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May 20, 2024

2024 National Day of Remembrance for the Cambodian Genocide

On May 20, 2024, the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) commemorates the annual National Day of Remembrance for the Cambodian Genocide. This significant day serves as a reminder of the horrific events that occurred between 1975 and 1979, during which the Khmer Rouge regime, under the leadership of Pol Pot, committed atrocious crimes against the Cambodian people. During this period, approximately 2 million people lost their lives, which represented over 20% of the country's population at that time. The Cambodian Genocide stands as one of the most devastating atrocities of the 20th century.

The Khmer Rouge implemented an extremist program to reshape Cambodia (known as Kampuchea in Khmer) based on the communist ideology of Mao's China. Their objective was to eradicate social classes and Western influences from the nation, envisioning a complete societal reset dubbed 'Year Zero.'

Initially observed as a "Day of Hate" or "Day of Rage," the commemoration has evolved over time. In 2018, the Cambodian government formally designated it as the National Day of Remembrance. While public re-enactments remain a part of the tradition, the focus has shifted towards education and remembrance. This occasion provides an opportunity for reflection, paying respects, and offering prayers for the countless victims who perished under the genocidal regime.

In 2001, the Cambodian National Assembly established the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), commonly known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal or the Cambodia Tribunal. This tribunal 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 solemnly noted that : 

"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 immense loss of life endured during the Cambodian Genocide. This day serves as a poignant reminder of the collective responsibility of the international community to prevent future genocides and mass atrocities. It underscores the crucial need for legal accountability to support prevention efforts worldwide. In echoing the sentiments of Secretary-General António Guterres, ending impunity, promoting accountability, and fostering memorialization are essential steps towards realizing the commitment 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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