The Student News Site of Taipei American School




Surviving the Cambodian Genocide


The Blue and Gold interviewed Loung Ung, who recently visited TAS for the second time, on her experiences living through the Cambodian genocide and becoming a human-rights activist.
B&G: What are the most important things you want someone to take away after reading your book?
Ung: I want people to know how hard it takes for people to survive war. The people in these countries have to struggle since day one with the same intensity, strategies, and commitments as day 3000. For people living through war, every day is a day you have to work to survive – trying to find food, trying to keep yourself sane, trying to keep your family together, and trying to avoid the land mines and soldiers.
B&G: Was it hard to put yourself back in those moments when writing about it?
Ung: It was very emotionally and physically difficult. When I was writing my book, I lined my floor with pictures of people who had been killed, listened to Cambodian music, and ate Cambodian food. I wanted to isolate myself and feel afraid to capture the story as truthfully as possible. I wanted to capture the setting, the color, the music, and the sound of the place.
B&G: Why did you decide to speak about your experiences?
Ung: I feel very empowered and strong when I tell people what happened. It’s my way of still fighting. It’s difficult to hear and speak it, but its reality. It should be hell. The difficult part about speaking is that I’m much stronger standing up and screaming than showing my emotions. But I need to be honest in my storytelling.
B&G: What is your opinion on wartime and conflict zone media coverage?
Ung: There’s this saying, if it bleeds, it leads. If it’s horrible, it’ll make the front page. A good investigative report takes you through the horrible parts into where the humanity exists. If we show people only the horrible parts of war, we’re basically shoving fear down everybody’s throats.
B&G: What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a difference?
Ung: In the US alone, there are over a million charitable organizations registered. You don’t have to do it alone. There are so many people who want to help. Connect with them and work with them. This world needs your talents and capabilities.
To learn more about Loung Ung and her story, visit her website at

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