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May 21, 2023

2023 - National Day of Remembrance for the Cambodian Genocide

On May 20, 2023, the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) marks the annual National Day of Remembrance for the Cambodian Genocide. This day serves as a reminder of the atrocities that occurred between 1975 and 1979 when the Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot committed heinous crimes against the Cambodian people. During this time, approximately 1.7 million people lost their lives, which accounted for over 20% of the country's population. The Cambodian Genocide is recognized as one of the deadliest atrocities of the 20th century.

This day provides an opportunity to reflect, pay respect, and offer prayers for the victims who lost their lives to the genocidal regime. Initially, the day was observed as a "Day of Hate" or "Day of Rage," but the commemoration has evolved over the years. In 2018, the Cambodian government officially designated it as the National Day of Remembrance.. The tradition of public re-enactments has continued, but the focus has shifted towards education and remembrance.

In 2001, the Cambodian National Assembly established the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea (ECCC), informally known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal or the Cambodia Tribunal.  The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia receives international support through the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT)

During his visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in November 2022, United Nations General Secretary António Guterres expressed, 

"The suffering that took place within these walls is horrific and shocking. The stories of survival and resilience are moving and inspiring. I thank the Museum for its extraordinary work to raise awareness of these atrocity crimes, as part of efforts to ensure they can never happen again. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia have held several Khmer Rouge leaders accountable for these atrocities and provided a voice to victims and survivors. Their voices are more important than ever, at a time when hate speech, abuse, discrimination, and harassment are on the rise in every corner of the world. Tuol Sleng is an essential reminder. Its bloodstained bricks and tiles are a warning to us all: This is what happens when hatred runs rampant. This is what happens when human beings are persecuted, and human rights are denied. Preserving the memory of those who suffered and died at Tuol Sleng helps to ensure that such atrocities are never repeated."

On this National Day of Remembrance, the Auschwitz Institute acknowledges the tremendous loss of life during the Cambodian Genocide. This day underscores the importance of the international community's shared responsibility to prevent future genocides and mass atrocities and emphasizes the need for legal accountability to support prevention efforts worldwide. Echoing the words of General Secretary António Guterres  - ending impunity, accountability, and memorialization are crucial to realizing the promise of "Never Again."

Sheri P. Rosenberg

Policy Papers and Briefs in Prevention

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Research Reports & White Papers

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SNCF Papers

Filling the Silence: A Study in Corporate Holocaust History and the Nature of Corporate Memory
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Auschwitz Institute Annual Reports

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Training Resources

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Booklet on National Mechanisms for the Prevention of Genocide and other Atrocity Crimes (2015-2018)

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Annual Reports of the Latin American Network for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention

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