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Tuesday, April 14, 1998 Published at 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK


A new dawn for Cambodia
image: [ A new dawn for Cambodia ]
A new dawn for Cambodia

Cambodian military commanders say they are confident that the Khmer Rouge is facing imminent collapse following the defection of about 3,000 guerillas to the government side. It is nearly 20 years since the guerillas devastated the country killing more than a million people. The Khmer Rouge may be close to extinction the after-effects of its brutal rule are still felt. The BBC's South East Asia reporter Enver Solomon reports on how Cambodians are learning to cope with their past:

[ image: Behind the smiles are bitter memories]
Behind the smiles are bitter memories
The beauty of Cambodia gives the impression of a nation at peace with itself.

But the horrors of the past and memories of torture and killing still linger on.

There is not a single family throughout the country who was not been touched by the genocide of the Khmer Rouge.

Youk Chang, of the Cambodia Genocide Project said: "Cambodians do not have hope anymore. It is a terrible thing as a human being to live without hope. People do not trust each other. People live day by day."

[ image: Youk Chang says Cambodians no longer have any hope]
Youk Chang says Cambodians no longer have any hope
But mental health workers have taken up the task of healing the scars of the Pol Pot years.

They are travelling through remote villages in the northern part of the country.

The region was labelled as an experimental zone by the Khmer Rouge and turned into a vast labour camp where no-one escaped the brutality and most people lost some or all of their families.

Many of the villagers now have drink problems as a result of their suffering.

[ image: Many Cambodians lost their families during the genocide]
Many Cambodians lost their families during the genocide
The trauma of the past has wrecked their lives and left them unable to cope but they have started to come together in groups twice a week to share their problems.

Kim Saphorn, mental health worker said: "Some people don't want to talk about what happened. They keep it in their mind and think about it there."

The health workers are training local doctors to continue the programme so that more people can receive the counselling they need.

[ image: Mental health worker: Kim Saphorn]
Mental health worker: Kim Saphorn
However foreign psychiatrists working alongside local people say that Cambodia's continuing political instability is hindering the healing process.

Only last year fighting broke out between the country's two feuding prime ministers.

Doctor Daya Somasundaram said: "If they are given a chance of some peace and stability then past memories which upset them will not be evoked."


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