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‘A long road if we don’t walk together’

Dear Editor,

It has been 25 years since the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement. Peace remains a fragile one in Cambodia. As one of the beneficiaries from the agreement, and in my role now as director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, I would like to highlight the work of the Anlong Veng Peace Center and its contribution to the peaceful process. Peace will remain to be a long road for all Cambodians if we don’t walk together.

The Anlong Veng Peace Center is dedicated to memory, reconciliation and peace building, and it achieves these objectives through peace studies and genocide education. Peace studies represent the Center’s effort to identify and analyse violent and nonviolent behaviours as well as structural mechanisms that precipitate conflict. Genocide education represents the centre’s effort to establish curricula that address the fundamental questions of what happened and why during the Khmer Rouge period. Both educational approaches are utilised with a view towards encouraging peace, education and the rule of law.

The Center’s new headquarters office is situated in Anlong Veng – the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge regime. Working closely with the local community, schools and tourism officials, the centre looks forward to bridging the divide between the former Khmer Rouge and Cambodia’s younger generation. The intent of the centre is to provide a variety of educational and tourism-related programs that help preserve the oral and physical history of the region as well as building peace and reconciliation between generations and across social divides.

The centre not only aims to provide a critical understanding of Cambodia’s violent history, but it also seeks to convey a basic understanding of different theories on conflict resolution and transformation. Using its new office space as a headquarters, the centre will meet its objectives through future programs centring on interactive discussions, guided tours of local historical sites and a curriculum that uses individual stories to convey historical and moral lessons. The tours will be rehabilitative to victims and former Khmer Rouge cadres in that they will provide victims and former cadres an opportunity to reflect on and impart their understanding of their experiences during the Democratic Kampuchea period and the civil war years (1979-1998) that followed.

Through face-to-face discussions with victims and former Khmer Rouge cadres, the program will challenge participants to contemplate the diversity of human experience (both instances of humanity and inhumanity) during times of conflict and social upheaval. The stories validate the significance of individual human beings, and they help foster the most basic components of conflict transformation and civic skills.

Concepts such as the ability to reflect, think objectively and empathise with others are cornerstones to any peaceful, democratic society. The project will focus on historical empathy as its core objective, and the students, teachers and tour guides who attend the program will be responsible for serving as representatives in their local communities, sharing their learning and insights.

The establishment of the Anlong Veng Peace Center in Anlong Veng represents a start of the Center’s work towards its mutually reinforcing aims of Peace, Education, and Sustainable Tourism. Through these core objectives, the Center aims to become a leading institution for the development of sustainable approaches to achieving reconciliation and peace in Cambodia and the region.

Youk Chhang
Director, Documentation Center of Cambodia

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