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

  • Seven positive for Covid-19, Hun Sen confirms local transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that there has been local community transmission of Covid-19. However, he urged the people not to panic even though the Ministry of Health announced the discovery of seven new cases on Sunday. Among the victims are Chhem Savuth, the director-general

  • Without shoes or a helmet, a young cyclist steals the show

    Pech Theara gripped the curved handlebars of his rusty old bike, planted his bare feet on its pedals and stormed as fast as he could towards the finish line. The odds were against him as the 13-year-old faced off against kids with nicer bikes at

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway on schedule

    The construction of the more than $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has not been delayed despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 26 per cent of the project completed and expected to finish in about two years, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there