Kek Galabru: Political Participation

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Kek Galabru

Kek Galabru, ©2000 Eddie Adams


  • 6 – 8


  • Political Participation

Additional Resources


  • Article 21: Right to Participate in Government and in Free Elections


  • 80 minutes


  • How does the political situation in Cambodia affect the voting rights of its citizens?
  • Why is it important to vote in elections?


After this lesson, students will be able to

  • Describe the political situation in Burma, China, North Korea, Iran, Cambodia.
  • Compare and contrast the situation in Burma, Cambodia, China, North Korea, and Iran using a Venn diagram.
  • Analyze a reading on Kek Galabru and evaluate her accomplishments.
  • Reflect on the importance of voting.


  • Drawing inference and making conclusions
  • Comparing and contrasting
  • Analyzing information
  • Supporting a position
  • Cooperating to accomplish goals
  • Understanding the concepts of time, continuity and change


  • Political systems
  • Power
  • Change
  • Justice
  • Decision making
  • Civic values
  • Citizenship
  • Human rights


  • Social Studies Standard 1: History of the United States and New York State
    • Intermediate KI 2 PI 3, 4; KI 4 PI 1, 2
  • Social Studies Standard 2: World History
    • Intermediate KI 1 PI 1; KI 2 PI 1; KI 3 PI 1, 2, 3; KI 4 PI 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Social Studies Standard 5: Civics, Citizenship, and Government
    • Intermediate KI 1 PI 1, 2; KI 3 PI 3; KI 4 PI 1, 2
  • English Language Arts Standard 1: Language for Information and Understanding
    • Intermediate Reading PI 1, 2, 4; Writing PI 1, 2, 3, 4
  • English Language Arts Standard 3: Language for Critical Analysis and Evaluation
    • Intermediate Reading PI 1, 3; Writing PI 1, 2
  • English Language Arts Standard 4: Language for Social Interaction
    • Intermediate Reading PI 1, 2; Writing PI 2, 3

NYS P-12 COMMON CORE LEARNING STANDARDS for ELA/Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12

  • RH/SS.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • RH/SS.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • RH/SS.6-8.7 Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
  • WH/SS.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • WH/SS.6-8.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.
  • WH/SS.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  • WH/SS.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection and research.


  • Free Elections
  • United Nations
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Cambodian People’s Party


  • Computer access
  • Internet access
  • LCD projector


Student Activities


Inform the students that they will have the opportunity to vote to decide if they are going to have an essay assignment next week.

  • Distribute to each student a ballot with YES and NO choices.
  • Ask the students to mark their choice and collect the ballots.
  • Regardless of the outcome, indicate to the students that the decision to have an essay was unanimous. This should create questions of fairness as some students will say that they voted “no”.
  • After an appropriate length of time for discussion, inform the students that this was an exercise.

After revealing that this was an exercise, ask the students to reflect on the following questions:

  1. How did you feel when I announced the results?
  2. Would you have bothered voting if you knew your votes wouldn’t matter?
  3. Can you think of another time in your life when you were supposed to have a say but didn’t?
  4. What should a fair election look like?

Transition statement: Inform the students that millions of people around the world live in countries lacking free elections and political rights.

Show the students the map of freedom in the world:

Ask the students to answer the following questions:

  1. What do you notice?
  2. What conclusions can you make from the map?


Assign students to work in groups of four.

Each group will work on the issue of free elections and political rights in one of the following countries: China, North Korea, Burma, Iran, and Cambodia.

The teacher will provide brief background on each country by using the information found at the end of this lesson.

Assign students to complete the activity.

Groups will use computers to explore the links given below on each country and then answer the following questions:

  1. What groups are involved in the political process, both government and non-government?
  2. List the ways the government deny the rights of its citizens.
  3. What types of intimidation does the government use against its people?
  4. Describe how elections are conducted.






Assign students a second country so each group has researched two countries.

Each group will then complete a Venn diagram on the information they found on elections for both countries.

Each group will briefly share the results of the research with the class.


The teacher will introduce the key vocabulary words related to the passage.

Students will then read the Kek Galabru passage at and answer the following questions.

  1. Describe how Kek made a difference in the 1993 elections in Cambodia.
  2. Explain how the government attempted to influence the elections.
  3. List some of the other problems Cambodia has.
  4. Write one question you would ask Kek.
  5. Discuss how Kek shows us it is possible for one person to make a difference.


Ask the students the following question:

  • What can the countries we discussed and Kek’s struggles teach us about the power of voting?

Have students work in their groups to come up with a list and then share it with the class.

Show the short video “Why Vote.”

Discuss the following questions:

  • What were some reasons given for not voting?
  • What were some reasons given for voting?
  • What are your feelings about voting?
  • How do you think Kek and others would feel about the fact that only 61% of Americans voted in the 2008 presidential election?

Become a Defender

•Students will be responsible for educating at least 20 people about the importance of voting by using information on the lack of free elections in one of the following countries:

  • China
  • North Korea
  • Burma
  • Iran
  • Cambodia
  • The goal is twofold:
  • Educate someone about political abuses in another country
  • Encourage people to vote in US elections.

•Students will complete one of the following activities:

  • Make a brochure highlighting the importance of free elections and voting and distribute it to 20 people who are of voting age
  • Create a website highlighting the importance of free elections and voting. Forward it to at least 20 people who are of voting age.
  • Create a Facebook page dealing with the issue of voting and have at least 20 friends join. This page must be updated by the student at least ten times during the course of the year.

•Students will present and defend their project to the class.


The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights is sponsoring an annual contest honoring a student who submits the best advocacy activity based upon the lesson studied. A goal of the lesson is to instill into each student that one voice, one person can make monumental changes in the lives of many. Tell us how you “Became a Defender”!


  • A one-page summary of the advocacy activity
  • Digitized copies of materials that can be sent electronically
  • Photos of the activity (please include parental consent form)
  • A one-page summary of how the activity made a change in the lives of one person or many


  • A week long “virtual” internship at RFK Center
  • An opportunity to meet the defender through a SKYPE visit,
  • A visit from Kerry Kennedy or a defender to your school
  • A poster of a Speak Truth to Power Human Rights Defender
  • A donation of a signed copy of Speak Truth to Power for the school library

The application and instructions for entry can be downloaded here (link for materials)

The deadline for all applications is the third week in November.

The winning student and teacher will be notified by the last week of January.

Additional Resources

Vision of Humanity
Vision of Humanity is a media-monitoring organization that uses the information they acquire to develop a Global Peace Index that aims to understand the accuracy of coverage of peace, violence and conflict by major international television networks. They also serve as an outlet for all major global news stories relating to peace and conflict.

A page run by Human Rights Watch to catalog all of the issues facing Cambodia and to keep a historical record of human rights abuses in the past.

A page run by Human Rights Watch to catalog all of the issues facing Burma and to keep a historical record of human rights abuses in the past.

A page run by Human Rights Watch to catalog all of the issues facing Iran and to keep a historical record of human rights abuses in the past.

North Korea
This entry by Human Rights Watch focuses on the current human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).

A page run by Human Rights Watch to catalog all of the human rights issues currently facing China and to keep a historical record of human rights abuses in the past.

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