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Khmer Rouge History Approved for Schools

More than 30 years after Khmer Rouge communist guerrillas marched into Phnom Penh, evacuated the cities, and sewed the seeds for one of the worst genocides of the 21st Century, the Cambodian governments says it will allow the regime's history to be taught in schools.

The Ministry of Education has approved plans to incorporate lessons on the period of Democratic Kampuchea, authorizing the independent Documentation Center of Cambodia, which has extensively chronicled the brutality of the regime, to train 1,800 teachers.

"We will organize a guide book for high school teachers, and we will train them on how to present this sensitive era to students," center director Youk Chhang said. "First we will contact other countries that have the same story of atrocities committed by a communist regime on how they taught their young children in school about the genocide."

The center will seek input on how to teach genocide from institutions like the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Montreal Holocaust Memorial, he said.

Lao Mong Hay, a researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission, said the plan to teach Khmer Rouge history was good, but it should be connected to lessons of other periods, for balance.

"The teaching methods would present ways that teachers can use to guide students away from attitudes that show racial or other prejudices, or revenge rather than reconciliation," he said.

Hing Sok San, an officer of the Students Movement for Democracy, said he supported the new lessons.

"Young Cambodians have to know about the very painful history that their parents and relatives suffered," he said.

The lessons will give students a chance to understand their own history, said elementary school teacher Chea Seng, who works in Kampong Cham province.

Lessons could start in late 2009, officials said.