A new student-led mobile app launched this month aims to help young Cambodians learn about sites of importance during the Khmer Rouge regime.
The app, Mapping Memories Cambodia, which was launched by the Royal University of Phnom Penh’s media and communication department, is the product of more than a year of investigations by students into the regime.
Students interviewed survivors to map the locations and provide guides to the historical events that happened there. Users of the app will be able to submit their own stories to the project team, allowing for ongoing crowdsourcing of data on the Khmer Rouge period.
The app sheds light on everyday life under Khmer Rouge rule that is often lost on the historical narrative, its creators say, and includes articles, short films, podcasts and photo galleries.
Chan Muyhong, 28, MMC project leader, said: “We're afraid that the evidence and the important sites during the regime will get lost while the survivors are also aging. They're at least 40 years old now. If we don't put in the effort now, we will stand to lose a chance for the next generation to learn of the life experiences during the regime.”
“The talk on history is mostly overshadowed by narratives of social and economic development. Thus, the project aims at encouraging the study of history. Once we understand the history, it will help us to think and be committed to building a peaceful society.”
Him Sreynea, a civil society worker who attended the launch event on Sunday, said the app and website would make it easier for researchers to study the historical period in granular detail.
“I see that they show short documentaries. I think this is good because it's a true story which our parents have gone through. So I think that it helps us get a clear picture of what they have gone through. For me, the video, documents and reports make it convenient for me to access.”
She added that the interactive mapping of important sites would also engage users
“Sometimes we think that we understand most of our history. But sometimes as I am not a researcher I don't know that the site near me is a historical site. The map makes it possible to know that.”
The Khmer Rouge regime held power between 1975 and 1979, during which time some 1.7 million Cambodians are estimated to have died as a result.
The Khmer Rouge tribunal, a joint Cambodian-international body established to try the leaders of the regime, has found Noun Chea, the former head of parliament, and Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, guilty of genocide.
Neth Phektra, Khmer Rouge tribunal spokesman, who took part in the event, said that the project was important for the study and understanding of the Khmer Rouge regime in order to prevent a repeat of history.
“The app plays an important role in providing knowledge to the public. Thus, this is in part a contribution to preventing cruel criminal acts such as those committed under the Khmer Rouge regime from returning to Cambodia. Even though the app is just a small part it contributes to providing knowledge to the public.”
Phektra added that the agency advocating for victims in the Khmer Rouge court may consider the project as part of the out-of-court compensation process to help mend the emotional wounds of survivors.
From 2006 to 2017, the Khmer Rouge tribunal cost $296 million, which was provided by the Cambodian government and donors.