The app traces the regime roots in the 1950s up to the ongoing cases against the regime’s surviving leaders at the Khmer Rouge tribunal. The easy-to-use app weaves archival photographs, videos, propaganda music and paintings, with historical text compiled by researchers, over eight chapters and 39 subchapters.
Free to download, the app will also be used as a teaching aid for history lessons on the period in high schools and universities.
Seventy percent of the Cambodian population is under the age of 30 and teaching about the Pol Pot regime in the country’s public schools has long been very limited.
“Young generations do not know much about what occurred under the Khmer Rouge regime. A state of collective denial of the past atrocities is even observed amongst youth,” a news release stated. “Encouraging youth to face Khmer Rouge history, accompanying them with relevant and attractive tools in their search for the truth, is crucial for a social transformation in Cambodia.”
Sopheap Chea, an audiovisual archivist at Bophana, spoke of his pride that the app had been developed by Cambodians. “There is a lot of pride for Cambodian technicians because before we all know Khmer history has been written by non-Cambodians, but now it’s kind of a new development that Cambodian people have developed,” he said at the launch of the Khmer Rouge history app in 2017.
Keo Duong, a researcher who co-authored the app’s text, said the development team did its own research. “We conducted interviews with the cadres of the Khmer Rouge, so all those are the sources that we used to be able to analyze and write into text,” he said.
As to whether the app deals with contentious issues, such as international complicity in the rise and support of the Khmer Rouge, Rithy Panh, the renowned Cambodian director and co-founder of Bophana, said that it could not cover every aspect of the regime, but could act as a catalyst for greater understanding. “For us, the most important thing is to give some pieces,” Mr. Panh said. “It’s a tool, it’s a unique thing and we can debate…and step by step we understand more.”
“It’s not black and white . . . We are not politicians, we are historians, so we just present the facts,” he said.
According to culture360.asef.org