Teaching About Genocide in Cambodia

Kelly Watson, EIHR, photo courtesy of DC-Cam, October 2016

Kelly Watson, EIHR, photo courtesy of DC-Cam, October 2016

As part of the Sixteenth Commune Teacher Training, held this past October by the Documentation Center of Cambodia, or DC-Cam, participants learned about the history of Democratic Kampuchea and the Cambodian Genocide as well as strategies for engaging their students in the topic.  In the midst of this 5 day immersion, Kelly Watson presented twice.  

According to the final report on the event, "The main goal of the training was to equip teachers with the ability to teach about the history of Democratic Kampuchea (DK), providing them both with knowledge about different aspects of the DK regime and its legacy as well as with teaching methods to pass on that knowledge to their students."

photo courtesy of DC-Cam, October 2016

photo courtesy of DC-Cam, October 2016

The same report summarized Watson's presentations:

"Kelly Watson, Educational Program Coordinator for the Educator‟s Institute for Human Rights (EIHR), gave two presentations during the training. Her first presentation focused on the definition of the Holocaust and how these characteristics are best taught to students. She started by exploring the terms “systematic”, “bureaucratic”, “state-sponsored”, “6 million Jews” and “collaboration” while giving examples of each one. In her second presentation Mrs. Watson displayed photographs of forced evacuations from three different genocides, drawing the participant‟s attention towards comparable patterns among different genocides. But before going into detail, Mrs. Watson-who is a teacher herself- stressed that the comparison of genocides is always difficult since one cannot compare the unique suffering and pain of people. At the same time, there exist parallels within genocides that are comparable, e.g. systematic killing, bureaucratic killing etc. Likewise she cautioned against a teaching of genocide which sets genocide as the only defining feature of a society. Rather, it would be important to include the events that happened before and after the genocide in order to teach about a society in a comprehensive way. When she asked the students if some of the terms would also suit to describe the genocide in Cambodia, many students drew parallels regarding forced evacuations, the bureaucratic killing reflected in the piles of documents such as photographs, forced confessions, and files on everyone who seemed suspicious. Tun Thang Doung, a Khmer literature teacher explained afterwards, she liked the presentation because “it is important for us to learn that it not only happened in Cambodia, but around the world”. "

 
  Kelly Watson, EIHR, photo courtesy of DC-Cam, October 2016  

 

Kelly Watson, EIHR, photo courtesy of DC-Cam, October 2016