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Health and Healing for Cambodian Survivors

A new series by KVPR reporter Soreath Hok explores the stories of Cambodian refugees who are still grappling with the trauma of war, decades after surviving a genocide that killed at least two million people in the 1970s.

One of the many colorful statues at the Cambodian Buddhist Temple in Fresno.
Gary Kazanjian
A statue of an Apsara, or female celestial figure featured prominently in Cambodian mythology. Captured at the Cambodian Buddhist Temple shown on Friday, July 7, 2022 in Fresno, Calif.

California is home to the largest population of Cambodians in the United States. According to the U.S. Census, approximately 6,700 live in Fresno, making it the fifth largest concentration in the state. Most Cambodians who first arrived in the country came as refugees in the 1980s. They were escaping the horrors of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, which orchestrated a genocide that killed at least two million people between 1975 to 1979.

Forty years after resettlement, this community is still grappling with the aftermath. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 62 percent of those who had lived through the regime suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and 51 percent face depression.

Many survivors are still in need of mental health treatment, but often face language and cultural barriers to access it. This series explores the mental health care options available to Cambodian survivors today and the role community plays in the healing process.

KVPR’s Soreath Hok reported this story while participating in the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s 2022 California Fellowship.