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Play Aims For Khmer Rouge Reconciliation

A Cambodian play designed to help people speak more openly about their experiences under the Khmer Rouge is scheduled for viewing in rural areas, following a performance in Phnom Penh this weekend.

The play, “Breaking the Silence,” was established under cooperation between the Document Center of Cambodia and the Amerita Art organization.

Director Annemarie Prins, of the Netherlands Featuring Artists of the Secondary School of Fine Arts, did research in several provinces in Cambodia about the sadness, horror and daily lives during the Khmer Rouge. Prins found that some regime victims and former perpetrators live as neighbors but do not talk to each other.

Youk Chhang, director of the Document Center of Cambodia, said the play would be performed mostly in the countryside, to help people understand there can be reconciliation and tolerance between victims and perpetrators.

“We aim to show ‘Breaking the Silence’ in some rural areas so that the people will be able to see and participate in the show,” he said. “There are about seven cases that we picked from real life during the Khmer Rouge regime, after research and study by the Documentation Center of Cambodia. We used these cases to produce a story to show the audience.”

The play will be performed in Kampong Cham, Kampot, Kandal and Takeo provinces, and is completely Khmer in character, including speaking, ideas, proverbs and songs, he said.

In 2007 the Document Centre of Cambodia put out a play “Searching for the Truth,” which earned strong support from Cambodians.

Ser Sayana, a Documentation Center staff member and an assistant for the play, said the performances were a part of the center’s outreach program.

“I think when people see it they will understand, because the show is really based on the daily lives of people during the Khmer Rouge,” she said.

“Some people who were members of Khmer Rouge, or whose relatives were Khmer Rouge members, are now living around or near Khmer Rouge victims, as neighbors,” she said. “Those former Khmer Rouge members are still hiding in their minds, without speaking out, to let somebody know, their inner sadness. So this show could allow them to speak out in a way to brings reconciliation and tolerance.”