A young generation is emerging in Cambodia with a very hazy perception of their recent history, specifically the Khmer Rouge period.
Their grandparents don’t want to talk about it and their parents don’t really know much, only what they learned at school.
In the ’90s that amounted to a brief and demonising condemnation of the KR as monsters. They were just bad, that’s all.
But this does not help to understand what happened and why, and hopefully to learn from that knowledge so it won’t happen again.
Young Cambodians do not read many books. They may watch TV or YouTube, or “play” Facebook or video games.
These are the channels which provide access to information for young people nowadays.
In an effort to utilise this fact and fill a gap in history, Bophana Center, the audiovisual archive initiated by film maker Rithy Panh, has been working for the past year on a KR History App project.
This “history app” takes us through the whole period from pre-independence onward. It shows who the KR leaders were, where they came from and how and why they formulated their ideology.
It is an objective endeavour which aims to explain and analyse rather than simply demonise, without offering any justification for the horrors which occurred.
The point is, though, that the KR were not demons; they were human, like us, and we all share the capability of committing the same terrible “mistakes”.
The project draws on documentation from hundreds of sources including survivors’ testimony and the Documentation Center of Cambodia, with photos from the Bophana database taken by many contributors, among them Roland Neveu and Elizabeth Becker, and art works by Mak Remissa. It is presented in English and Khmer.
The KR History App will be launched at Bophana Center today. For further information, contact Bophana Audiovisual resource center, #64, Street 200, Okhnia Mén, Phnom Penh, or go to the website: http://bophana.org/