The Ministry of Education has approved a plan to hang signs in schools bearing slogans encouraging students to study Khmer Rouge history starting in January 2011.
According to a letter sent by Education Ministry Undersecretary of State Tun Sa Im, the Documentation Center of Cambodia will be permitted to hang signs containing two slogans: “Talking about living in Khmer Rouge regime is talking about reconciliation, educating children to forgive, be gentle” and “Studying the history of Democratic Kampuchea is learning about stopping genocide.”
“By allowing us to spread these messages across the country, the Ministry of Education has given the genocide educational memorial legitimacy,” said DC-Cam Director Youk Chhang, adding that though the messages cannot vary, the signs installed in schools would be tailored to meet the demands of local communities.
While some signs may take the form of banners and others may be etched into wooden or metal plates, the vast majority of the signs will be hung in school gardens, where posted slogans have long been commonplace, according to Mr Chhang. The signs will all cost under $40, which will be donated by local community members and philanthropists, said Mr Chhang, adding that an US student of Cambodian descent had already given $500 to the initiative, the largest donation to date.
The project is part of an effort by DC-Cam to bring Khmer Rouge history into the secondary school curriculum after decades of neglect: Last week students faced Khmer Rouge history questions on the national examination for the first time.
According to historian Henri Locard, many schools in Cambodia have stopped teaching about the years 1975 to 1979, during which the Democratic Kampuchea regime held power. Most Cambodian students still have a better knowledge of Angkorian and regional history than they do of their recent past, he said.