the very least, send a webfax to your senator and congressman or sign a petition. Visit websites like Save Darfur and get a sense of what is happening there. Also, Nicholas Kristof of the NY times has written extensively on the subject.

It is all too easy to say or write “never again” but if people really mean it, there are plenty of opportunities to make never again a reality.

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