Cambodia Reading: Khmer Rouge tribunal of little concern for young Cambodians

by John Einar Sandvand on April 5, 2009

Most young people in Cambodia have poor knowledge of the Khmer Rouge years.

Young people are ignorant of Khmer Rouge

Young friends relaxing in Battambang


Cambodia Reading: Every week or so I pick articles which I have found to be worth reading on one or more topics.

One of the main stories dominating news from Cambodia this week has been the start of the substantive hearings in the trial against Khmer Rouge torture chief Duch.

Yet this may seem to be of little concern to many young people in the poor country.

One reason is this: More than half of the population in Cambodia is born after 1979, when Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime were ousted from power. Even though their parents and grandparents were among the victims of the brutal regime, many young people thus are ignorant about this history, as this article from Associated Press describes. Hardly anything is being tought about the Khmer Rouge years in schools and many old people hesitate to talk to their children and grandchildren about it.

A recent study by the Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkely documented that more than 80 per cent of Cambodians under the age of 29 said that their knowledge of the Khmer Rouge years was “poor” or “very poor”.

New text books for the schools are underway and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia is running an outreach program to educate people about the history. However, critics are pointing out that only a very small portion of the court’s budget has been allocated for community outreach. This is one of the topics discussed in this excellent article from The Independent, which sums up this week’s events nicely.


From Cambodia Tales:


Another interesting side aspect of the tribunal proceedings against Duch is the former torture chief’s conversion to Christianiy.  This may be one reason why he decided to ask his victims for forgiveness.

For more on this topic I recommend you to read the well written article “God and genocide” in Asia Times.

Also recommended is Sopheap Chak’s blog article “Khmer Rouge trials will not bring justice”.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

PinaywifeSpeaks April 9, 2009 at 6:05 am

I've observed that too.. My Khmer nieces and nephews are mostly unaware of what happened during the Khmer Rouge years. My mother-in-law frequently complains about this saying young people have no regard about life and would always like to have fun perhaps because they have never known or experienced hunger and hardships like they did during the Khmer Rouge years.

While the period can be described as gruesome and horrible, I believe its a must that the younger generation be taught the lessons of the past..

Great blog.. will add you to my recommended links..

PInaywifespeaks, blogging and exploring Cambodia culture

Reply

John Einar Sandvand April 9, 2009 at 1:42 pm

I agree that it is a must that the younger generation be taught the lessons of the past.

Thank you for adding Cambodia Tales to your recommended links. I appreciate that.

Reply

John Einar Sandvand April 9, 2009 at 1:42 pm

I agree that it is a must that the younger generation be taught the lessons of the past.

Thank you for adding Cambodia Tales to your recommended links. I appreciate that.

Reply

Cambodia April 27, 2009 at 5:34 am

As a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime, I can't say I'm too enthusiastic about the current tribunal. Trying a handful of surviving Khmer Rouge leaders is unlikely to deliver neither justice nor closure for Cambodians. After all, Pot Pol and many top leaders have already died peacefully in their sleeps. Not on trial are the countless lower level KR cadres who were "just following orders".

Reply

John Einar Sandvand April 27, 2009 at 9:04 pm

But isn't it better to try a few of the senior leaders than none of them? I would think it would at least give some sense of justice to the many victims. Or am I mistaken?

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