Remarks by Ms. Veena Reddy, Mission Director, USAID/Cambodia, Launch of the Kampong Cham Documentation Center

Speeches Shim

Friday, January 29, 2021
Remarks by Ms. Veena Reddy, Mission Director, USAID/Cambodia, Launch of the Kampong Cham Documentation Center

(as prepared for delivery)

  • Your Excellency Ms. Ton Sa-Im
  • Mr. Seng Sim
  • Ms. Farina So
  • Distinguished guests, faculty, and students

It is my honor to be here today for the opening of this critically important Kampong Cham Documentation Center. I am inspired when I see Cambodians so deeply committed to promoting national reconciliation through historical remembrance.

The Khmer Rouge destroyed Cambodia’s education system and replaced it with indoctrination. They dispensed with standard teaching methods, believing that true education came from hard labor. They sought out teachers as well as other educated professionals for elimination. They separated school-aged children from their parents.

The result, as you all are aware, was the devastation of Cambodia’s economy, the hollowing out of Cambodia’s education, and the loss of millions of innocent lives.

Although the Khmer Rouge regime collapsed in 1979, its legacy endures. Many teachers and educated Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge or fled the country afterwards, leaving Cambodia with the daunting challenge of rebuilding its education system without the necessary human resources.

Since then, much has been done to develop and modernize this education system. DC-Cam’s Kampong Cham Documentation Center is the result of a culmination of persistent efforts by teachers, parents, and the Cambodian government over the last four decades.

It is a testament to the strength and resilience of Cambodians that we are here, all these years later, to improve education, the very thing the Khmer Rouge tried to destroy. I think we can agree that by helping Cambodians reflect on the dark Khmer Rouge period, this center is playing a critical role in contributing to Cambodia’s democratic development.  

This is why the U.S. government supports DC-Cam and its noble purpose. We are committed to transitional justice and peacebuilding through historical remembrance. Since 2004, USAID has provided over $14 million towards DC-Cam’s exhaustive efforts to document the crimes and atrocities of the Khmer Rouge era.  We are proud of our long-standing partnership with DC-Cam.

When I think about USAID’s relationship to DC-Cam, I think about the profound reason behind our support.  At USAID, we understand that genocide and mass atrocities have repeatedly occurred throughout history and that each of us—you and me—have an obligation to prevent it from happening again. How do we do it? Learning, studying, and understanding the causes and the consequences of these past tragedies is the first and most important step.  This Center is a vital part of that journey.

This year, we are showcasing the values that drive U.S. government activities in Cambodia, and have announced quarterly themes, which are “4 P’s”: Prosperity and Sustainability, Principles and Values, Peace and Security, and Partnerships.  This first quarter, we are focusing on Prosperity and Sustainability, and our partnership with DC-Cam is just one example of collaboration that is helping Cambodia progress towards a brighter future. A clear understanding and appreciation of its past will help pave the country’s path to economic and social development.

Genocide education has been instrumental in promoting national healing in the aftermath of the darkest chapter of Cambodia’s modern history.  Thanks to efforts by the Ministry of Education and DC-Cam, the history of the Khmer Rouge has already been included in the national curriculum and – with careful training – thousands of educators are now able to teach this history. By reminding the next generation of Cambodians of their country’s past, we believe a stronger platform for transitional justice and peace can be built.

Finally, I would like to thank DC-Cam and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport again for establishing this Center. Thanks to your tireless work - the horrors of the Khmer Rouge will be remembered and never repeated. 

Thank you very much.

Kampong Cham Province
Issuing Country 

Last updated: February 17, 2021

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