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Letter: We need to teach history

Dear Editor,

I am dumbfounded by the argument that teaching Cambodian children about the Khmer

Rouge's atrocities may do more harm to the society than not ("Khmer Rouge kept

out of the schoolroom" Post, April 14).

It is absurd. To argue that eventually Cambodian children will be able to learn [for

themselves] about the atrocity committed between 1975-1979 is nonsense. As the article

reveals, many Cambodian children born after 1979, or even before, don't know much

about the genocide in which an estimated 1.7 million of their people were slaughtered

by the blood-soaked hands of those who still today roam the country as free men.

It is shameful that the children are not given an opportunity to learn about the

dark history of their country, of the atrocities committed under the Democratic Kampuchea

régime. The crimes committed between 1975-79 were horrendous; unequaled in

the 20th century.

Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Mao Tse-tung each murdered more people then Pol Pot

and his henchmen, but none of them managed to slaughter one-quarter of their nation's

population. The Killing Fields was not a minor crime that for the sake of national

reconciliation the nation has to bury and to forget, as in the words of Khieu Samphan,

one of the perpetrators, "Let bygones bygones". It would be horrendous

to bury this history.

Moreover, the assertion that children [if taught this history] would be angry and

take revenge on those Khmer Rouge, including rank-in-file soldiers, who are integrated

into society, is again absurd.

First of all, many Cambodians know who many of those Khmer Rouge soldiers are; some

of them are their neighbors now. Second, the assertion is, in my opinion, based on

an irrational assumption that the children, whether they are in primary school or

university level, have neither brain nor intelligence to rationalize what they are

being taught. This has been an attitude of Cambodian rulers.

Children for sure will not be out of control if they are instructed to learn and

to discuss the issue properly. It is vital for the future of the nation. They have

to learn the mistake of their fanatical elders in order to avoid its repetition.

On the contrary, they will indeed be out of control if they are calculatedly and

blindly cajoled as was done during the DK regime.

The Killing Fields era was the darkest segment of Cambodia's long, tumultuous history.

It effectively destroyed the nation. It is a brutal episode of history that neither

Cambodians nor the world would ever want to see repeated.

Therefore, even though it is going to be gruesome or as some people claim will have

some effect on the fragile peace that the country is enjoying now, Cambodian children

should not be deprived from learning about it. The good will surely outweigh the

bad.

History, in the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, is a stepping-stone

into the future. As such, all Cambodians, especially the generation after the genocide

era, have to learn about it for the nation to be able to rebuild itself and confidently

move forward.

They have to be able to learn the good, the bad, and the ugly of their country's

history. To deprive the children whom Cambodia depends upon in the future would,

quite the opposite, do more damage to the society.

The mistake would never be learnt, and the unwanted history would only repeat itself.

Cambodian students have been held hostage for so long by their ruling elite, who

often whitewash the history in which they personally play a part. The country's long

history is being taught to children only selectively.

Come on, it is the 21st century; it is an opportunity to set them free. Let the students

learn reality.

Eng Vises, Burian, Washington State, USA

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