Thirty years after Cambodia’s worst nightmare and hell, the matter of the Khmer Rouge is now found in a secondary school textbook in the country. For the first time, the genocide will be taught. Unfortunately, its textbook entry is all of these few lines: “Between 25 and 27 April 1975, the Khmer Rouge leaders held an extraordinary congress to draft a new constitution and rename the country ‘Democratic Kampuchea.’ A new government, led by Pol Pot, fell into place, after which Cambodians were killed.”
That is all what students will know about the regime that killed nearly a quarter of the country’s population at that time. The very brief description that is not even half a page does not, at all, talk about genocide or that the Khmer Rouge turned Cambodia into a vast labor camp between 1975 and 1979 where more than 1.7 million people perished. There is a mention of the duration of Pol Pot’s regime as “three years, eight months and twenty days” but no mention of its genocidal proportions.
The collective amnesia curriculum has led to the following figures according to a survey conducted by the Center for Human Rights (University of Berkeley): only 6% of Cambodians designate the school as their first source of information on the subject, while 84% received it at home. A devastating effect on collective memory this. Two thirds of Cambodia’s population was born after the fall of Pol Pot, and many young Cambodians now ignore this period in their history. “When we talk to students of genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge, they think that it’s fiction,” says the Vice-Minister of Education.
The inclusion of the portion of Khmer Rouge in Cambodia’s official history is a sensitive subject. There had been debates on what should be the right way to teach it in school. Now, with its first ever mention in a classroom textbook, some details have been left out, such as the question of whether Vietnam “liberated” Cambodia in 1979. According to the Center of Human Rights, only 3% of Cambodians are now able to identify and name the five accused (Khieu Samphan, Duch, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, and Ieng Thirith).
They should not forget what is said about those who do not remember the past.
Via the star online