May Term class to visit Cambodia
Redlands students to witness Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal
April 12, 2012—Next month, twelve University of Redlands students will observe the trial of three senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime when they travel to Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge trial charges Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary; and Khieu Samphan with genocide, crimes against humanity, and grave breaches of the Geneva Convention of 1949. This trip is one of fourteen opportunities at University of Redlands in the Study Abroad program this summer.
The community service activity course, taught by Philosophy Professor Lawry Finsen, engages students in service while they learn about Cambodia. Students work at a forest preserve for elephants, and at schools for poor children.
Finsen explained the connection between the course and the trial, "From walking with elephants in their natural habitat to experiencing the rich textures of daily life in unfamiliar sounds, smells and tastes, being in an unfamiliar place engages the senses in learning.”
But, historical events are harder to notice, evident only indirectly in traces they leave in places like the archaeological remains of Angkor Wat, added Finsen. “The opportunity to experience an event of such historical significance would be worth taking time for even if it had nothing to do with the course. But it is, in fact, intimately connected with the central issue of the course: the challenges of rebuilding the country and overcoming poverty,” said Finsen.
The need in Cambodia today is so severe partly due to the legacy of the Khmer Rouge period, when most institutions and infrastructure, along with the country's economy and educational system were destroyed at the same time that more than a fifth of the population perished through disease, starvation and murder.
Following a period of liberation from colonial rule, peace and then civil war that established a new government in 1970, the Khmer Rouge seized power in April, 1975. Within days, they forced all urban populations to evacuate on forced marches to the countryside. Schools were closed and hospitals emptied. Educated classes—teachers, professionals, artists, and religious leaders—along with minorities were persecuted, and many murdered. Many were enslaved in forced labor and families were broken up. More than 20 percent of an estimated 8 million people perished before the Khmer Rouge regime was ousted by the Vietnamese. It wasn’t until 1993 that Cambodia had its first democratic elections, overseen by the United Nations.
The students are looking forward to this Study Abroad experience and will be in Cambodia for four weeks.