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Slogans of the DK

Slogans of the DK

"BEAUTY is an obstacle to development". "Comrades, you are free".

"Angkar has the eyes of a pineapple".

Those are three of the 340 Khmer Rouge slogans used by the Khmer Rouge, gathered

by Henri Locard in his new book: Le 'petit livre rouge' de Pol Pot. The French academic

painstakingly amassed the slogans from witnesses he interviewed during his research

into the Khmer Rouge prison system.

"I first came across these slogan as I was writing Angkar Prisoner, a biography

of Moeung Sonn (a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge for 18 months). I started to write

them down on a notebook without any purpose in mind. After a while, it started to

form something like a jigsaw puzzle that built up the Khmer Rouge ideology,"

said Locard.

Khmer Rouge ideology was mainly expressed through word of mouth. There were very

few written documents. Nothing like Mao's Little Red Book. Only party members had

access to written documents.

The ready-made slogans were heard and repeated by everyone.

"Angkar is everyone, Angkar is everywhere. Angkar is powerful."

"They were Angkar words," said Locard. "They were coming from the

Angkar mouth."

Throughout the book, the slogans create an image of what it was like to live in the

collective villages during the Khmer Rouge time.

Locard divides the slogans into six differents categories.

The book starts with those at the height of the regime, and closes with the ones

that refer to collectivism as the death of the individual.

For each section, Locard gives his opinion on the first few pages, then follows each

slogan in Khmer, with a translation, and his explanation of what each meant.

"Disabled soldiers of squad 05, young girls have to look after you." This,

says Locard, meant that the unmarried girls of the village would have to "achieve

their revolutionnary duties" - a signal of an upcoming forced wedding.

"If you want to stay alive, work!" "If you do not finish your work

during the day, you would have to work at night". These two slogans are taken

from the chapter "Work", showing how people were intimidated to achieve

their daily goals.

Work was the new battle, Locard said, and all the people were soldiers committed

to winning it.

From witnesses, Locard also found counter slogans born within people's imagination,

and he compares them with the "official" ones.

"Dig up the ground to put it on the ground" expresses the people's anger

at being forced to destroy old dikes, for example, and having to build new ones.

The counter slogans were ironic: "Socialism is a ready made house, with ready

made clothes, a machine to feed you and a [wood] plane to adjust all the faces to

make them look all the same."

"Any comrade who violates the law of Angkar must imprison himself," the

Khmer Rouge would say. The "April 17" people - those forced from the

cities after the KR takeover - countered: "If we keep our secret, we will live

for a long time."

Locard collects slogans that show the obsession of the fight against Angkar enemies.

Throughout the Pol Pot rule, the Khmer Rouge fought their enemies in name of ideology.

The slogans are a terrible yet lively testimony of the time. As one reads them, it

seems possible to hear them being shouted through a loudspeaker. Sometimes it is

hard to figure out what they might have meant.

I think their meanings might only be clear to those who heard them at the time. Words

obtain meaning in a contemporary situation. Readers may not be able to understand

the terrible meaning of these slogans.

Locard reflects in his introduction that the Khmer Rouge offered no distinction between

nationality or race, only between the "new" and "old" people.

Locard prefers the use of politicide, rather than genocide, to define what he says

was the repression of nearly a quarter of the population.

He explains that "Angkar controlled not only all the economy but also the family

and private lives of everyone. Every kind of breach of Angkar rules, all latent opposition

or even a lack of enthusiasm for the revolutionary line defined by the Politburo

in Phnom Penh was a political mistake and heavily punished, whatever your ethnic

or national origin."

The slogans were designed for everyone. Coherent, sometimes based on traditional

sayings, they were an example of the collectivization of the society.

Locard makes many comparisons with the Orwellian society of 1984. "The slogans

are a perfect example of doublethink: on one level admirable, but in fact, a terrifying

reality.

"With this book, I just wanted to give a better knowledge of the Pol Pot society,

a better knowledge of communism and of the political langague - a doublethink language,"

said Locard.

"Everyone should know Angkar, but no one should know Pol Pot." A good example

of doublethink.

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