Author Chanty Jong comes back to Rowan to discuss life under the Khmer Rouge regime

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Author Chanty Jong returns to Rowan to educate students about Cambodian genocide and the impacts of it on her life. - Staff Writer / Isaac Linsk

The Rowan Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights (RCHGHR) hosted Chanty Jong on Oct. 26, 2023, to discuss her memoir. 

Professor Jody Russell Manning gave an introductory information session from 6:30-7:00 p.m., as people filed into the room, offering candy to those signing in so they could have something sweet while preparing to discuss something bitter. 

The few dozen students, staff, and guests gathered in Discovery Hall, where Chanty Jong, author of “Running Towards The Guns” came to speak. 

Graduates and undergraduates alike all had copies of Jong’s book in front of them, along with notebooks, tablets, and other ways to take notes. Jong’s book is required reading for Manning’s class.

“Chom reap sour,” said Jong, using a standard Cambodian greeting to start things off. 

Despite the dark subject matter at hand, Jong brought an air of joy to the classroom. Beginning with a short summary of her book for those not in Manning’s class, she recounted her experiences as a child under the Khmer Rouge regime

The trauma of being an 8-year-old living in the jungles of Cambodia was the main focus. Her journey to America was equally as important to the discussion, having gone with smugglers to cross a minefield in order to find herself at a UN refugee camp outside of Bangkok.

The decision to go on this journey wasn’t an easy one to make, Jong recalled the advice her mother gave her when it came time to decide between joining the army or escaping the country. 

“Always lay out the options before making a decision,” said Jong.

She went on to describe the decision to leave coming from a strong fear of carrying guns.

She spent 4 years at the Bangkok refugee camp before being sponsored by a Presbyterian church in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania to come to America. 

It was Jong’s third time speaking at the school. The first was when the featured speaker at Rowan’s annual Dr. Paul B. Winkler Lecture series in 2021. Since then Prof. Manning has had Jong back twice, not only to speak to his comparative genocide classes but to the Rowan community as a whole. 

“I think this is where scholarship in the future should go, Of course, it’s important that we definitely find out what happened during the genocide … but what happened after? How are survivors dealing with it or not dealing with it… it’s just invaluable for the students to meet her” said Manning. 

The RCHGHR is hosting its next event on Tuesday, November 7. It will be Climate Change and Global Security” with Alex Alvarezin Wilson 212 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. as part of the Hollybush Series.  

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