Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Ensuring history's right on both sides is key to better ties

Bangkok Post
Tuesday January 29, 2008


One of the keys to closer ties between Thailand and Cambodia lies with the Thai-Cambodian Association that was set up a year after the 2003 riots.

And for the association, a way to prevent violence recurring is to create a proper understanding of Thai-Cambodian history. Trying to correct history textbooks is a good way to start.

But five years on, there hasn't been much progress on this front even though academics from the two countries have met frequently to discuss the textbooks.

''What is different in the textbooks [about Thai-Cambodian history] is that the two countries write history differently,'' Dhonburi Rajabhat University vice-president Prayoon Songsilp said.
Ms Prayoon said it might be wise if the two countries studied each other's history more and softened the words used in textbooks.

The future is also encouraging as Thailand is helping Cambodia design a curriculum for the Thai language at the bachelor's degree level at the University of Cambodia in a task expected to be completed next year, she said.

Allowing Cambodian students to learn Thai in universities also shows that the Cambodian government is more open about education these days, she said. In the past the Phnom Penh government feared Thai influence, she added.

The Thai-Cambodian Association has also launched more than 30 projects _ mostly in arts and culture, literature and student exchanges, Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat said.

''We believe that Cambodian people have a better attitude towards these projects,'' he said, citing the good response from Cambodian university students who know the Thai language who have been invited to visit Thailand. ''They know Thailand better,'' he added.

Bangkok has taken Thai movies and songs to Cambodia to show to Cambodians and the two countries also have cooperated to produce dictionaries as well as projects on reading and writing the Thai language for students at the secondary to university level

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