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• Last month, World Pulse founder Jensine Larsen attended the Khmer Rouge trials. Read her thoughts and insights in "Butterflies Over the Graves."

• Read World Pulse's previous coverage of Cambodia, survivor and activist Loung Ung's tribute to her homeland.

• Visit the Khmer Rouge Trial Web Portal to get breaking updates on the progress of the trial.

• Learn more about the Khmer Rouge in Time Magazine's photo-rich presentation, "The Rise and Fall of the Khmer Rouge".

• Support The People Improvement Organization, a program that works to educate Cambodia's most at-risk children.

• Watch this short video biography to learn more about Theary Seng's life and work.

World Pulse recommends Daughter of the Killing Fields, Theary Seng's memoir.

Daughter of the Killing Fields

PulseWire Show Your Support: Join the PulseWire group, The Cambodian Cafe to connect with Cambodian women leaders. You'll meet parliamentarian Mu Sochua, young leader Reaksmey Arun, Cambodian-American Sophorn, and many more!

Ushering In Cambodia’s Peace

"Hope lies in the fellowship of being women, in collective suffering, in being attuned to compassion and the work of peace."

Cambodia Today: The Tribunal

It is safe to say that every Cambodian who lived under the Khmer Rouge encountered similar emotional disquietude and restlessness. This tumult has been absorbed by the newer generation born following the brutal Khmer Rouge years.

We have been living without war for some years now, but we want and need more. We want a complete peace, a peace where there is justice. Just now we are painstakingly, slowly trading our past for our present.

After thirty painful years, we have cobbled together a court of law known informally as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (also called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, ECCC) to address the mass crimes of the Khmer Rouge and to usher in an era of peace.

Of course, a court of law anywhere in the world has its limitations. It must narrowly weigh evidence in order to determine guilt, and in this case, this evidence is 30 years old, compromised, lost, and witnesses are too fearful to come forward. The Tribunal is limited by charges of corruption, and the narrow scope of trying only the “most senior Khmer Rouge leaders” and those “most responsible” between April 1975 and January 1979. This narrows it down to only five members of the Khmer Rouge who will stand trial: the infamous director of the genocidal detention center Duch, Kang Kek Iew, and the senior leaders, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, and Mr. and Mrs. Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith.

Even so, the Tribunal provides for the first time in international law the opportunity for victims to become a ‘civil party.’ This unprecedented opportunity offers Cambodia two concrete, principal benefits: In the short term, it allows for the empowerment that comes from confronting head-on those senior Khmer Rouge leaders victims hold responsible. In the long term, the process provides for a lasting legacy of putting faces and names to the cold figure of 1.7 million.

In addition to the court of law, the Tribunal is also serving as a “court of public opinion.” As such it has become a powerful catalyst to build a culture of dialogue. We are finally discussing long-overdue topics of history, trauma, healing, reconciliation, and forgiveness.

We are imprisoned by our past and the Tribunal offers us a way out to freedom. However, it is difficult to assess what type of legacy will be had from this process that is fraught with politicking and charges of corruption. No matter how we slice society, behind every issue lies the history of the Khmer Rouge. We must deal with this horrific past if we are to win our battle against all the prevailing human rights abuses in contemporary Cambodian society.

Challenges, Hopes

Sometimes the challenges feel countless and they overwhelm me. We live in a sea of urgent issues constantly competing for our time—from military land grabbings, to rampant trafficking of women and children, to corruption, to deforestation, to political violence, to domestic abuse… Still, we are not without hope; we see it in the courage of Somaly Mam and the many others who are turning the tide against modern-day slavery; in Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi; in parliamentarians Mu Sochua and Tioulong Saumura working at the political level; to Chou Vineath and Chap Chandina who are using their skills in the NGO sector to expand the voice of the weak and vulnerable and to address issues of court reform. And, today, over half of Cambodian bloggers are young women who are creatively using new modes of communication to connect and to inspire.

Hope lies in the fellowship of being women, in collective suffering, in being attuned to compassion and the work of peace.

I have started out saying that my life has been a journey in pursuit of peace. I am glad to be traveling with kindred spirits: men and women who desire peace, the kind that is more than the absence of war, but necessitates the presence of justice. My homeland is a good place to start.

About Theary Seng

An activist and lawyer, Theary Seng was born in Phnom Penh in early 1971. Under the Khmer Rouge, she lived in Svay Rieng province bordering Vietnam, where the killings were most intense and where she spent five months in prison. She has written about her life in the book Daughter of the Killing Fields, and today is the Executive Director of the Center for Social Development, a human rights organization based in Cambodia. Learn more about her life and work at


Tanya's picture

My best wishes

Dear Ms Theary Seng,

Your story is heart wrenching to say the least. Thankyou for sharing. I dont know what else to say, except that I wish you peace and healing, in all your quests and endeavours.

Warm Regards,

Tanya Daud

acdadesky's picture

Thank you and Blessings

Dear Mme. Theary Seng,

Of course words cannot touch upon the depth of pain you carry about the past or bring back your loved ones. But your words touch me, touch us and can touch the future, and change it for Cambodia. I will share your letter with my colleagues throughout the world, who encompass human rights and social justice activists, those working in AIDS and public health, and women advocates and men who have taken up the challenge of combatting sexual violence in war. I myself am an activist and journalist, and an author working on issues of gender justice and public health, and am following the cases brought before the international tribunals related to femicide. I launched an HIV program in Rwanda for genocide rape survivors a few years ago, and continue to work with groups there and in Congo, etc. I want to learn more about Cambodia and the issue of sexual war crimes, in particular.

On my end, I hope to visit Cambodia, possibly this summer. I am working to map the response of the global community to sexual war crimes,and hope to spotlight what is known, and remains to be uncovered, about the use of sexual torture as a component of the Cambodian genocide by the Khmer Rouge. Perhaps we will have a chance to meet if this trip happens. I have included my coordinates for you, and I have posted to PulseWire, though not that much lately.

An embrace of solidarity from across the waters.

Know that your words will strike a powerful chord and take root around the world.

Peace then,

Anne-christine d'Adesky
skype: acdadesky

Anne-christine d'Adesky
Director of Global Advocacy
3345 22nd street,
San Francisco, CA 94110

Mobilizing Women and Girls to Fight HIV/AIDS

Dear Theary Seng:

My name is Cristina Avila-Zesatti, I am a Mexican journalist, and main editor of the new digital media Corresponsal de Paz (Peace Correspondent) which entire content is dedicated to that called “peace journalism”

I am now part of Pulse Wire web, and that’s where I found your amazing story. I felt really touched for your text, and that’s why now I am writing you to ask for your permission to translate it to Spanish and publish it in our journalistic website (

Unfortunately, now we only have Spanish content, but I am praying to launch soon our English version.

However, i already sent you an e-mail where I am attaching you an entire explanation about “who we are and what we do” in English, and I am attaching you my CV as well, just to let you know my profile.

Of course we will give you all the credits and we will re-send our users to your website

I am crossing my fingers to have a yes from you.

In the meanwhile, please receive all my admiration for your courage and your work.

Regards from Mexico: Xthina " )

Cristina Avila-Zesatti - Journaliste&Productrice
Main Editor:

"Un milagro no es la suspensión de una ley natural, sino la implementación de una ley superior"

Joan Bartos's picture

Thank you for your work

Dear Ms. Seng,

Thank you so much for the work you've done. Thank you also for sharing your very moving personal story.

Having worked with Cambodian refugees in Birmingham Alabama in the early 1980's, I remember well the difficulties of the refugee community.

While I know that your work will provide hope and healing for many in Cambodia and throughout the world, I also pray for your personal healing.

With Sincerity and Warmth,

Joan Bartos
Napa, CA USA

dreaflynn's picture

Thank you!

Thank you for sharing your story with us. I hope it is read by many, many people and that you feel our support!

wanjirumungai's picture

Cambodia.... A land

Dear Theary Seng,

I have enduring memories of Cambodia - many. And your powerful sharing brings tears to my eyes. Even more so, it strengthens me in my journey. If you are shining, I see no reason why myself and other women should not.

And leaves me to say, for I know not what else -

God bless you. Many many blessings to you, and to the people of Cambodia.


giftypearl.abenaab's picture

Your story

Your story is very touching. You continue to fight a god fight for yourself and nation.

Gifty Pearl Abenaab
Greight Foundation

suziey's picture

Dear Theary, You are trully a

Dear Theary,
You are trully a strong woman and your courage is to be emulated. Having visited Cambodia 30 years after the Khmer Rouge and seen the terrible evidence that still exists and hearing some of the stories from the people of how it was back then, all I could do was sympathise but realising that there are strong women like you who are willing to help the people there face up to tomorrow and realise that the future holds much more and that you can move on and make your country a better place other than dwell in the past is very encouraging.

Your country is a good learning ground for how the selfishness of leaders can lead to the suffering of so many a people. Its sad that even in the current time, many a countries still refuse to learn from the past and correct some of this things, but I pray that the future shall judge them. I pray for healing and forgiveness for your country and its people.

Lea's picture

Thank you!

Thank you for sharing such a powerful and moving story. You have shown an impressive amount of resilience in spite of having experienced such trauma and loss. You were able to move forward and were determined to help rebuild a society that is still on the mend and burdened with the consequences of the genocide. You are a true inspiration to us all.

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