The new 12th-grade history textbooks containing lessons about the Khmer Rouge, which were scheduled to be published in August, still aren’t in bookstores, Phnom Penh book shop owners said.
“Many teachers and students ask for the new books, but I have to tell them it’s coming soon; it’s coming soon. What else can I do? I am just repeating what I was told by the Ministry,” said a Bak Touk Bookstore seller, who said that although students preparing for university exams purchase the old history book, 12th grade students are waiting until the new book comes out.
“Two more weeks,” said Ton Sa Im, director of the Pedagogical Research Department and member of the national textbook committee. The committee is still double-checking facts and waiting for Im Sothy, secretary of state for the Ministry of Education, to return from a trip abroad to review the material, Ton Sa Im said.
The most anticipated addition to the text is a full-length section about the Khmer Rouge. Currently, only the 9th-grade history textbooks mention the regime, and facts such as the number of people killed under the regime are omitted from textbooks.
In fact, that statistic is one reason the book’s publishing date has been delayed, Ton Sa Im said. In Omsa Meng, who wrote the text’s chapter on the Khmer Rouge regime, said he is putting the death toll from the regime at about 3 million. He explained that many foreign researchers underestimate that number because they were in Cambodia in 1979, when the Khmer Rouge were overthrown and the new government began to count the dead.
He said the book is late because it hasn’t been approved by all of the committees tasked with reviewing it.
Meanwhile, high schools are simply using the old book.
“We have received no explanation from the committee about the tardiness of the new book,” Bak Touk High School Director Sok Savanna said. “This is very difficult for the teachers because they need the books, sometimes one year in advance to summarize and prepare for the class, and to research.”