Remembering Cambodian Border Camps, 40 Years Later

Organized by Y-Dang Troeung, Photographed by Colin Grafton

Only recently have artists and scholars begun to reflect more on the meaning of Cambodian history after 1979, when hundreds of thousands of Cambodian refugees fled overland to the refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian border. The largest of these camps was Khao-I-Dang Holding Center (KID), a refugee camp that expanded to the size of a small city of over 130,000 people in 1980. Here, and in other refugee camps along the border, Cambodian people lived out their lives as intervals of loss and joy, awaiting resettlement in Western asylum countries or repatriation back to Cambodia.

The exhibition will bring together the voices of artists, activists, and community members for a collective conversation focused on Cambodia’s artistic renaissance today, with a focus on remembering the history of Cambodian border camps.

In addition to the online exhibition you are visiting, this exhibition is also on display at the Bophana Center​ from today until August 14, 2021. Please send a message to the Bophana Center’s Facebook page (Bophana Center) or email at to book a place. The center can only accommodate 10 people at a time.

This exhibition will take place alongside a series of related events throughout the month of July. Please follow the Bophana Center’s website or Facebook page.

This event is sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Histories Research Cluster at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

  • July 1, 2021 · 6:00 pmOnline
  • Bophana Center
  • Exhibitions

Refugees — 40 years later, Photos from the Thai-Kampuchean border, 1980

About the photographer: Colin Grafton

Sacks of rice ready for distribution at the Nong Chan “Land Bridge”.

People waited for hours in the grueling midday heat to get a sack of rice.

A weary family rests on the road back into Cambodia.

Thousands of Khmers came to collect rice.

A happy family with their sack of rice

Khao I Dang Holding Centre was a bamboo city under construction in May 1980.

An elaborate bamboo mobile at Khao I Dang.

Cooking rice in a supplementary feeding centre for mothers and children.

At Sakaeo Holding Centre (the “Khmer Rouge camp”), an audience of thousands watches a comedy show.

Waterholes at Sakaeo in the rainy season became health hazards. The site was moved to avoid a cholera outbreak.

At Nong Samet, a young girl struggles to carry water through the rain.

At Nong Mak Mun a banner reads “Khmer people stay here living by humanitarian aid”. A few weeks later, it was destroyed in a Vietnamese attack.

A classical dance class at Khao I Dang.