Cambodia – a beautiful tropical country nestled between Thailand and Vietnam, was devastated by the genocide of the “Killing Fields” between 1975 and 1979.
Pol Pot, the country’s dictator, was consumed with the vision to restore Cambodia to the time of its ancient Angkorian Empire, when it was an unrivaled power in Southeast Asia. Cities were emptied, and the entire population was subject to enforced starvation, mass execution and slave labour.
Between 1.7 and 3 million people lost their lives.
All the public institutions of society were systematically dismantled. Money and the ownership of all personal property were made illegal. Music was banned. Doctors, teachers, engineers, academics and all other educated professionals were executed along with their extended families.
Many of these children who survived the Killing Fields would become the parents of today.
The dark days of the Khmer Rouge are behind Cambodia as its people look towards a more hopeful future. Despite having experienced strong economic growth over the past decade, long-term development is still a challenge. Cambodia is among the poorest countries in the world – approximately 2.66 million people live on less than $1.20 per day. Over 50% of the population is younger than 25 years old, and with a lack of educational and productive skills to support their families. This is especially the case in the rural countryside, where basic infrastructure is still being rebuilt.
It is difficult to hide from the preceding atrocities dating back over 30 years. Almost everyone has a story of a lost mother, father, brother, sister, friend or extended family member. Cambodia as a nation has never fully grieved. As a result, significant proportions of her population suffer the daily impact of post-traumatic stress.
Cambodia’s long history of exploitation has robbed many of their dignity and freedom – subjecting the vulnerable to extreme violence and sexual trauma. Today, traffickers prey on vulnerability, illegally selling men, women and children into forced labour or sexual slavery, but we believe together we can change that.