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Arts & Culture

May 4th Center Explores Kent State's Cambodia Connection in This Year's Remembrance

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Kent State University’s May 4th Center is highlighting this week the tragic period of history in Southeast Asia that followed America’s involvement in Vietnam, the Cambodian Genocide.

WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair reports that a survivor of one Cambodia’s most notorious prisons will share his remarkable story tonight.

It was America’s incursion into Cambodia in 1970 that sparked protests at Kent State which led to the National Guard's killing of four students and the wounding of nine.

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Chum Mey, right, and translator and KSU grad student Sokvisal Kimsroy stand next to the bell that symbolizes the start of the 1970 protests at Kent State.

As part of this year’s remembrance, the May 4th Center is hosting three days of discussions on “Cambodia After Kent State.”

Featured tonight is Chum Mey, who is one of only seven people, out of the 12,000 who passed through the infamous S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, to survive the ordeal.

Speaking through a translator, Mey credits his faith in Buddha and his thoughts of family for carrying him through.

“The spirit of my ancestor and my mother who have done good deeds and who have looked after me and I have never forgot the good things they have done for me. That’s how I survived.”

Chum Mey is author of the memoir Survivor

Mindy Farmer is director of the May 4th Center.

She says the discussion this week digs deeper into America’s involvement in Indochina.

“If we want to look at the history of Cambodia and the United States, it really intersects at Kent State. There’s no other place where the two countries’ histories come together in such a powerful way, so it makes sense for us to explore this connection.”

Events tonight through Thursday include the experiences of two survivors of Cambodia’s infamous ‘killing fields’, and a film exploring Cambodian pop culture in the ‘60’s.