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US University Prepares for Forum on Cambodian ‘Crossroads’


A student reads a book on campus, at Ohio University.

A student reads a book on campus, at Ohio University.

Ohio University is poised to hold its sixth annual Khmer Studies Forum, beginning later this month.

Topics for discussion at the three-day conference include Cambodia’s current political climate, the Khmer Rouge tribunal, and the country’s art, media and culture.

“Right now Cambodia is in such an incredibly interesting time, both politically, economically, and socially,” said Christine Su, head of the university’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies. “It’s right on the verge of change. It could go in a number of different ways. So it really is at a crossroads.”

The forum will be held at the university from March 14 to March 16.

Im Koch, secretary of state at the Ministry of Education, said he is preparing to attend. He will discuss Cambodia’s educational preparations as the country heads toward Asean integration in 2015, he said.

“We want theory and practical experiences,” he said. “And not just let the students only do their studies.”

Along with education, Cambodia’s judicial system will be a topic. As will the ongoing Khmer Rouge tribunal, where two aging leaders, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, are facing the final phase of a trial for atrocity crimes.

Peoudara Vanthan, deputy director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, will be a panelist at the forum.

“The forum is an important event that allows participants to consider Cambodia and discuss concerns and challenges to Cambodian society,” he said.

Ket Sophann, Cambodia’s ambassador to Unesco, will also attend. He’ll discuss Cambodia’s foreign policy, he told VOA Khmer from France.

All together, the forum will examine Cambodia’s way forward, Su said. “Now’s the perfect time to have this kind of conference, to talk about what kind of direction Cambodia can go in. And it can go down different paths.”

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