Leang Seckon
Four Generations of Political Propaganda
Mixed media on canvas
45 x 60 cm (17.75 x 23.5 in)

During the 1960s, Phnom Penh was like a shining diamond. It was called the ‘island of peace’. It was like a star, shining bright in the sky. Suddenly, a comet flew into the star, destroying it in the process. Phnom Penh fell into the fire of war. The government was destroyed and people were lost. They fled their homes and went to the countryside. Phnom Penh became a dull place. Trees died. The whole city was silent. Only the corpses of old cars, people and prisons remained. The five regimes included: Sangkum Reastr Niyum, the Khmer Republic, Democratic Kampuchea, the People’s Republic of Kampuchea and the modern-day democratic sovereign state of Cambodia.

This picture shows a student riding a bike into a university with a great view. There was a song called Happy to Have Finally Arrived in Phnom Penh by singers of the ’60s and ’70s. Tanks came into the city, forcing people to flee and break away from their families. People laboured to construct canals in the countryside. This particular unit was called ‘Festive in the Day, Festive at Night, the Most Awesome and the Most Wonderful’. The song of the revolution plays in all directions. The title is Red Blood Spread on Earth.

Artists were determined. They wrapped a krama, or scarf, around their heads and wore black. Many soldiers crawled and fought battles alongside Vietnamese soldiers against the Khmer Rouge. They won on 7 January 1979. A big rain fell and cleaned the clay roofs, revealing red blood.

Old people sit in front of their houses, drinking tea and reading a Khmer newspaper. Cambodian politician Heng Samrin warmly receives Vietnamese delegates. A very sad song called Oh, Phnom Penh! is being sung by a violin. On the right, Hun Sen receives the late King Sihanouk from Pochentong Airport. This is His Majesty’s first journey back home after having fled the war. His Majesty asks about the well-being of his people in the rural areas who were receiving aid from the United Nations while under its guaranteed protection. Touch Sreynich, a Khmer singer, sings the song Khmer Only Has His Majesty the King. The United Nations has organised an election in which the FUNCINPEC Party won against the Cambodian People’s Party, thereby creating a new government, a democracy under a sovereign. Her Majesty the Queen goes out, escorted by soldiers in traditional uniforms. A picture of a monk guards the hopes of small Cambodian children sleeping peacefully inside their mosquito nets.