Genocide Education Memorial

Memorializing a tragedy where millions died need not cost millions, thousands, or even hundreds of dollars; nor does the memorial have to be a museum, an imposing monument, or even a symbolic statute. Moreover, the location of the memorial does not have to be on spacious open greenery or a newly created platform. A powerful memorial can take the form of a simple slogan hung outside a local school. When such banners are hung across every high school in the country so that school children, parents, community members, and passersby read their message, then the collective impact of these banners can be more powerful and wide-reaching than even traditional memorials.

This is the hope of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), which on June 17 received approval from the Ministry of Education to hang anti-genocide slogans across all 1,700 high schools in Cambodia. These banners contain two slogans that both memorialize the tragedy of Democratic Kampuchea and promote post-genocide reconciliation. They read: (1) “Talking about experiences during the Khmer Rouge regime is to promote reconciliation and to educate children about forgiveness and tolerance;” and (2) “Learning about the history of Democratic Kampuchea is to prevent genocide.” The estimated cost of one banner is approximately $40. One banner containing both slogans will be hung in each school, with the location to be determined by the respective school. Possible locations for the banner include the front wall of the school building, near the school’s flag pole, or in front of the school yard or garden.

DC-Cam hopes that the two slogans will serve as a “genocide educational memorial” to Cambodia’s tragedy that claimed nearly two million lives from 1975-1979. These slogans complement DC-Cam and the Ministry’s current multi-stage nationwide Genocide Education Project that began in 2005. Thus far, the project has published the first-ever textbook on Democratic Kampuchea (A History of Democratic Kampuchea (1975- 1979) by Dy Khamboly), a Teacher’s Guidebook, and a Student Workbook; conducted a national teacher training workshop led by well-known international and Cambodian scholars and experts; and implemented provincial and local teacher training workshops throughout the country. Nearly all of Cambodia’s 24 cities and provinces have conducted these local trainings with Battambang, Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu, Kandal, and Phnom Penh midway in their trainings. This summer, DC-Cam began the next phase of the project- evaluating local high school teachers as they teach the history of Democratic Kampuchea to students in their classrooms. These two slogans, though seemingly inconsequential when compared to the first ever textbook on Democratic Kampuchea or a historic national teacher training involving dozens of renowned genocide experts, are in fact just as profoundly important and meaningful to post-genocide reconstruction and prevention as any other initiative.

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