Cambodian activist wins Magsaysay | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 27, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, July 27, 2018

Cambodian activist wins Magsaysay

A Cambodian who has devoted his life to documenting the killing of almost two million of his countrymen in the 1970s was yesterday named among the winners of this year's Magsaysay Awards, widely regarded as Asia's version of the Nobel prize.

Youk Chhang, 57, was given the award for his role as head for more than two decades of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an institute that investigates atrocities committed under the Khmer Rouge.

The Khmer Rouge was a murderous, ultra-Maoist organisation that killed one quarter of Cambodia's population from 1975 to 1979.

Youk's organisation aims to help victims of the brutal regime come to terms with their ordeal while ensuring that future generations do not forget the events.

Youk, who experienced torture and saw the death of many family members at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, said he undertook the work for his mother, who also suffered extensively during the genocide.

"I want her to be a free woman, not to carry all the tragedy in her heart and in her life," he was quoted as saying.

The Manila-based Ramon Magsaysay Award, named after a Filipino president killed in a plane crash, was established in 1957 to honour people and groups tackling development problems.

Two Indian nationals were separately honoured this year: Sonam Wangchuk, 51, who promotes alternative education systems in his home Himalayan region Ladakh; and Bharat Vatwani, 60, a psychiatrist who started a foundation to rescue people living on the streets with mental health problems.

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