Chinese diplomat Chou Ta-kuan gave the world his account of life at Angkor Wat eight hundred years ago. Since that time, others have been writing our history for us. Countless scholars have examined our most prized cultural treasure and more recently, the Cambodian
genocide of 1975-1979. But with Khamboly Dy’s A History of Democratic Kampuchea, Cambodians are at last beginning to investigate and record their country’s past. This new volume represents two years of research and marks the first such text written by a Cambodian.
Writing about this bleak period of history for a new generation may run the risk of re-opening old wounds for the survivors of Democratic Kampuchea. Many Cambodians have tried to put their memories of the regime behind them and move on. But we cannot progress — much less reconcile with ourselves and others — until we have confronted the past and understand both what happened and why it happened. Only with this understanding can we truly begin to heal.
Intended for high school students, this book is equally relevant for adults. All of us can draw lessons from our history. By facing this dark period of our past, we can learn from it and move toward becoming a nation of people who are invested in preventing future occurrences of genocide, both at home and in the myriad countries that are today facing massive human rights abuses. And by taking responsibility for teaching our children through texts such as this one, Cambodia can go forward and mold future generations who work to ensure that the seeds of genocide never again take root in our country.
Documentation Center of Cambodia
The text was submitted to the Government Working Commission to Review the Draft of the History of Democratic Kampuchea. On January 3, 2007, the Commission decided that, “the text can be used as a supplementary discussion material (for teachers) and as base to write a history lesson for (high school) students.
Funding for this project was generously provided by the Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute (OSI) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Support for DC-Cam’s operations is provided by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).