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Khmer Rouge’s Brutality Never Forgotten

On June 30, 2020 Anlong Veng Peace Center’s first-ever online forum on the history of Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979) was conducted for a month and engaged approximately 50 students and history teachers from two high schools in the Anlong Veng district from June 11-30, 2020. Its intention is to increase knowledge of this history, to present and elaborate on the definition of genocide and on preventive measures on individual, community and country levels, and to generate an online debate on these topics during the COVID-19 pandemic, as all schools in Cambodia and across the globe are closed.

At the beginning of the forum, Anlong Veng Peace Center’s team members, Sout Vechet, Hean Pisey and Mek Ven, coordinated this work with the high school directors and history teachers to create a Telegram group as it is the only viable channel of communication. It started with 37 students from Trapeang Tav High School and, later on, almost the same number of students from Anlong Veng High School. The group reached 67 by June 10, 2020. However, 50 students (28 female) were able to complete a pre-classroom survey before the forum started.

The forum started by focusing on three topics: a history of DK, Anlong Veng’s community, the definition of genocide and means of prevention. Then, all the participants spent around ten minutes reading a brief summary concerning the early birth of the communist movement and a history of DK because it is a good way to explain history. After that, the students read longer texts on the history of DK and Anlong Veng from “A History of Anlong Veng Community: The Final Stronghold of the Khmer Rouge Movement, Guidebook for Tour Guide.” All the participants of this forum were then asked to ask any KR-related questions.

A day later, no one had any questions. Our team encouraged the students to use this opportunity to ask for any clarification on any specific parts of the history. After that, the group had six questions: 1) What is a ‘rebel’ and an ‘agenda’? 2) Why did the KR kill so many people? (3) What is a communist ideology? (4) Why were the KR created? (5) Why did the KR prohibit people from practicing religions? (6) Why did the Isarak movement have no clear leader in the beginning? In response, answers to each question were provided in writing and the participants were directed to read some relevant texts to obtain greater detail on these subjects. For example, the question of “why were the KR created?” was written in the book: “Guidebook for Tour Guide” Presentation 1.

On June 15, a new text on the history of the Anlong Veng community was shared. The students initially consulted with three slides that summarized important parts of the history of DK before going more from the guidebook. After the reading, a new round of discussion started. The last part of the online text defined “genocide” and its preventive measures at individual, community and national levels.

Overall, this classroom forum proved fruitful. There were some lessons learned and challenges as well. The forum relied on students’ active reading of the provided texts in the book: “A History of Anlong Veng Community: The Final Stronghold of the Khmer Rouge Movement: Guidebook for Tour Guide.” The students had to be active on their smartphones to obtain the information and ask questions. This could be accomplished if the students effectively managed their time to think of any questions. Some students felt this online learning took less time than a regular in-person class because they could spend their time learning many interesting parts of the DK’s history and viewing photographs. Others commented that Internet access or smart phones, sometimes, limited their active participation. At the end of the forum, the team offered them a few books: “A History of Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979),” “A History of Anlong Veng Community: The Final Stronghold of the Khmer Rouge Movement—Guidebook for Tour Guide,” and the “Searching for the Truth” magazine, along with COVID-19 poster which they could pick them up at the Anlong Veng Peace Center in the downtown of the Anlong Veng district.

This was followed by a series of reactions concerning the online forum

Thun Kanha, 20 years old, in grade 12th at Anlong Veng High School, said: “I found it very important to have this online study of history. It is our most favorable means as we did not need to travel to school. The online study contributed to our knowledge as it required all of us to read a lot. It increased our attentiveness to the texts and helped train us how to research. I’ve learned a lot so far. The KR history was a tragic lesson that taught us the need to embrace, respect, unite and value our national interest.”
Meas Nie, 18 years old, in grade 12th at Anlong Veng High School, said: “I found the online forum good and complementary to the knowledge of those in the group. It is, however, very different from a classroom format as all the students are required to do a lot of reading. This practice enabled us to obtain more knowledge and strengthen our reading skills. This study allowed all of us to learn lessons from the past, ranging from the importance of avoiding the KR’s mistakes to the need to recognize the people’s suffering. These bitter experiences reminded us of the need to tolerate each other.”
Sorn Sros, 19 years old, in grade 12th at Anlong Veng High School, said: “This online forum is only good for those who are familiar with smartphones. It has not benefited those in live in poor family condition. If it is accessible, the online study is good as it requires a lot of readings. However, the physical classroom atmosphere created a greater sense of friendship and solidarity between teachers and students. This online study gave us a new technique of learning and opened up many new questions as well.”
San Suom, 22 years old, in grade 12th at Trapeang Tav High School, said: “This online forum is easy for me as I don’t need to carry any books. I was able to grasp some key points quickly. Required reading texts are important to expand our thinking, while the telegram group gives us a space where we can exchange our ideas. The KR regime’s brutality is never forgotten. The regime caused the destruction of our economy, education system, and religion. The people suffered from overwork and starvation.”
Nan Sok Neat, 17 years old, in grade 11th at Trapeang Tav High School, said: “I found that I have learned fairly well about the DK history. However, we were not able to discuss in person. Reading texts are good practice as many youths do not like reading. Studying this history made me learn how the KR ruled the country and how the normal people worked and lived through the regime. This online forum was a good experience and provided many useful lessons. I wish we would have had some more small groups to discuss what we read over Zoom.”
Students of Trapeang Tav High School
No. Name Sex Date of Birth Class
1 អោត រត់ | Aot Rut M 10 Oct 2001 12
2 ឈី បញ្ញា | Chhy Panha M 20 Feb 1996 12
3 លី ស្រីណយ | Ly Srei Nay F 5 Jan 2001 12
4 សាត់បញ្ញា  ម៉ាលីស | Sat Panha Malis F 12 Feb 2001 12
5 ឈាង ណារ៉ុង | Chheang Narong M 9 Jun 2004 12
6 គីម សុរ៉ា | Kim Sora M 1 Mar 1998 12
7 បួរ សុផា | Bour Sopha M 15 Oct 2001 12
8 ឌី ស្រីលាប | Dy Srei Leap F 12 Jul 2002 12
9 ឃុន ស្រីនិច | Khun Srei Nich F 9 Nov 2001 12
10 លួង គ្រឹៈស្នា | Luong Krisna F 1 Nov 2002 12
11 វិន យូឡុង | Vin You Long M 10 Mar 2001 12
12 ប៊ន់​ សុបិន | Bun Soben M N/A 12
13 ឆោម​ នីតា | Chhaom Nita F 14 Dec 2003 11
14 កេង កូដា | Keng Koda M 10 Jun 2004 11
15 ងួន ចាន់វី | Nguon Chanvy F 9 May 2003 11
16 ស៊ីវ ផានុន​ | Siv Phanon M 10 Nov 2002  11
17 យ៉ត លីអឺ | Yat Li-Eu F 15 Apr 2003 11
18 ស៊ាក់ ស៊ា | Seak Sea M 9 Jun 2001 11
19 ហេម ប្រុស | Hem Bros M 1 Oct 2003 11
20 លី បញ្ញា | Ly Panha M 21 Apr 2003 11
21 ណាន សុខនាត | Nan Sok Neat M 18 Mar 2003 11
22 កែវ សុភ័ក្រ្ដា | Keo Sopheaktra M 10 Jan 2002 11
23 ប៊ឹក ចរិយា | Bik Charya F 11 Aug 2002 11
24 រឿន តុលា | Voeun Tola M 10 Oct 2003 11
25 ម៉ាន់ វិរៈ | Man Vireak ​ M 9 Apr 2002 11
26 សេង ភារ៉ុន | Seng Phearun M 14 Nov 1999 11
27 រ៉ៃ សុខនាង | Rai Sok Neang F 7 Apri 2001 11
28 ប៊ឹក ផៃយ៉ា | Bik Phaya F 11 Aug 2002 11
29 ម៉ៅ​ ផាន់​ដាវ | Mao Phandev F 25 May 2003 11
Students of Anlong Veng High School
No. Name Sex Age Class
1 សុត សុភាស់ | Sot Sophoas M 17 11
2 ញឹម មករា | Nhim Makara M 18 11
3 ហេង លាងគីម | Heng Kimleang F 17 12
4 ជន ចានរ៉ី | Chun Chanry F 20 12
5 ធុន​ កញ្ញា | Thun Kanha F 20 12
6 អ៊ុន វ៉ាន់ដា | Un Vanda F 17 12
7 សុខ វីរ៉ាណាត់ | Sok Viranat F 17 12
8  ស៊ន ស្រ៊ី | Sorn Sry M 18 12
9 គឹម​ ភារៈ | Kim Pheareak M 19 12
10 ស៊ន ស្រស់ | Sorn Sras M 19 12
11 សាន សុកនី | San Sokny F 20 12
12 មាល ម៉ីម៉ី | Meal Meimei F 18 12
13 សុខ ស្រីចិន | Sok Srei Chen ​ F 19 12
14 ហឿង សៀវហុង | Hoeung Siev Hong F 17 12
15 ទួន សុមនា | Tuon Sumanea F 17 12
16 ញឹម មករា | Nhim Makara M 18 11
17 ពាញ ណាសី | Nhanh Nasei F 19 12
18 ហាក់ ដាណេ | Hak Dane F 17 12
19 មាស នៀ | Meas Nie F 18 12
20 ផុន រចនា | Phon Rachana F 17 12
21 រ៉េត ស្រីនីត | Ret Sreinit F 16 12

TEAM: Sout Vechet, Mek Navin, Hean Pisey and Ly Sok-Kheang
REPORT: Ly Sok-Kheang
DONOR: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)