Most young people in Cambodia have poor knowledge of the Khmer Rouge years.
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:
- Trial of Duch: Video recordings of the first day
- Trial of Duch: Video recordings of the second day
- Khmer Rouge tribunal: Historic apology – and an obstructing prime minister
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”.