On September 19-20, 2019, Oddar Meanchey Tourism Department in collaboration with Anlong Veng Peace Center of Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) organized the third training for tour guides. The trainings are designed to raise public awareness about the history of Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979) and the Anlong Veng community, to maintain peace and tolerance, and to promote the community tourism sector.
Twenty-five participants, eight of them females who were former Khmer Rouge members in the community, participated in this training. Community youths born after the reintegration of Anlong Veng in 1998 also participated. This is seen as a good composition as the developing community needs people of all ages to know about their community and the Khmer Rouge.
As scheduled, Mrs. Thinny Moniraksmei, Oddar Meanchey Tourism Department Director, presided over the opening ceremony of the training held inside Ta Mok’s museum (Ta Mok’s former house). She started her speech by drawing attention to Anlong Veng community history that we should not forget. It was under Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Win-Win Policy that allowed Cambodia to enjoy peace since 1998. That is the very reason why Anlong Veng should be able to make sustainable progress through its tourist sector. Mrs. Moniraksmei also stressed that each tour guide should learn about the history of the Anlong Veng community and its fourteen historical sites. She added that each trainee should be able to give a professional tour and warm hospitality to in hopes that visitors would find it important to spend a few days learning about the history. Mrs. Moniraksmei also reminded all trainees of the need to obtain full information about Oddar Meanchey tourism spots, so they can direct visitors to the places they preferred.
After the opening ceremony, the two-day training began inside Anlong Veng History Museum or Ta Mok’s museum. Trainees sat in three different tables facing each other. This setting was very convenient for a discussion and series of presentations.
Mr. Chhauy Sam-Et, deputy chief of Oddar Meanchey Tourism Department in charge of education and training, focused his presentation on good hospitality. This includes smiling and the Sampeah and food and accommodation services. He also briefly touched on the province’s tourist sites in Chong Kal district and Samrong City.
After Mr. Sam-Et’s session and a short break for refreshments, I began my session by giving the trainees guidance on how to use “Guidebook for Tour Guide” and “A History of the Anlong Veng Community: The Final Stronghold of the Khmer Rouge Movement.” Having summarized from the Guidebook, I used only three slides that focused on “How to use this Guidebook,” “Rationale for Teaching the History of the Khmer Rouge,” and “Philosophy of the Anlong Veng Community History Guidebook.”
The first topic was focused on Guidebook’s chapter one. This is about the history of the Cambodian Communist Movement, of Democratic Kampuchea, and of the Anlong Veng community. Trainees are assigned to work either in pairs or in groups to respond to questions that are set out in the book. They are also directed to learn as many historical facts as possible. The idea is to make them remember those historical facts so they are in a good position to be an excellent tour guide for any visitors to Anlong Veng. In the afternoon, attention was paid to chapter two’s story-telling and historical sites. Each trainee was to summarize survivors’ stories into a few lines with concrete, clear information. They then exchanged their notes and discussed their notes with each other. The same work was done in chapter three’s historical sites where each trainee was assigned to work in groups to summarize information into a short paragraph about the 14 sites in Anlong Veng. Each group took turns to report what they wrote. At the end of my session, trainees were asked if they had any questions about history, storytelling, historical sites, and others so that I could provide further explanations if necessary.
On the second day of training, Mr. Ken Sophy, deputy director of Tourism Product Department of Ministry of Tourism, focused his presentation on “guidelines of development and preservation of a community tourism,” “guidelines to provide tours,” and “narrative approach.” The last part of the day was devoted to the closing ceremony. All the trainees and those from the second training obtained their certificates so, they are now qualified and licensed to perform as tour guides.
After the training, many trainees expressed their opinions, ranging from hopes and expectations that the training will provide economic growth in the Anlong Veng district through an influx of visitors from the domestic and international community.
Latt Lav, a trainee, said: “I think this training is very important. It’s the first time for me. Within two days, I obtained a lot of knowledge on the history and the 14 historical sites in Anlong Veng and others places in Oddar Meanchey province. It has made me qualified and given me the ability to guide tours and narrate the history and historical sites to any visitors to Anlong Veng. I expect tourism will help develop our community. I wish to have more trainings and to develop adventure tourism in Anlong Veng as well.”
Yuon Leang, 25 years old, said: “It’s very good to have this training. It’s my first time learning in-depth about the history and hospitality that each tour guide should know. I feel Anlong Veng is a historical place. That’s why I am very keen to learn about its history so that our community can use it to promote tourism. As a newly trained guide, I am capable of narrating my community history and guiding any visitors to Anlong Veng.”
You Sorn, 63 years old, said: “I think that it’s good [to have the training] given that we have 14 historical sites. Although I lived through that period of history, I am able to digest more information that I have not heard before. I think that the instructor’s explanation was more accurate and correct compared to what I knew. This training is special as youths have a chance to hear directly the experiences of those living during that period. They are able to convey their history to the next generation. I suggest that such a training should be annually organized. My hope is that Anlong Veng can make good progress in the future.”
Chhoeung Bunthan, 27 years old, said: “To me, this training is really good as I have never gone deep into the history of our community before. Tour guides and tours can help develop our community. More importantly, local and international visitors can hear and learn about our history. I wish to see the training continue.”
Suos Somealea, 25 years old, said: “I think it’s good to have this training as I never joined this before. It helps develop my knowledge, enrich my understanding about history and convey it to others. I found the discussion with those experiencing the KR period incredibly interesting. It’s great if it can be organized twice per year.”
Khieu Mai said: “It’s good that I have learned about the historical sites, which are attractive to visitors. And, tour guides will play a role in guiding the tour. In other words, the tourism sector can help build Anlong Veng into a prosperous community. My suggestion is that a tour guide community should be created to perform this work.”
Bun Ran, 58 years old, said: “I think it’s good. Although I have lived through that period, I could not remember everything, especially dates. That’s why the training is a good compliment to what I’ve known before. Finally, I wish to see the continuity of the training. I wish to see more youths participate in this as they can convey this history to others.”
Chham Long, 63 years old, said: “I think it’s good for people of every generation. This training is comprised of history and hospitality. It’s our custom that people should know about virtue, morality, and good behavior. I would suggest that the training be organized to help develop the community and prevent discrimination.”
Lach Khan, 65 years old, said: “I participated in this training for the sake of my own understanding. I cannot give anyone a tour given that I am old. I find that teaching the history is critical. I lived through the period but could not remember the events clearly. My suggestion is that the training should be continued, and youths should be encouraged to participate.”
San Ran, 59 years old, said: “I found it helpful to have this training. Given that Anlong Veng has been reintegrated into the government since 1998, we lost so much time to challenge our limited capacity to build a tourism sector and other services. This training helps improve the community as we can learn about our history, good hospitality, and behavior. This will allow us to communicate with people both inside and outside the community. I would like to appeal to the ministry and provincial tourism department to strengthen order at each historical site.”
Vit Neang, 63 years old, said: “I have obtained knowledge on history and also historical sites. This training taught us about morality and virtue. I would suggest that Anlong Veng should be built into a community in the future.”
Neang Phai, 61 years old, said: “I found I’ve obtained a lot of knowledge about the 14 historical sites through books and instructors on history. In my opinion, the training is very important for the community for the future. Youths should be a more focused group than older generation in the next training.”
Uon Ry, 63 years old, said: “I think the training has many advantages. It has provided me with a better knowledge than I had before. I would suggest a next training.”
Seng Khoan, 58 years old, said: “I think the training is good for the community. I have learned more about the history and other historical facts. I hope that we can convey this to other people. I suggest that more youth trainings should be given, considering that my generation experienced the history discussed.”
Prum Phen, 31 years old, said: “I found this training good and it enriched my knowledge. Secondly, it made me understand the roles and duties of a tour guide. Finally, this training further developed my understanding about the history. The third training will also help the community grow. I wish Anlong Veng to be a community in the future.”
Seang Sok Heng, 48 years old, said: “I found it important to organize this training. Anlong Veng’s 14 historical sites could be one of the sources of income to help develop Anlong Veng. Additionally, remembering the history is important for every generation in order to prevent future reoccurrence of the Khmer Rouge genocide. I’d like to appeal to national and international stakeholders to help further develop the 14 historical sites.”
Hun Nak, 26 years old, said: “I found the training good and informative so that I can learn about the 14 historical sites and hospitality to be a tour guide. With this, tour guides can help attract more visitors to Anlong Veng. I wish a continuity of the training.”
Team: Ly Sok-Kheang and Sout Vechet