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Dear Senator Kerry,

Cambodian Health Network

(A National Coalition of Cambodian Communities Working for Health)

 

 

 

September 22, 2004

 

President George W. Bush

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave

Washington, D.C., 20500

 

The Honorable John Kerry

United States Senate

304 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2102

 

Dear President Bush and Senator Kerry,

 

Please remember that 3 million Cambodians died in one decade of war and genocide. A war Cambodians did not seek and genocide the world did not acknowledge.

 

It is very painful for us now to watch as the Cambodian holocaust is once again treated as a sideshow to the Vietnam War.  The emotion and rhetoric about Vietnam continues to prevent a rational discussion of what happened to us in Cambodia.

 

It prevented this discussion in 1971 and again in 1975 when the United States abandoned Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge.

 

It prevented a rational discussion of the legality and impact of the American bombing of Cambodia.

 

It prevented two well- respected presidents, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter from even acknowledging that they knew what was happening in Cambodia between 1975-79, when in fact recently declassified material makes it painfully obvious that they knew exactly what was happening.

 

We have lost 3 million people. In a communist system they would be considered “statistics” but in a democracy they are recognized as our loved ones, our families and our friends. Just as the families and citizens of this country do not consider of the victims of 9/11 “the collateral damage of a war of terrorism, we do not accept that our loved ones are the collateral damage of the Vietnam War.

 

We are very aware that President Nixon clearly stated that the only reason for the bombing of Cambodia and the use of American troops in Cambodia was to protect American soldiers.

 

3 million of our people died and millions more are disabled. Isn’t it time to discuss what happened? What was the United States’ role was in this destruction?  What is the United States’ responsibility now?

 

Does the land of the free and the home of the brave use the bones and blood of innocent civilians as a shield for their retreating armies and then simply forget?

 

In one decade, we lost all of our possessions, our homes, and our country. We lost almost all of our educated people, our doctors, lawyers, educators, business people and religious leaders. We are survivors of a holocaust as real and as devastating any genocide of the 20th Century.

 

As American citizens, we are aware that the pervasive silence that surrounds Cambodia and Cambodians prevents any real effort to address the health problems of our community. Our government has been willing to spend $1 billion dollars a year for the expenses of disabilities in the Cambodian community, but not even 1 million to find out how to prevent these disabilities. Is this the price of silence?

 

Twenty-five years after our survivors arrived in the United States, we are dying of diabetes and stroke in numbers similar to those of concentration camp survivors and at least 4 times more often than other Americans. We have the highest prevalence rates of depression and PTSD and more than 25% of our community has one or more disabilities. Everyone knows the terrible burden a disability places on a family and yet we are mocked as malingers and welfare frauds. Special taskforces are established to investigate us. We suffer and die with no acknowledgement of what we suffered and why we suffer. We received no awards or medals for the price we paid for “protecting American troops”.

 

We are no longer willing to remain silent while political factions use Cambodia’s name to disparage one another but nonetheless continue to refuse to talk about Cambodia.

 

We are writing to ask you to make a commitment to talking about Cambodia in an open forum.  We are requesting that if you become president for the next four years, that you set up an independent panel or commission to determine once and for all what happened in Cambodia during the war, what role the United States played in supporting the Khmer Rouge after the war, and what our country’s responsibility is to the survivors of the Cambodian holocaust?

 

We look forward to your response and pledge to disseminate it throughout the Cambodian American community.

 

 

With Respect,

 

 

Theanvy Kuoch

Coordinator

Cambodian Health Network

 

If you would like to sign on to this letter, please click here.

 



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