After nearly six months of delays, the new 12th-grade history textbook that includes a chapter on the Khmer Rouge era has finally been printed and distributed.
The 236-page book, completed in July and titled “Social Study” was finally printed in December after being discussed for nearly six months by a government textbook committee. The book contains a nine-page chapter that includes information on on Pol Pot’s regime.
There were 25,000 copies printed in the first run and students can buy it in markets and bookstores for 3,800 riel (about $1).
Foreign historians have estimated that 1.7 million Cambodians died during the Khmer Rouge regime, but the text puts the number of dead at more than 3 million.
“Who can know more than the Cambodian people about the Khmer Rouge?” said Omsa Meng, chief of the history writing committee in the Pedagogical Research Department of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. “All members of the history writing committee lived under the Khmer Rouge, so we know very well about the Khmer Rouge.”
Omsa Meng said he was concerned that if the book contained details of the killings, students might try to imitate the crimes. “We cannot mention about how the people were killed at that time, because it will teach them how to kill people,” he said.
Iv Chan, head of the history department at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said he would have preferred the book to list the death toll from the Pol Pot years at 1.5 million. “But we have no Pol Pot regime academic study in our department and our [studies are] unofficial, so we cannot give details about the Khmer Rouge,” he said.
According to the book, beginning on March 18, 1970, Marshal Lon Nol’s Cambodian National Liberation Army took control of the country, changing its name to the Khmer Republic. According to the text, this began five years of civil wars that caused “turmoil, joblessness and corruption.”
During those years, the book states, more than 1 million people were killed or injured. Many survivors became prisoners or lost their homes, and most of the country’s very young and very old died of starvation.
On April 17, 1975, the text states, the citizens of Phnom Penh were very happy to greet the armed forces that liberated them from the Lon Nol regime. Unfortunately, the armed forces used their might to force people to give up their homes.
At this point, according to the text, the name of the country became Democratic Kampuchea and Pol Pot became leader. During Pol Pot’s regime, the text continues, more than 3 million innocent people died and no family could escape the genocidal politics of Democratic Kampuchea.
The text combines geography and history and delves into the history of five other Asean countries, including Burma, with references to both the ruling junta and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.