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Megan Poe
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My name is Megan Poe and I’m an English (writing concentration) and Philosophy double major at Northern. My concurrent experience with being published in and interning for literary magazines has landed...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion-- A list of regrets before I graduate
Opinion-- A list of regrets before I graduate
Sal Wiertella March 1, 2024

Activist speaks about importance of culture

Child prostitution is a problem that has run rampant in Cambodia, and to help curb this dilemma, a program run by a renowned human rights activist is taking children off the street and teaching them traditional Cambodian music.

“If you don’t learn about who you are through your culture, it will die and you will die too,” said Arn Chorn-Pond in a speech Sunday in the Great Lakes Rooms of the University Center
Chorn-Pond spoke to a small crowd about his experiences as a Cambodian child living through the mass killings brought on by the rule of the Khmer Rouge.

The Khmer Rouge assumed control of Cambodia in 1975 and millions of Cambodians were murdered during its four-year reign.

“It was like hell beyond words. I can’t explain it,” Chorn-Pond said.

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Though the brutal reign of the Khmer Rouge ended over two decades ago, the country is still feeling the aftershock.

Traditional Cambodian music and dance have almost been erased, Chorn-Pond said.
There is also a large amount of child prostitution, which is a major problem in Cambodia, he added.

Chorn-Pond’s organization, entitled Cambodian Living Arts (CLA), takes young prostitute children and teaches them traditional Cambodian music and dances as an alternative way to earn money by paying them the same wages they would receive from prostituting themselves.

The 8 year-old program currently supports 16 master musicians and nearly 300 students, according to the CLA Web site.

Chorn-Pond said he hopes to bring about a Cambodian cultural renaissance by 2020.

“War and killing not only kill people, but the whole culture goes with it,” he said.
He said he feels extremely passionate about preserving Cambodian culture and ending child prostitution.

“It’s very emotional for me. It’s very heartbreaking,” he said.

Chorn-Pond said he was able to survive the reign of the Khmer Rouge because of his revolutionary flute playing.

“Music saved my life. I have to go back and pay my respect to the music,” he said.

Chorn-Pond was taken from his family during Khmer Rouge’s first year of power, and was forced to live in a Buddhist Temple with 500 other children.

He said he was constantly afraid for his life, and thought he may be shot for his lighter skin tone and slender fingers, which caused the Khmer Rouge guards to believe he was rich.

However, when the guards asked for volunteers to play the flute, Chorn-Pond said he knew that playing music for them may have been his only chance of survival.
Five children were originally picked to play the flute, but after two years, Chorn-Pond was only one of two left alive. He said that his flute-playing was the only reason the guards did not kill him.

Eventually, Chorn-Pond was placed in the Khmer Rouge army where he was forced to kill and to watch as children he had become friends with were killed.

After he could no longer stand army duty, Chorn-Pond escaped into the jungle, ultimately traveling to the Thailand border, where he was adopted by an American man who brought him back to the United States.

He said he now spends his time trying to help people, and pleaded with students to not “become potatoes.” He encouraged everyone to do something to help other people, saying that he can think of nothing else he’d rather do.

“I am honored to be doing what I’ve been doing,” he said.

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