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History Hard to Teach in Former Strongholds: Researcher

Dy Khamboly, left, a staff member at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, helps a student read his book "A History of Democratic Kampuchea" in Anlong Veng, in Oddar Meanchey province.

Cambodia has made some efforts to better teach the younger generation about the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, but a history book author says it’s hard to teach in areas where many parents were former soldiers of the regime.

Schools across the country have begun instruction using “A History of Democratic Kampuchea,” but the book’s author, Dy Khamboly, told “Hello VOA” on Monday it was not taking off in all areas, especially in the northwest.

“What we want is to help Cambodia’s younger generations understand what really took place during Democratic Kampuchea,” he said, referring to the Khmer Rouge by its official name. “Subsequently, these younger generations would act as a bridge for their parents, who were mainly the victims, and some of whom were perpetrators, to reconcile.”

Teaching methods now being used in Cambodia include projects for students to interview parents who lived through the Khmer Rouge and to visit genocide sites.

The Documentation Center of Cambodia, which published the history book, has distributed more than 400,000 copies to high schools across the country and has provided training for some 2,000 teachers from almost every province.

Student interest varies by region, Dy Khamboly said, but there is high interest among most of them. Most resistance comes from the former strongholds in the northwest, where the Khmer Rouge remained a fighting force until 1998.

Im Sophea, an outreach coordinator for the UN-backed tribunal, said youths in these areas often “don’t believe that their parents or former leaders committed such atrocities.”