Khmer Rouge’s Brutality Never Forgotten

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.

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.NameSexDate of BirthClass
1អោត រត់ | Aot RutM10 Oct 200112
2ឈី បញ្ញា | Chhy PanhaM20 Feb 199612
3លី ស្រីណយ | Ly Srei NayF5 Jan 200112
4សាត់បញ្ញា  ម៉ាលីស | Sat Panha MalisF12 Feb 200112
5ឈាង ណារ៉ុង | Chheang NarongM9 Jun 200412
6គីម សុរ៉ា | Kim SoraM1 Mar 199812
7បួរ សុផា | Bour SophaM15 Oct 200112
8ឌី ស្រីលាប | Dy Srei LeapF12 Jul 200212
9ឃុន ស្រីនិច | Khun Srei NichF9 Nov 200112
10លួង គ្រឹៈស្នា | Luong KrisnaF1 Nov 200212
11វិន យូឡុង | Vin You LongM10 Mar 200112
12ប៊ន់​ សុបិន | Bun SobenMN/A12
13ឆោម​ នីតា | Chhaom NitaF14 Dec 200311
14កេង កូដា | Keng KodaM10 Jun 200411
15ងួន ចាន់វី | Nguon ChanvyF9 May 200311
16ស៊ីវ ផានុន​ | Siv PhanonM10 Nov 2002 11
17យ៉ត លីអឺ | Yat Li-EuF15 Apr 200311
18ស៊ាក់ ស៊ា | Seak SeaM9 Jun 200111
19ហេម ប្រុស | Hem BrosM1 Oct 200311
20លី បញ្ញា | Ly PanhaM21 Apr 200311
21ណាន សុខនាត | Nan Sok NeatM18 Mar 200311
22កែវ សុភ័ក្រ្ដា | Keo SopheaktraM10 Jan 200211
23ប៊ឹក ចរិយា | Bik CharyaF11 Aug 200211
24រឿន តុលា | Voeun TolaM10 Oct 200311
25ម៉ាន់ វិរៈ | Man Vireak​ M9 Apr 200211
26សេង ភារ៉ុន | Seng PhearunM14 Nov 199911
27រ៉ៃ សុខនាង | Rai Sok NeangF7 Apri 200111
28ប៊ឹក ផៃយ៉ា | Bik PhayaF11 Aug 200211
29ម៉ៅ​ ផាន់​ដាវ | Mao PhandevF25 May 200311
Students of Anlong Veng High School
1សុត សុភាស់ | Sot SophoasM1711
2ញឹម មករា | Nhim MakaraM1811
3ហេង លាងគីម | Heng KimleangF1712
4ជន ចានរ៉ី | Chun ChanryF2012
5ធុន​ កញ្ញា | Thun KanhaF2012
6អ៊ុន វ៉ាន់ដា | Un VandaF1712
7សុខ វីរ៉ាណាត់ | Sok ViranatF1712
8 ស៊ន ស្រ៊ី | Sorn SryM1812
9គឹម​ ភារៈ | Kim PheareakM1912
10ស៊ន ស្រស់ | Sorn SrasM1912
11សាន សុកនី | San SoknyF2012
12មាល ម៉ីម៉ី | Meal MeimeiF1812
13សុខ ស្រីចិន | Sok Srei Chen​ F1912
14ហឿង សៀវហុង | Hoeung Siev HongF1712
15ទួន សុមនា | Tuon SumaneaF1712
16ញឹម មករា | Nhim MakaraM1811
17ពាញ ណាសី | Nhanh NaseiF1912
18ហាក់ ដាណេ | Hak DaneF1712
19មាស នៀ | Meas NieF1812
20ផុន រចនា | Phon RachanaF1712
21រ៉េត ស្រីនីត | Ret SreinitF1612

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