Treason, guerrilla warfare and identifying the enemy are not topics you would expect to find in the textbook of a 10-year-old schoolchild.
But lessons on those themes are contained in a recently discovered primer for the children of Khmer Rouge guerrillas that aims to create young revolutionaries, not scholars.The textbook, innocent enough at first glance, belonged to a schoolgirl who recently fled the Khmer Rouge's last stronghold at Anlong Veng in northern Cambodia after fighting broke out between the hard-line leadership and war-weary mutineers.
The Khmer Rouge began to unravel in 1996 when some 10,000 guerrillas defected. The last few hundred holdouts, led by Ta Mok, are reportedly pressed against the border with Thailand.
The girl, who only reluctantly parted with her book, lives in a camp of 7,500 guerrillas and their families who have defected to the government since March. The worn paperback was one of her few possessions.
The book offers a rare glimpse into how the Maoist-inspired Khmer Rouge kept forming new generations of revolutionaries after it was deposed when Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1979. Pol Pot, leader of the regime that caused the deaths of up to 2 million people between 1975 and 1979, died April 15.
The book's lessons, including a list of words she was expected to memorize, weren't standard curriculum:
- Guerrilla warfare is defined in handwritten print as "a small attack, an ambush or a mobile attack without any rules."
- Treason is defined as "selling out your country." The prime example given is Cambodian leader Hun Sen, Cambodia's strongman since the 1980s. Hun Sen and the Khmer Rouge are sworn enemies.
- A bamboo spike is a sharp object dipped in poisonous tree sap. Students learn that piercing someone with the object causes the victim "to break into convulsions and die."
- Other terms to know: infiltrate, detonated mines and ancient weaponry.
Another chapter in the 120-page book, published in 1994, includes examples of how to write letters to soldiers battling government troops, praising them in carefully constructed sentences for their courage and military victories.