The Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror in Cambodia took as many as 1.7 million lives. For many Cambodians, that brutal period between 1975 and 1979 is where their history starts, because the Khmer Rouge also destroyed much of Cambodia’s education system. Generations of Cambodians have grown up with no access to books, publications or historical records to acquaint them with their past.
To help Cambodia reset, a French non-government organization called SIPAR runs a publishing program to promote literacy for Cambodian youth. It has produced 80 titles in a period of 10 years.
“SIPAR tries to raise awareness of Khmer history,” Aurélie Giraud of SIPAR told The Phnom Penh Post. “I mean the history before the Khmer Rouge.”
Its newest book, Exploring Angkor, looks at a more glorious aspect of Khmer culture than the infamous Rouge. The 56-page Exploring Angkor, launched this week to mark the SIPAR program’s 10th year, is a combination of text, illustrations and photographs aimed at readers 12 and up.
Angkor, an ancient temple complex in Siem Reap province, is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. The most famous of the temples is called Angkor Wat, an important religious center and a prime attraction for tourists. The entire complex is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
Huot Sarith, 30, wrote the book along with Sun Heng Meng Chheang, 73. It isn’t just a history book; it also illustrates how the Cambodian government believes the temples were built (still a disputed subject amongst archaeologists). “We decided to illustrate the picture of how the Angkor Wat was built based on the analysis of scientists and proof from the ancient temple. We also got approval from the government Apsara Authority,” Sarith told The Phnom Penh Post.
Most SIPAR books are published in Khmer. But Exploring Ankgor comes in Khmer, English and French. That’s meant to help spread a different image of Cambodia around the world. See more at the link below.