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Putting Individual Story into Perspective April 2018

Individual stories are, as always, the key focus for the participants of the Anlong Veng Peace & Human Rights Study Tour. In April 2018, twelve participants (4 females and 8 males) from Regional Teacher Training Center-Takeo province and Anlong Veng High School were specifically selected to meet for interviews with villagers in Anlong Veng. It is also an opportunity for the students to engage in an inter-generational dialogue with residents for the sake of promoting “memory, peace and reconciliation.”

Participants hearing a series of presentations on the history of the Khmer Rouge and Anlong Veng community

This month, special attention should be dedicated to some of the participants’ responses to the question: what do you feel about “former Khmer Rouge members”? The participants provided three different aspects about this according to their pre-tour survey. First, six out of eight participants portrayed former KR members in a negative light. Their common thought was that the former KR members’ acts or complicity in the regime was regrettable and evil, costing nearly 2 million lives and causing the disintegration of Cambodia’s social fabric. This led You Hong Yieng to reflect on why such acts of violence where Khmer killed Khmer took place in our country. If he had a wish, Yieng said, he would like to hear a clear explanation about former KR members’ motivations. Second, Neak Sophyrom, a pre-service teacher, stressed the significance of meeting the former KR members in person as it would be the chance to understand their perspectives. Third, Leng Punareay, a pre-service teacher, viewed the former KR members as positive and appreciative in the sense that they had to endure and overcome as many hardships as the people.

Villagers sitting in front of their home in Ta Dev village

The second day of the study tour was devoted to seminars and discussions about the KR-related topics. The presentations covered the objectives of the study tour, the history of the KR and Anlong Veng community. Each session was followed by group reflections. The participants took the opportunity to find out the answers to these questions:

What is the last Khmer Rouge stronghold?
When did the Peace Center begin?
How was Khmer Rouge commercial relation with other country?
How was Khmer Rouge weapon trade from 75 till 79?
What would happen to Cambodia if the Vietnamese did not attack Khmer Rouge? (Summarized by Phat Bora)

As part of our regular practice, a local resident, Mr. Pok Sokhin, was invited to share his experiences with the participants. He became a local resident of Anlong Veng from the early 1990s, describing how he ended up in Anlong Veng and he had no alternative but to inadvertently join the Khmer Rouge forces. The excerpt of his talk is as follows:

He has been here in Anlong Veng since 1990 to look for his missing uncle. He ended up in there as he was not allowed to leave. He was later drafted into the KR forces. He was a soldier at the frontline. He fought in about 50 battles or so. He sometimes transported the weapons himself and sometime other people did the work. He could visit his home town in 2002 and all his neighbors and family thought he was dead. Many of his comrades-in-arms died or were wounded in the battlefields. At that time, he was very angry with the government soldiers when he lost one of his legs. He just fought for what his leader believed in. 

In term of eating, the Khmer Rouge in the frontlines faced a lot of difficulties. They only had one pot and had to use leaves as utensils. He did hear of Son Sen’s death at the time but did not witness it firsthand. He found out that Ta Mok was a great man. He would always visit the people, he provides for the people and would always provide when asked. He likes Ta Mok more than Pol Pot because Ta Mok is more relatable and he was more kind.

Khmer Rouge soldiers were very disciplined. Otherwise they would face severe punishment. The Khmer Rouge navigated the jungle by map and collected intelligence for a couple of times before carrying out any attacks. In term of strategy, Khmer Rouge implemented guerrilla tactics because Khmer Rouge did not have any actual military bases. Khmer Rouge usually mounted the attack at dawn and swiftly retreated.

The forces of both the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian government often managed to disguise as each other to intrude in the ranks. He also mentioned about KR soldiers disguising oneself as the government soldier and was captured. For him, he had to escape and got lost in the forest for days.

The forces of the Cambodian government attacked Anlong Veng twice, first in 1992 and second time in 1993. Finally, the government also attacked Anlong Veng in 1998 when he and his comrades-in-arms escaped to O’Beitap to join the government. He was very happy during the reintegration because he thinks that the government welcomes and cares for them even though they were enemy not long ago. (Summarized by Phat Bora)

Sokhin’s personal story was the first exposure to former KR perspectives for the participants. His personal experiences allowed the students to reflect on some of the many circumstances that former KR joined military ranks, some of which took up arms under duress.

Three teams preparing themselves for film interviews in Anlong Veng

On the second part of the day, interview techniques were introduced to discussion to give the participants an example of what sort of questions to prepare for their upcoming interviews. The twelve participants were divided into three different groups and started to develop their questions. Afterward, Prof. Paul Cooke of University of Leeds took the floor and provided a brief overview of what the participants were expected to do on the next day. He assigned each of the four participants with roles of being a cameraman/woman, sound controller, interviewer and note taker (this role required the participant to write down information that the cameraman/woman would film for a cutaway. For example, if the interviewee mentioned their kitchen, the cameraman/woman would need to film their kitchen afterward.)

Prof. Paul Cooke of University of Leeds (rights) and Dr. Peter Manning of University of Bath (left) inside Wat Thmei, where DC-Cam put up exhibitions about “forced transfer,” “Phnom Penh in 1979,” and “Wat Thmei, former security center of the KR regime.”

As each team had their actual role, Prof. Cooke gave them some time to think about a topic and to form a question that would provide an answer to the topic. As assigned, each team was supposed to collect two interviews as part of a series of documentary film production. Next morning, all the team members left the district town for Ta Dev village. As planned, three teams conducted six film interviews in the morning. The afternoon was devoted to editing. Each team needed to provide a proper introduction and conclusion to the film interviews conducted and also to mention the organizers of the Anlong Veng Peace & Human Rights Study Tour.

All students actively participated in the 4-day program and found in rewarding and enriching. The enthusiasm that the students displayed in conducting their film interviews had yielded superb results.

This product is expectedly used as part of their educational careers soon after the eight pre-service teachers from Regional Teacher Training Center in Takeo province are set to take up their teaching position at the end of this academic year of 2018. The brief training and quick practice still made it possible for the participants to do the job effectively.