In Cambodia, an interactive smartphone app is helping educate students about the country’s devastating history under the Khmer Rouge.
It is now more than 40 years since the Khmer Rouge’s rule over Cambodia came to an end. Between 1975 and 1979, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), as they were officially known, led a brutal totalitarian regime that oversaw the mass murder of up to an estimated two million people – almost a quarter of the country’s population at the time.
It is a period that will forever echo in Cambodia’s history, but one that society struggles to deal with to this day. This has led to a lack of willingness to openly discuss this time in society, which in turn has resulted in a culture of collective silence and a legacy of limited local documentation and resources available to those seeking to learn about this devastating period in the country’s history.
In recent years, international, governmental, and non-governmental institutions have been working to help address this – to help heal the trauma experienced by survivors, and to help ensure that history never repeats itself.
However, with 70 per cent of today’s population under the age 30 and with a society that is still coming to terms with its dark past, reaching young Cambodians has proven to be a significant challenge.
To respond to this, the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center, a charity based in Phnom Penh dedicated to curating film, television, photography and sound archives on Cambodia from all around the world, was hired to develop an educational smartphone application on the history of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.
The application, called ‘Khmer Rouge History’, was developed under the programme ‘Awareness and education on Khmer Rouge history programme – supportive educational resource development’, funded by the European Union and the New Zealand-based Rei Foundation, and implemented by UNOPS.
Available in both the Khmer-language and in English, as of December 2019, the app has been downloaded more than 70,000 times. The majority of these downloads have come from Cambodia, but downloads have also come from users in Canada, France, Japan, South Korea and the United States.