Thursday, 29 March 2012

Learning Lessons From the Khmer Rouge

Filed under: Cambodia,News Watch Blog,Transitional Justice — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:45 PDT

PHNOM PENH – For four years, Wan Preung toiled in the fields under the Khmer Rouge, unable to speak his mind. But after the regime fell in 1979, there was still one sensitive subject the teacher could seldom broach with his students: the Khmer Rouge.

“It was difficult to teach the students about the Khmer Rouge, because we didn’t know this story clearly,” Preung says. “We didn’t have much information in our books.”

When students asked, Preung would tell them about his own experiences living under a regime responsible for the deaths of an estimated one-quarter of the population. But for years, Cambodian history textbooks contained only a brief mention of the Khmer Rouge. The country’s political future was still uncertain in the aftermath of the regime, and the facts of the Khmer Rouge rule were obscured by the politics of the era.

“We couldn’t talk much,” Preung says. “It was so political, so we didn’t want to say much about it.” Khmer Rouge was the name given to followers of the Communist Party, that was held responsible for mass killing of perceived opponents during its rule 1975-1979.

But more than three decades after the Khmer Rouge collapsed, the mood is changing.

In 2009, Cambodia approved its first ever textbook on Khmer Rouge history. It’s now a part of the school curriculum. Before instructors can teach their students about the past, however, Cambodia’s history teachers must learn it themselves.

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The Tortuous Path to Justice in Cambodia

Filed under: Cambodia,Transitional Justice — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:44 PDT

HONG KONG — To watch the court proceedings, to hear the lawyers’ objections, to sit through the delays and the quibbles and the endless parsing of words, it’s enough to make a good number of Cambodians want to simply unshackle the prisoners and set them free. Game over.

But these prisoners — they’re just three arrogant old men now — had once been the most senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge, the ruthless Communist regime that killed 1.7 million Cambodians. The court’s raison d’etre now seems to spin less and less around the horrors the men perpetrated and how much prison time they should serve; more to the point is how they are being judged by the United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh…

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