Genocide in the minds of Cambodian youth: transmitting (hi)stories of genocide to second and third generations in Cambodia
Several studies have been done on the survivors of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime on issues of memory, accountability and reconciliation, but little attention has so far been paid to the children of survivors. This paper looks at how the history of Cambodian genocide has been transmitted to Cambodian second and third generations in the homes of the victims and perpetrators, at schools and through memorialization practices in Cambodia. The paper is informed by five months of field research in Cambodia conducted with around 200 Cambodian youth in the summer of 2005. The findings illustrate that, in the absence of adequate education on the history of the Khmer Rouge period, the prevalent exposure to the horrors of the genocide at homes, schools, museums and memorials has worked to produce fear, anger, disbelief or denial in many Cambodian youth, sustained their myths, and has left them with several compelling questions, such as “why did Khmer kill Khmer?” The paper asserts that Cambodia needs to better confront how it transmits the history of genocide to its young generations. It provides recommendations as to how to improve this process and to empower and include youth in Cambodia's quest for truth, justice and reconciliation.