Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Youth need to know what happened



Youth need to know what happened

Youth need to know what happened

Many high school and university students in Cambodia are not well aware of the history

of Democratic Kampuchea. And many also seem to have little grasp of world history

and politics. During the campaigns preceding the 2003 national elections, for example,

the media solicited several high school students' opinions about the characteristics

of the leaders they would like to see elected in Cambodia. One 15-year old boy said

that he wanted to have a good leader who loves the nation like Hitler, is serious

like Stalin, is friendly like Churchill, respects ideals like Lincoln, and is brave

like Napoleon. Impressionable and ill-educated youth like this boy might be easily

persuaded to adopt extreme and possibly dangerous ideologies, as did the Khmer Rouge.

Some Khmer Rouge survivors wanted to live in the dark past of the Khmer Rouge regime

because of their recent poor living conditions, while others believed that the Khmer

Rouge policy was very good, but bad in terms of arbitrary killing. This is because

those people lost their spouse, children, and relatives during the Khmer Rouge regime;

hold up many painful memories; and also lost productive forces. This is also seen

as a grim sign of the Khmer Rouge atrocities torment Cambodia's youth.

Cambodian youth need to learn their country's history if they are to help build a

nation that does not repeat the mistakes of its past. One of these "mistakes"

was the rise of the Khmer Rouge. Their massive violations of human rights and their

responsibility for the deaths of 2 million people must be fully understood by more

than the regime's survivors and a handful of scholars. Without addressing the historical

truths about the Democratic Kampuchea regime, the leaders who were responsible for

committing one of the most extreme genocides of modern history will not be held accountable.

They will continue to live with impunity, as they have for the nearly 24 years since

the regime fell.

Future generations of Cambodians need to see how the shadow of Democratic Kampuchea

still hangs over Cambodia today. By killing those with education and those who might

voice opposition to the regime, by tearing families apart, by destroying both commerce

and the arts, and by traumatizing and entire nation with fear and grief, the Khmer

Rouge nearly destroyed Cambodia's culture. It has also hindered the country's development.

Providing a brighter future for Cambodia will be a long-term process. It will involve

reconstructing the economy, strengthening the organs of democracy, and educating

the younger generation about the consequences of the past. It will also involve forgiveness

and reconciliation, which will allow us to heal and move forward. Only when we understand

our past can we move toward a society that respects the rule of law and individual

freedom.

- Vannak Huy - Researcher, Documentation Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh

(Vannak Huy is the author of The Khmer Rouge Division 703: From Victory to Self-Destruction).

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

    The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.