" For Those Who Are No Longer Here "
The memorial project For Those Who Are No Longer Here extends the work and commitment of the French-Cambodian artist Séra respecting the memory of the Cambodian genocide and its impossible representation.
The intention of the artist is to offer to the city of Phnom Penh and its inhabitants a monumental 'place of remembrance' which will commemorate a precise event in Cambodia’s contemporary history : the forced deportations of April 17, 1975.
In its ensemble, this memorial shall lend itself as a poignant and necessary reminder of this tragedy as a gathering place of remembrance in honor of those who perished under the unbearable weight of terror.
How the project began
It was in August 2012, during a voyage back to his home country of Cambodia that Séra began looking.
He explored the city of Phnom Penh for traces of any public memorial, any statue, any stone commemorating the fall of Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975 or honoring those who had suffered as victims under the Khmer Rouge communist regime. Eventually he found a sparse number of small stupas and ossuaries dispersed randomly within the walls of secluded pagodas.
But as of today in Phnom Penh, no public open-air memorial exists in commemoration of the fall of the city; no monument to remind the young generations of the suffering endured under the Khmer Rouge period.
The torture prison Tuol Sleng S-21 now turned museum and the killing fields of Choeung Ek which lie 17 km outside of Phnom Penh, places of horror, offer meager consolation for the collective Cambodian wishing to see the memory of their lost loved ones honored and dignified.
Face to face with this terrible void, Séra decided to change things.
A day that shall not be forgotten
It was a Thursday morning when, after more than five years of civil war, radical communist Khmer Rouge forces breached the borders of the capital city of Phnom Penh. The approaching sounds of distant shell and rifle fire became the death rattle of the city gasping a final breath. Its entire population, which now included more than 1,500,000 refugees fleeing the fighting in the countryside, had been gradually cut-off from food, fuel and water systems.
Phnom Penh fell that day with barely a fight. Yet, the strange calmness which reigned that afternoon would not last, as April 17 marked the starting point of the long chain of unconscionable suffering for the people of Cambodia.
Within hours, close to two million people were forced from their homes and into a massive exodus on the roads leading to the country's fields where they would suffer severe oppression through forced labor, starvation, moral and ideological dehumanization, and utter terror.
Séra was 13 years old and living in Phnom Penh at the time of its fall in 1975. While he and his family (with the exception of his father who was forced to stay) ultimately found refuge within the walls of the French Embassy, the fate of those millions of others who would begin their long journey towards an uncertain and tragic future, violently imposed and regulated by the Khmer Rouge, has never ceased to haunt the mind of the man and the artist.
It is to pay tribute to the victims and in order that no one forgets this inaugural episode of the Cambodian genocide, that The Cambodian Tragedy Memorial is being created.
Seeking Justice :
Khmer Rouge Tribunal Reparations
The Cambodian Tragedy Memorial Project is officially one of the 13 current civil party reparations projects upheld, supported and defended by the ECCC (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia) in case 002/01 against former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.
What We've Achieved So Far ...
- The accord the Governor of Phnom Penh, His Excellency Pa Socheatevong
- Support from the French Embassy as well as the French National Assembly
- Invigorated moral support from the Documentation Center of Cambodia and its director Mr. Youk Chhang
- An audience with 7 different representatives from the United Nations and UNESCO
- We are continuing to reach out to recognized genocide research organizations, historians, writers, photographers and international political figures in order to increase awareness about Cambodia and its memory