High-school history text divides Cambodians

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A new textbook on the history of the Khmer Rouge—the Cambodian Communist faction which murdered an estimated 1.7 million people during its four-year reign of terror in the late 1970s—cannot be used as a stand-alone reader for high-school students, says the government in Phnom Penh.

Instead, the book will be assigned as a supplementary source and used by the Cambodian Ministry of Education to produce a less controversial work on the same topic.

A History of Democratic Kampuchea, written by 26-year-old Khamboly Dy, provides a warts-and-all assessment of the rise and fall of the Pol Pot regime. It was published by the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent organization that specializes in Khmer Rouge history, with funding from the Soros Foundation and the National Endowment for Democracy.

The government-appointed committee that reviewed the text criticized it for identifying specific members of the Khmer Rouge and focusing too much on the post-1979 Cambodian civil war. Explaining the reason for his veto, one member of the committee argued that history “should be kept for at least 60 years before starting to discuss it.”

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