A fighter: No Min, a Cham Muslim from Svay Khleang village, took part in an unsuccessful uprising against the Khmer Rouge in 1975.
The prevailing image of Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge is one of dignified suffering and passivity. But many resisted the regime in ways often overlooked by historians
“Sometimes, I miss the Khmer Rouge days,” says Youk Chhang, cradling a photograph of a field specked with trees and flowers in his hands. “That is where I lived during those times. People died there. My family died there. But in the mornings, when I went to work, I saw the flowers blossom, and I was so happy. It gave you hope. It meant you didn’t give in to the Khmer Rouge.”
Between April 1975 and January 1979, an estimated 1.5 million Cambodians died of starvation, execution or disease under the Khmer Rouge regime. Chhang’s relatives were among those who perished. As a teenager, he survived the entire four-year period.
“I was skinny like a skeleton with a rash all over my body and with no food, but I never thought of dying. I had hope that I would eat, see my family and have a better life one day,” says Chhang, now the executive director of Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam), an NGO that researches and records the Khmer Rouge era. “When you lose hope, you’re weak, you can die. So hope was a form of resistance.”
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