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article imageInvestigator of Cambodian genocide wins 'Asia's Nobel'

By AFP     Jul 26, 2018 in World

A Cambodian who has devoted his life to documenting the killing of almost two million of his countrymen in the 1970s was named Thursday 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.

Polio victim Vo Thi Hoang Yen, 52, was awarded for her work in assisting the disabled in Vietnam, while 56-year-old Maria De Lourdes Martins Cruz received an award for founding an institute to help the poor in her native East Timor, the organisers said.

Another awardee, Howard Dee, 87, was once head of a major Philippine drug company but gave up his career to help the poor including through peace efforts with local communist guerrillas and Muslim separatists.

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