Phnom Penh Falls
On April 17, 1975, thousands of Phnom Penh residents celebrated in the streets as victorious Khmer Rouge troops entered the capitol. This joyous celebration, however, was not because the people of Phnom Penh were supporters of the Khmer Rouge; instead, they felt great relief that the five-year civil war had now come to an end. For the first several hours of that sunny morning it didn't matter which side you were on.
Cambodia was finally at peace. This morning revealed a moment of hope. But hope quickly turned to fear as residents noticed that the Khmer Rouge troops weren't celebrating with them. Embittered and toughened after years of brutal civil war and American bombing, the Khmer Rouge marched the boulevards of Phnom Penh with icy stares carved into their faces. The troops soon began to order people to abandon their homes and leave Phnom Penh on the premise that the Americans were going to bomb the city. No exceptions were made - all residents, young and old, had to evacuate as quickly as possible.
From 1975 to 1979, an estimated 2 million people were murdered due to executions, starvation, and disease during the infamous "Killing Fields".
"We will burn the old grass and the new will grow" - Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge declare Year Zero
The idea behind Year Zero is that all culture and traditions within a society must be completely destroyed or discarded and a new revolutionary culture must replace it. All history of the nation or people before Year Zero were deemed largely irrelevant, as it will (as an ideal) be purged and replaced from the ground up. Teachers, artists, and intellectuals were especially singled out and executed during the purges accompanying Pol Pot's Year Zero.
Arts, music, theater, film, and other forms of cultural cultivation were banned under the Khmer Rouge. Money, modern technology, medicine, education and newspapers were also outlawed. From this point on, nothing has gone before.
Photo Credit: Documentation Center of Cambodia Archives
The red scarf (Kramas) became associated with the Khmer Rouge as a result of their uniforms. Soldier uniforms, along with required dress for all citizens of Year Zero Cambodia, consisted of black pajama-like shirt, pants, rubber sandals, and the red Krama.
Red Scarf Revolution aims to bring awareness to the tragedies, atrocities and cultural destruction the Cambodian people endured from 1975 to 1979 under the communist Khmer Rouge regime and how that period impacts us today. With that awareness, Red Scarf Revolution advocates the silenced art, music, culture, and language, with designs that incite the resiliency of the Cambodian people. A new revolution re-appropriated for the new generation because we must know history to avoid its mistakes and resurrect what has been purged in order to build anew.
"Red Scarf Revolution started because I felt that more people need to know and learn about Cambodia's not-so-distant dark history. The concept of awareness by design is to provoke conversation and open the door to dialogue about Cambodia and what Cambodians are all about. The name itself is a representation of the red Kramas, a red scarf that is associated with the Khmer Rouge. The Kramas were a staple of the Cambodian culture before it was a symbol of the Khmer Rouge; we're taking it back and giving it back to the people. Specifically, one of the goals is to bridge today's Cambodian youth with their history while providing a sense of self-worth and identity in order to move the culture forward. I want to provide a platform for Cambodian-American youths to discuss history with their elders. The Khmer Rouge era isn't taught in schools, and I feel it's part of my responsibility to pass down our history. It is who we are and we can't ever lose that."