Learning from past mistakes as we move into the future

Learning from past mistakes as we move into the future

March 18, 1970, marked the beginning of civil war in Cambodia. It was the day when the head of state, Prince Sihanouk, was deposed and it was also the day that Cambodia was plunged into the civil war, then later genocide and the current trauma and injustice. On that day, protests and turmoil were seen everywhere – both in the cities and the countryside. On March 18, 2011, exactly 41 years later, Cambodia is still struggling to learn from its mistakes and to prevent those mistakes from happening again.

On March 18, 2011 an anti-slogan ceremony was held at Chab Ampov High School with the purposes of preventing future conflicts or genocide and to promote reconciliation in Cambodia after the civil war, genocide and guerilla war. Unlike 41 years ago, on March 18 this year approximately 1,000 students learned about the history of Cambodia and what happened in the last three and four decades. They welcomed the anti-genocidal memorial erected in their school compound. Some students had a chance to ask questions they had longed to get answers for.

Where did the words “Khmer Rouge” come from?
The name Khmer Rouge was coined by Prince Sihanouk for his communist opponents in the 1960s.

Why did the Khmer Rouge not allow children to study?
The Khmer Rouge did allow children to study, but those children were only taught to know how to read and write. The children were taught about communist ideology and not to depend on their parents.

Why did the Khmer Rouge accept donations from China?
From the 1960s until the early ‘70s, the Khmer Rouge received support from Vietnam. However, in the early 1970s, the Khmer Rouge began to move away from Vietnamese influence and strengthened Chinese relations.

Did the Khmer Rouge destroy ancient temples during the Khmer Rouge regime?
This is a very tough question. I believe that temples were not destroyed, but those ancient temples were left unpreserved and without proper and regular maintenance.

How many embassies operated in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge?
There were nine countries that had embassies in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime. They were Egypt, China, Laos, Cuba, Romania, North Korea, Albania, Yugoslavia and Vietnam. Diplomats, except China’s, were confined to their embassies.

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