(A National Coalition of Cambodian Communities Working
President George W. Bush
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
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
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
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.
Cambodian Health Network
If you would like to sign on to this letter, please click here.