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Cambodia: News of a son after 25 years

23-12-1999 News Release 99/51

Aun (all names have been changed to protect the people involved) had never lost hope that her son Meth was still alive, even though she had not heard from him for 25 years. Together with her husband and four other children, she prayed for some news of Meth, a former monk who left his native Kompot province with the Khmer Rouge guerrilla fighters in 1975.

Years of war and hardship went by. After the fighting died down, the postal service remained disrupted in most areas and many Cambodians simply lacked the means to go searching for their relatives.

In 1995 Aun asked the Red Cross to help her trace her missing son. Since 1989 the ICRC has been actively supporting the efforts of the Cambodian Red Cross tracing agency to reunite relatives separated by long years of conflict. The agency has so far managed to trace 20,767 persons in the country and abroad but it has had difficulty gaining access to certain areas: those that used to be controlled by the Khmer Rouge were off-limits and many areas are still mined.

In December 1999 the Red Cross finally tracked down Aun's son in Samlot province, in western Cambodia. Now 44 years old, he was living there with his wife and three children, whose photos he attached to the message which the Red Cross workers took back to his family:

" Dear father, mother and siblings,

I miss all of you very much. For many years I had no news of you and could not tell you anything about myself. I did not know whether you were alive and well. "

Knowing how anxious people are to find their missing relatives, he added:

" Please tell your neighbour Em that I have not seen her brother, my good friend Kem, since 1973. I have been looking for him everywhere, but in vain. "

Nearly 8,000 Cambodians are still searching for their loved ones through the Red Cross. Many of them were separated from their relatives more than 20 years ago. Aun's story shows how important it is to keep hope alive.