DC-Cam publishes book on genocide

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Students look at the skulls of Khmer Rouge victims at the Choeung Ek Killing Field. Hong Menea

The Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) has published a book on historic incidents of genocide and mass murder and expressed its desire to see it included in the Cambodian school curriculum.

The book, Genocide and Mass Atrocities in World History: Overview for Cambodian Classrooms, looks at the mass atrocities committed against Armenians in World War I, the Holocaust of World War II and more recent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda.

DC-Cam director Chhang Youk said the English language edition had already been printed, while the Khmer version was in the process of having typographical errors corrected.

He said he expected that the Khmer language edition would be ready for distribution in schools in December.

“I hope this book and the curriculum will be merely a small piece of a spectrum of other actions to shape the next generation of Cambodians’ understanding of history,” Youk said on Wednesday.

The English edition details each case of genocide or mass atrocities over several pages, followed by discussion questions and short answers.

Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Hang Chuon Naron said in the book’s preface that genocide was not spontaneous.

“There was a long chain of circumstances that brought about violence, and there were always opportunities in which the precipitating events could have been different.

“We owe the next generation a better world, where genocide and mass atrocities do not lurk at their doorstep.

“Education is not a panacea for all inhumanity, but it is an important factor in our common struggle to shape our world for the next generation. This curriculum is a useful step forward in this struggle,” he said.

So Farina, one of the authors, said on Wednesday that the book would enable students to learn more about mass atrocities and genocide in other countries, in addition to what had happened in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.

She said it was written after four years of research using a scientific and objective approach.

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A woman prays at the memorial at the Choeung Ek Killing Field. Hong Menea

“We have books and texts, but which parts the ministry will take and put into the school curriculum we don’t know,” she said.

She said the book was best suited for Grade 9 and 12 students, and the first year of university.

Ministry of Education spokesperson Ros Soveacha said 70 per cent of Cambodians alive today did not go through the genocide.

Consequently, the study of genocide in Cambodia and around the world would help students understand the history and serve as the basis for generational dialogue.

He said World Wars I and II and the history of Democratic Kampuchea were currently part of the curriculum for Grade 9.

The history of Democratic Kampuchea and the Killing Fields were taught in Grade 12, he said.

He said there were additional documents the Ministry of Education had integrated into the teacher training curriculum in collaboration with DC-Cam, including the genocides against the Armenians, the Jews, the Kurds in Iraq, Muslims in Bosnia and the Tutsi in Rwanda, as well as in Cambodia.