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Young Remain Unaware of Khmer Rouge: Survey

Cambodia’s younger generation still lacks information on both the Khmer Rouge regime and the government-UN tribunal established to try its leaders, according to a recent survey by a US university.

Between September and October last year, the Human Rights Center of the University of California Berkeley conducted a survey of 1,000 Cambodians aged 18 and above.

“What we realized is that among the younger ones, among people who were not born during the Khmer Rouge regime, 80 percent of them tell us they know nothing or they know very little about the Khmer Rouge regime,” said Patrick Vinck, director of the Initiative on Vulnerable Populations at UC Berkeley and one of the authors of the survey.

“And whatever they know, they only learned, or they mostly learned, from their family and from their friends,” Vinck said. “Only 6 percent told us that they learned about it from school. And 9 percent told us that they learned through the media, radio and television.”

The results showed a “lack of information” on the Khmer Rouge. “If you do not understand what happened, how can you look back at what happened?” he said. “One of the reasons also to try to understand and look at the past is, how does it affect your daily life, how does it affect what’s happening today?”

The survey, titled “So We Will Never Forget,” was conducted in 250 villages across the country.

It found that the majority of people interviewed had confidence in the justice and neutrality of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, which was set up in 2006 and is preparing for its first trial, of prison chief Duch, in coming months.

However, about a third of those surveyed said the court was not neutral, and about 23 percent were “interested” in corruption within the courts.

The majority of those interviewed said they did not approve of Khmer Rouge leaders living among their communities; 71 percent wanted to see Khmer Rouge members condemned; and one third wanted revenge for atrocities of the past.

About 47 percent felt uncomfortable living among former members of the regime. However, 36 percent of them felt they had forgiven former Khmer Rouge members already