KR-era sandals get a fashionable retread


A happy customer, much too young to reflect on history.

T

he rubber sandals forced on the Cambodian people under the rule of the Khmer Rouge

and shunned ever since are making a comeback among the younger generation.

The sandals, made from tires, are now seen as lasting longer and being of better

quality than some leather ones.

Cambodians stopped wearing the rubber shoes after the Khmer Rouge regime was ended

in 1979 because they were associated with Pol Pot and the killing fields.

Now, however, the sandals can be seen again in the stalls at Psah Chas (Old Market)

in the center of Phnom Penh.

The vendors are all ethnic-Vietnamese women. Those spoken to by the Post did not

know about the shoes' Khmer Rouge connection.

Leum Lang, 42, who came to Cambodia in the mid-1980s, said she was told by a friend

that the tire sandals lasted longer. Her son came up with the idea of making them

so that they resembled current fashion shoes.

They differ from the Khmer Rouge originals in having no strap and having metal studs.

Young students like to buy them because they look like the normal sandals that are

sold in the market.

The real thing - ex-KR soldier 'upgrades' from 'Pol Pots.

The mother and son duo have been in business for five months. Leum Lang said the

first three months were good with five or six pairs selling each day for US$3-4.

Now, the price is down to 8,000 Riel, but she can sell only three or four pairs per

day

Phan Kang, 18, from Prey Veng, who does construction work at the National Museum,

liked the tire sandals because they lasted longer - one year as opposed to the five

months his previous shoes lasted.

Nine-year-old Sok Ruotha, a student in Phnom Penh, said the tire sandals looked like

normal fashionable ones, but they were cheap and had a buckle on them that could

be polished.

"My parents never told me about the Khmer Rouge tire sandals so I don't know

what they were like."

Perhaps one day soon, these too will be collectors items, living on only in the collective

memory.