Cambodia is part of the Asia group, which includes India, China, Mongolia, Japan, the Korean peninsula, Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands. Australia and New Zealand, though geographically close, are treated separately because their history as European settler societies has led to unique implications with regard to understandings of the Holocaust.

CAMBODIA is a state where, in spite of a limited presence of Holocaust education, the national history might make instruction on Holocaust history relevant. A genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979 killed roughly 1.7 million people. Unfortunately, factional fighting within the government in the years following the defeat and exile of the Khmer Rouge largely meant Cambodian students were not taught the history of the genocide. read more

In 2002, the government removed the Khmer Rouge genocide from the public school curriculum and, until very recently, there was no mention of it in official textbooks.  Though the establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia—or the Khmer Rouge Tribunal—in 2007 brought optimism that the genocide would be brought more firmly into popular consciousness, the tribunal has been seen as largely ineffective and appears to be on the verge of collapse.  

Still, there are two sites devoted to historical memory of the Cambodian genocide—the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh and the Choeung Ek (Killing Fields) Memorial just outside the city. The Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-CAM) represents an important extra-governmental attempt to bring knowledge of the genocide into the public school system. In 2007, it published Khamboly Dy’s A History of Democratic Kampuchea and, in 2012, distributed 500,000 copies to more than 1,700 high schools. The book can also be downloaded for free on the DC-CAM website in multiple languages.  This has been the first textbook about the Khmer Rouge era to reach students on a large scale since the government-imposed moratorium in 2002. DC-CAM also offers teacher’s guides for the textbook, which are available for download in both English and Khmer, and which emphasize student-centered learning. The Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport has partnered with DC-CAM to distribute the materials. The teacher’s guide explains the goals of the lessons as follows:

Your questions empower and give meaning to those who have suffered. Asking your parents and grand-parents about the Khmer Rouge will further the reconciliation of the Cambodian nation.

Teaching children about the Khmer Rouge regime means teaching students the difference between good and evil and how to forgive. Broken societies must know their past in order to rebuild for their future.

Teaching children about the history of the Khmer Rouge regime, as well as stimulating discussion between children and their parents and grand-parents about what happened, are important to preventing genocide both in Cambodia and the world at-large.

The teacher’s resource book uses the Holocaust as a case study to compare with the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. The inclusion of the Holocaust built off an effort in 2002 and 2003 to distribute Khmer versions of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl to around 2000 high school students in Phnom Penh.  As Cambodians embrace a deeper understanding of the Khmer Rouge genocide, a discussion of the Holocaust might continue to enrich such an effort. As in Rwanda, where the Holocaust provides a case study with enough historical distance for Rwandans to discuss it without fear of retribution, so might the Holocaust serve a similar purpose in Cambodia.

If you have more information on Holocaust education in Cambodia, please indicate this in the COMMENTS section below.


GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES ON HOLOCAUST EDUCATION: Trends, Patterns, and Practices,  a publication of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and  the Salzburg Global Seminar, 2013
Download PDF

UNESCO:  Why Teach About the Holocaust?, 2013.


Archival Documents


The Sleuk Rith Institute

Facing History and Ourselves

Global Arts Corps


UNESCO:  Why Teach About the Holocaust?, 2013

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