Statement of Bun Heang and Phiny Ung to the Australian National University

We are very fortunate to have survived the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. We endured and witnessed many acts of violence. We were separated from our loved ones, our families and friends, we lost our sense of belonging and it was a constant struggle to keep our sanity. We suffered a great deal of pain and torment, and the physical and emotional scars remain with us today.

We found security and freedom when we came to Australia as refugees in May 1980, we faced enormous challenges adapting to a new environment, culture and society. Every day we were very grateful for what we had been given, but the emotional suffering and horrifying memories were far too great to ignore. We found solace by talking and comforting each other when the children had gone to sleep. We were frustrated at not being able to communicate our experiences because of our limited English language skills, but we were determined to find a way to tell the world what had happened to us and our families and to many other Cambodians.

Using Bun's skills as an artist we began charting our personal experiences from the day the Khmer Rouge took power on 17 April 1975 until we left Cambodia. We talked while he sketched with pencil to ensure that, although we had no photographs or documentary evidence, we correctly remembered every event. It took more than two years to complete 90 drawings, which were finished in Indian ink. Some of the drawings were used to illustrate "The Murderous Revolution", a book that gives an account of our lives from 1975, written with Professor Martin Stuart-Fox and published in 1985.

While a handful of Khmer Rouge leaders are finally on trial more than 30 years after the overthrow of their murderous regime, we are concerned that younger generations of Cambodians are being taught only part of the truth about what happened. We feel honoured that the ANU has accepted our gift, and that the Menzies Library will care for the drawings and make them available to local and international scholars and researchers.

In making this gift we feel that we have fulfilled our duty to bear witness to the catastrophic history of the Khmer Rouge. We also hope that when our children search out their Cambodian roots they will see that these drawings accurately record the shared experience of their parents and the many others who were murdered during this terrible period.