20 May: Day of Remembrance in Cambodia

In 1984, the Cambodian government declared 20 May a National Day of Remembrance, to commemorate the victims of the genocide in Cambodia that took place between 1975 and 1979.

Memorial at Choeung Ek, Cambodia © Giles Clarke/Getty Images

The Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia in April 1975 after years of guerrilla warfare, and ruthlessly imposed an extremist programme to reconstruct Cambodia on the communist model of Mao’s China. They aimed to remove social classes and Western influences from the country – creating a ‘Year Zero’.

It is estimated that well over two million people were murdered during this period, from execution, disease, exhaustion and starvation.

Sophari Ashley lost family members during the Genocide in Cambodia and was forced to leave her home in Phnom Penh aged ten:

I cannot forget my past. I suffer poor physical health as a result of the malnutrition, the over-work and beatings which I faced under the Khmer Rouge. And emotionally too, I still bear the scars. I suffer from anxiety and nightmares when reminded of what I went through.

Watch our short film about the genocide in Cambodia:

Download this video to use in your Holocaust Memorial Day activity here.

Explore our other dates to remember