The student who translated “The Diary of Anne Frank” into Khmer departed Cambodia on Monday for the Netherlands to begin a two-year master’s degree fellowship in the promotion of genocide tourism.
“I am very excited,” said Ser Sayana, 22. “I want to learn to maintain and develop genocide sites for future generations, and to educate visitors so that they don’t commit this crime again.”
Her academic focus on genocide tourism will be a first for Wageningen University.
“It’s my own subject,” she said, “but I think it will work well, because the university places emphasis on small-scale, local development tourism.”
Ser Sayana’s interest in genocide tourism began when she volunteered with the Documentation Center of Cambodia in 1998 as a secondary school student. After two years of collecting and translating Khmer Rouge slogans and songs, she shifted her focus in 2001 to translating “Anne Frank.”
Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl’s account of the Nazi regime written while in hiding in occupied Amsterdam, was published in 1947 and is one of the best-selling books in the world.
Ser Sayana, a member of the ethnic Cham community, said she instantly identified with Anne Frank as both a teenage girl and a member of a minority. “My ancestors are Javanese,” she said, “so my people are a minority in Cambodia. And because Anne Frank was my age, I was interested in how she felt living in hiding.”
Ser Sayana’s translation is now well-known among teenagers in Phnom Penh, as DC-Cam provides copies of the “Diary of Anne Frank” to 15 secondary schools each year.
“I am very happy that she is interested in the subject,” said Youk Chhang, director of DC-Cam. “It’s important for her generation. Ser Sayana will bring back a new perspective on how to educate the public about genocide.”