The Kingdom's darkest chapter will be in mainstream curriculum for the first time in schools across the country
Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Cham Muslims visit the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh in this file photo.
TEACHING THE PAST
The Documentation Center of Cambodia
(DC-Cam) has already trained up to 1,000 teachers on how to teach high
school students about the Khmer Rouge regime. In 2009, it will launch
workshops for teachers throughout the provinces.
THE history of the Pol Pot regime, which
has up to now received virtually no attention in Cambodian textbooks,
will be taught in classrooms across the country as early as this year,
according to an Education Ministry official.
"We will include the history of Democratic Kampuchea in the next school
program," Ton Sa Im, an undersecretary of state with the ministry, told
the Post Wednesday.
The much-anticipated curriculum project was not expected to get off the
ground until the end of next year, but according to Youk Chhang, the
director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) and designer
of the project, a textbook detailing the 1975-79 regime has already
been completed ahead of the 2008-09 school cycle.
"We have finished the textbook and are cooperating with the Ministry of
Education to put Khmer Rouge history into the school program this
year," he said.
The ministry approved plans in May that would expose young Cambodians
to the darkest chapter of their history, training over 1,000 teachers
on how to convey the topic sensitively.
"The purpose of the new curriculum is to make the younger generation
know the true history of the country," Ton Sa Im said. "We should not
forget what happened," She added, saying that all students would
eventually be able to learn about this important time in history.
"The lessons will go from one era to the next, and we will allow study from primary school up to high school," she said.
Uncovering a hidden past
Until this year, the government,
which includes many former members of the violent regime, has been
reluctant to resurrect details of the notorious period. As a result,
many young people simply don't believe the events happened.
"My son and daughter never believe me when I tell them about what
happened," Te Sao Varine, deputy of Santhormok High School, said.
All khmer people must know about khmer rouge regime history.
"But if they have it in the school program they will believe it because it will come from their teacher."
Khoun Sopheakna, a student at Norton University, said she was proud
that her generation will now have a chance to set the record straight.
"I am very proud that the young Khmer generation will have the chance to know about the cruelty of Pol Pot's regime," she said.
"But I think that high school is better than primary school to study it
because some [students] are too young to learn about it and it will
impact their feelings."
Mai Day Ny, a student at NUM University, said it was an important part
of history to learn because it showed how the decisions of some could
affect an entire nation.
"All Khmer people must know about Khmer Rouge regime history because it
shows that only one man can lead a country to good or bad," she said,
adding, however, that she was also worried that it might prompt
negative emotions among her classmates.
"I am worried this project will impact the feeling of students because
they will think about the bad things that happened in the Cambodia of
The announcement of progress in educational reconciliation comes,
ironically, as judicial means to rectify the past at the Khmer Rouge
tribunal are delayed until an unknown date next year. Youk Chhang said
that this part of the textbook could be amended.
"When the Khmer Rouge Tribunal finishes, we can update the book and conduct more research," he said.