Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A legacy for Cambodia




A legacy for Cambodia

A legacy for Cambodia

I moved back to Cambodia in March from Tampa Bay, Fla., an area jokingly called "God's waiting room" by many in the United States. While the region's population has skewed somewhat younger over the last couple decades, it remains a destination for retirees and baby boomer "snowbirds" - those who migrate to Florida seasonally as weather worsens in their hometowns.

This backdrop probably made the transition to Cambodia - Tampa Bay's demographic opposite - even more striking. Cambodia often feels like a country full of children. Packs of young people, many raising each other, throng Phnom Penh's streets and the countryside's villages. Teenagers and twenty-somethings linger outside the capital city's various universities and provide a regular clientele for new hangouts like Lucky Seven.

Sometimes it feels like I go days without seeing someone over the age of 30 - let alone 60.

While this youthful energy will no doubt help Cambodia evolve, it can also have dangerous consequences. Those who forget history "are doomed to repeat it," the saying goes. And with a huge percentage of the country's population born after the Khmer Rouge years, this could easily happen in modern-day Cambodia.

So the recent approval of a Killing Fields curriculum in Cambodia's schools is a wise move. The decision, made by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, came in response to a request made by DC-Cam director Youk Chhang.

In his official request, Youk suggested several initiatives be undertaken: preparation of a teacher's guide on Democratic Kampuchea, organization of training workshops for teachers, distribution of DC-Cam's Democratic Kampuchea textbooks to students and translation of textbooks into French, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese and Thai.

The timing of such an educational effort is appropriate. One of the major benefits that can come from a Khmer Rouge Tribunal is the creation of a historical record for young Cambodians. As Khmer Rouge survivor Sophal Stagg told me during an interview in Florida, if the tribunal operates in a societal vacuum, it will be millions of dollars wasted.

"They say they want to leave a legacy, but what kind of legacy is that?" she told me after her first visit to the ECCC complex. "There will be no justice without education."  

 

MOST VIEWED

  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,