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total length: 24:34

Clip 1 (length 9:12)
Hearing from victims and alleged perpetrators of the genocide

Clip 2 (length 7:34)
The Khmer Rouge's capitalist makeover

Clip 3 (length 7:48)
An architect of Cambodia's genocide denies wrongdoing

Image from the storyCoping With Genocide in Cambodia

Target Grade Levels:
Grades 9-12

Vietnam War (Legacy), Genocide, U.S. Influence Abroad, Reconstruction

• The Activity
• Extensions
• Relevant National Standards
• Cross-Curricular Activities
• Ties to Literature

The Activity

In the 1970s, the Vietnam War spilled into Cambodia. Rebel Khmer Rouge forces, led by a man named Pol Pot, took power and set out to establish a classless, agrarian society. One out of every four Cambodians died under the terrifying rule of the Khmer Rouge. In reference to this genocide, Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen has said, "We should dig a hole and bury the past." Prach Ly, a young Cambodian American living in Los Angeles, disagrees, and he's using his rap music to tell the world what happened in Cambodia so that history won't repeat itself.

To introduce students to this dark chapter in Cambodian history, show them where Cambodia is on a map, then play "Power, Territory and Rice"
from Dalama: The Education of the Lost Chapter, Prach Ly's yet-to-be-released album. Allow students to read the lyrics of the song while it is played. (Print the Web page with the lyrics and pass it out to students, or use a computer projector to present the lyrics to the classroom.)

When the song is over, ask students these questions.

  • What is the subject of the song?
  • What images does the song describe?
  • What do you think is the rapper's purpose in writing the song?
  • How does the music affect the message of the song?
Next, expand student understanding of the rule of the Khmer Rouge by watching the story "Cambodia: Pol Pot's Shadow" (about 24 minutes long). Help students focus their viewing by asking them to take notes on the various ways in which Cambodians have coped with the memory of the mass killings.

After the video, ask students to write a journal entry about what they think should be done in order for Cambodians to feel justice and peace for the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. Would it be best for Cambodians to simply "dig a hole and bury the past," as suggested by the Cambodian prime minister? Why or why not?

If time permits, consider having students compare and contrast Cambodian reactions to genocide with those of the people in Rwanda, where approximately 800,000 people were slaughtered in 1994. The FRONTLINE/World Fellows story, "Rwanda: After the Genocide" provides background information on the conflict in Rwanda, as well as the perspectives of a perpetrator and a victim.

Additional resources on the genocide in Rwanda can be found at the FRONTLINE Web site feature, "Ghosts of Rwanda."

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Expand class discussion on genocide by exploring these related FRONTLINE/World stories:

A Question of Genocide
Experience the refugee camps at the Chad/Sudan border in Summer 2004.

Dark Shadows: The Legacy of War in Serbia and Bosnia (from FRONTLINE/World's 'Rough Cut' series)
Ten years after the genocidal Srebrenica massacre, find out what progress has been made in reforming the Serbian and Bosnian political systems and overcoming the deep ethnic divides between Serbs, Croatians and Muslims. (July 2005)

Rwanda: After the Genocide
See how Rwanda is trying to heal itself after 800,000 people were slaughtered in just three months in 1994.

Sudan: The Quick and the Terrible
Learn about the roots of what many consider to be genocide in the Darfur region of the Sudan.

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Relevant National Standards

These standards are drawn from "Content Knowledge," a compilation of content standards and benchmarks for K-12 curriculum by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning), at

United States History, Standard 27: Understands how the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics

Level IV, Benchmark 2
Understands the political elements of the Vietnam War (e.g., the constitutional issues involved in the Vietnam War, the legacy of the war)
World History, Standard 44: Understands the search for community, stability and peace in an interdependent world

Language Arts, Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

Level IV, Benchmark 4
Understands writing techniques used to influence the reader and accomplish an author's purpose (e.g., organizational patterns, such as cause-and-effect or chronological order; imagery, personification, figures of speech, sounds in poetry; literary and technical language; formal and informal language; point of view; characterization; irony; narrator)

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Cross-Curricular Activities
Consider building on the themes of the above activity by working with colleagues in other disciplines to conduct the following activities.

Protest Violence with Painting (Art)

The Activity

Over the past 20 years, Sri Lanka has been the site of more suicide bombings than anywhere else in the world. To fight against the tendency for society to become desensitized by such violence, a group of local artists paint a colorful mural at each bombing site to serve as a memorial. Have students read the brief narrative and watch the slide show at Fighting Terror With Paint Brushes.

Ask students to consider these questions.

  • What is the key message of the art of "road painters"?
  • Who is the intended audience for this message?
  • Will such street paintings have a positive impact? Why or why not?
Next, invite students to create their own painting to protest an act of violence.


Visit the "Sri Lanka: Living With Terror" Web resources to see the slideshow, watch the full FRONTLINE/World television segment in streaming video, read a synopsis, follow the reporter's diary, or gather related links and facts:

Relevant National Standards

Visual Arts, Standard 3: Knows a range of subject matter, symbols and potential ideas in the visual arts

Level IV, Benchmark 2
Applies various subjects, symbols and ideas in one's artworks
Visual Arts, Standard 4: Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures
Level IV, Benchmark 1
Knows a variety of historical and cultural contexts regarding characteristics and purposes of works of art

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Write About the Communist and Postcommunist Experience (English)

The Activity

Show students the story "Romania: My Old Haunts."
Before viewing the short (18 minutes long) film, explain that Romania was ruled by communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu from 1965 until his execution in 1989. In the video, students will see and hear reporter Andrei Codrescu as he takes a personal journey back to his homeland to see how Romania is faring more than a decade after the fall of communism. Have students divide a sheet of paper in half and label one side "During Communist Rule" and the other side "After Communist Rule." Ask students to take notes while they watch, listening closely and making careful observations about life in Romania, both during communist rule and afterward. After viewing the piece, have the class discuss what they observed, then have students use their notes as a content source for writing a poem, drawing a political cartoon, creating a travel brochure or writing a comparison/contrast essay.


Visit the "Romania: My Old Haunts" Web resources to see the story in streaming video, read a synopsis of the story or interview with the reporter, or gather related links and facts:

A transcript of the story is also available:

Relevant National Standards

Language Arts, Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

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Write an Editorial on the Wall Being Built to Separate Jews and Arabs in Israel (English)

The Activity

Ask students the purpose of building fences and walls. Begin the class discussion with backyard fences and walls, then move to those found throughout the community. And finally, discuss the purposes of large-scale political walls, for example, the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China. Are walls and fences to keep things out? to keep things in? both? What would happen if no fences or walls were put up in each of the circumstances discussed? On a blackboard or marker board that is visible to everyone, list some of the issues raised during the class discussion.

Next, break students into seven groups and assign each group a different section of the Web-exclusive story "Israel: Tracing Borders"
Have all the groups read the introduction to the story, then have them read their assigned section. As they read, students should take notes on the purpose of Israel's Seam Line Project and on social, political and economic issues that the building of the wall raises. How do these issues compare with the list of issues made earlier?

Ask students to write a newspaper editorial that seeks to persuade readers either that the Seam Line Project will help ease tensions between Jews and Arabs or that the project will intensify these tensions. Editorials should be based on what students believe after learning and thinking about the issue, and should include specific evidence drawn from "Israel: Tracing Borders" to make the case.

Relevant National Standards

Language Arts, Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts

Levels III and IV, Benchmark 1
Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of informational texts

Levels III and IV, Benchmark 2 Knows the defining characteristics of a variety of informational texts

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