Attendees at this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day, held at Leeds Town Hall, heard a powerful speech given by special guest the Cambodian Ambassador, Her Excellency Dr Rathchavy Soeung, who gave a speech exploring this year’s theme ‘The Power of Words’ and describing her personal experience of genocide.
“I stand in front of you today, not only as the Cambodian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, but also as a victim and survivor of the Pol Pot Genocide regime in Cambodia… I lost everything… my parents… my brothers and sisters… my uncle and his whole family and dozens more relatives. I lost not just my loved ones but also my dreams, and any hope for the future…
Words that we choose to use always have an impact upon all of us. Words used to good effect can restore hope, courage and faith. At the same time, words that are used to speak ill continue to feed negative stereotypes, fuel tensions, increase vulnerabilities and incite violence…
But words can fight other words. And the words of survivors are of extreme importance. They contribute to the education of the people. Education is the driving force that will allow people to make the right decisions, choices that hopefully do not hurt anyone.
In my country more than 50% of the population were born after the Pol Pot’s regime. To many of them, this genocide seems so far off, even though their own parents lived through it. The books written by the survivors who are first hand witnesses of the horrors of that regime can help the younger generation to understand and adopt positive behaviours, so that they won’t have to live through the same ordeal.”
The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Jane Dowson said:
“I feel very humbled to be part of this year’s commemoration service at Leeds Town Hall. We must never forget these atrocities and Holocaust Memorial Day makes us reflect on all those needless lives lost and serve as a poignant reminder why it must never happen again.
This year’s theme ‘The Power of Words’ prompts us to think about how spoken and written words from individuals, corporations, community organisations or the state can have a huge impact, whether good or bad.”
Holocaust Memorial Day – the day for everyone to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi persecution and in the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The vision of Holocaust Memorial Day is to learn from the past in order to create a safer, better future.