Archive for January, 1999

New Website: From Sideshow to Genocide

Thursday, January 7th, 1999

On January 7, 1979 — 20 years ago today — three years of horror came to an end in Cambodia. On that day, Vietnamese troops roared into the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, displacing the communist Khmer Rouge government that had ruled Cambodia since April 17, 1975. The Vietnamese, despite being hardened by 30 years of war, were truly shocked at what they discovered in Cambodia: an entire country dismantled and displaced, with millions of Cambodians forced to work in agricultural labor camps. There were no more schools, no offices or businesses; money and family relationships were totally banned. And throughout the countryside, Cambodia was pockmarked by sunken depressions of dirt, as if hell itself had sucked in cavities of earth in the hopes of devouring the world above it. As the world soon discovered, these earthen depressions were indeed the stuff of hell, for each marked the spot of another mass grave: the graves of the hundreds of thousands of Cambodians slaughtered by their own ountrymen.
In the short span of time from April 1975 to January 1979, the Khmer Rouge managed to starve and murder as many as two million Cambodians – two out of every seven people in a country no larger than the state of Missouri. In the 20 years since, little has been done to seek justice in the memory of those who died. This past year, Pol Pot, mastermind of the genocide, died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack. His three senior henchman, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, have been granted amnesty by the current Cambodian government. It is as if the world would rather forgive and forget rather than face up to the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge.
In honor of the two million Cambodians killed by the Khmer Rouge and the countless others whose lives were destroyed by their policies, I would like to present a new website:
From Sideshow to Genocide:
Tales of the Cambodian Holocaust
http://edweb.gsn.org/sideshow (now http://edwebproject.org/sideshow/)
This website is a virtual history of the Cambodian genocide, covering events in Cambodia from the turn of the century to the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. The website is divided into three main chapters. In “Cambodia Before the Holocaust,” visitors can explore the effects of the Vietnam War and US Cold War policy in Cambodia. “The Khmer Rouge Years” covers the bloody Khmer Rouge regime and its relentless oppression of Cambodian citizens. “Survivor Stories” recounts the tales of Cambodians who managed to escape the Khmer Rouge, written in their own words. Sideshow also includes a guide for online resources related to Cambodia, the Vietnam War, holocaust studies and other subjects. In the coming months, the website will also include a collection of lesson plans for use in schools as well as information on current events in Cambodia.
Over a year in the making, From Sideshow to Genocide is designed as an educational resource for schools and the general public. However, it should be noted that the subject matter might be somewhat graphic for younger audiences. I highly recommend that students view this website with their families or teachers and discuss the issues raised here in order to better understand the gravity of the events surrounding the Khmer Rouge genocide. It is all too easy for genocide in all of its evil forms to seem distant and unreal to those who have not experienced it. Therefore it is my hope that this website will help eliminate the disconnect to these events and allow all of us to bear witness.
Please feel free to share this invitation with your friends and colleagues. The more who know, the harder it will be to forget.