In his second day of testimony before the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, former Khmer Rouge cadre Neang Ouch touched on education and re-education under the Democratic Kampuchea (DK) regime.
Ouch, known by his alias “Ta San” during Pol Pot’s bloody reign, told Nuon Chea co-lawyer Victor Koppe that after school buildings were destroyed during Cambodia’s civil war, school children under the Khmer Rouge lacked basic resources, including classrooms.
In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, students were taught to respect the values of the revolution and appreciate the necessity of physical labour for the betterment of their villages, said Ouch, who oversaw more than 100 teachers.
“For children, the main purpose of teaching was to teach them how to write and read,” Ouch told the tribunal. “The second purpose was to teach them to love the revolution and Democratic Kampuchea and to work hard and to do labour for their village and commune and cooperative, and make sure children had good morality.”
When Koppe asked Ouch to compare the quality of education under the rule of Pol Pot to that under Hun Sen after he was absorbed into the government in the mid-1990s as a youth and sport official, Ouch answered that the education children received under the current regime had improved markedly.
By 1995, students had access to classrooms, and had foreign languages such as English and Thai included in their curricula, Ouch told the court.
“The war from 1970 to 1975 . . . had a great impact on school buildings, pagodas, and the children had no chance to study in buildings,” Ouch recalled. “But the education in 1995 and 1996 was better, because we had better classrooms. In the Democratic Kampuchea period, sometimes we taught students under a tree.”
Earlier in the testimony, Koppe inquired about the use of “re-education”. People who committed crimes considered minor – such as “stealing out of hunger” – were subjected to half-day sessions for first offences, with longer periods for repeat offenders, Ouch said.
Ouch’s testimony yesterday also touched on forced marriages. Ouch said arranged marriages were largely consensual, but noted two cases of which he was aware, where couples asked for separations. In one case, a woman was granted a 10-day separation from her husband, before reunification, Ouch said.
Ouch’s testimony continues this morning.