Textbooks to document KR

23 December 2009 by Jared Ferrie

In the shade of trees draping over the schoolyard, 3,000 students sit on sheets of newspaper, in crisp white shirts and black skirts or slacks. They wait patiently for the ceremony to end, then teachers walk between the neat rows handing out textbooks – the first in Cambodia’s history to document the Khmer Rouge in detail.

Students flip eagerly through the pages. Some of them sit in solitary silence, while others turn to their classmates to comment. Shock registers visibly on some of their faces.

It’s a moment that could not have happened without the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Despite allegations of corruption and political interference that taint the United Nations-backed tribunal, proponents and critics alike agree that it has sparked a national awakening.

“It has generated the new curriculum in schools. Moreover you also generate community discussion,” said Panhavuth Long, of the Open Society Justice Institute, adding that such discussion may yield methods more effective than trials for Cambodians to reconcile with the past.

On the record
Cambodian television stations broadcast live footage of much of the first trial. The court itself received almost 30,000 visitors during 9-months of testimony, according to court officials.

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