Friday, March 16, 2007

DC-Cam - Searching for the Truth

I cannot adequately summarise the incredibly invaluable work that is being done by Youk Chhang and his team at the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), so the best I can do is to direct you to their website where you can delve into their extraordinary success in educating Cambodians and the rest of the world about the crimes of the Khmer Rouge. They have been tireless in their quest for the truth and their work is as important as ever as the Tribunal of the former Khmer Rouge leaders that are still alive rumbles on. Their monthly magazine, their outreach programs, and their publications are all key elements in disseminating their message and information. Hot on the heels of two monographs from 2006, namely The Cham Rebellion (by Osman Ysa) and The Khmer Rouge Tribunal (by John D Ciorciari), are some new publications. Vanished: Stories from Cambodia's New People under Democratic Kampuchea is 52 survivor stories pieced together by Pivoine Beang and Wynne Cougill. To accompany a photo exhibition in the United States earlier this year, a 128-page catalogue called Night of the Khmer Rouge was produced and is now available. Also due out this year is Winds from the West: Khmer Rouge Purges in the Highlands of Mondulkiri by Sara Colm and Sorya Sim and books on the history of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Nhem En, the KR's chief photographer. Also a film has been produced by Doug Kass and Youk Chhang called Behind the Walls of S-21 : Oral Histories from Tuol Sleng Prison. But believe me, these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the work being done at the DC-Cam offices in Phnom Penh.


Andy said...

Last year Youk Chhang was recognised by TIME Magazine as one of the Heroes of Asia in the last 60 Years. A worthy honour for this inspirational man. Here's the story from Time Magazine (thanks to L for the heads-up):

Youk Chhang
A relentless investigator of Cambodia's killing fields seeks justice, not revenge
By Philip Short

For more than a decade, Youk Chhang has been Cambodia's conscience. If today there is a real possibility of bringing at least some of the former Khmer Rouge leaders before the international tribunal that will begin hearings next year, he, more than anyone, is responsible.

Youk's Documentation Center of Cambodia, a private organization financed mainly by foreign grants, has amassed more than 600,000 pages of documents detailing the workings of the Khmer Rouge regime that from April 1975 to January 1979 transformed Cambodia into a slave state. The Center's holdings in the capital Phnom Penh include minutes of Cambodian Communist Party leadership meetings chaired by the movement's ultra-radical chief Pol Pot; confidential reports describing conditions in the countryside where more than a million people died of starvation or related illness; and the confessions under torture of thousands of prisoners killed by Pol Pot's secret police. Without these documents, a trial would be almost impossible. Today the most damning items are kept in armor-plated, fireproof cabinets, guarded day and night.

An affable, engaging 45-year-old, Youk has the demeanor of a soft-spoken diplomat rather than a man investigating mass murder. Yet his quest for justice has been as much a personal odyssey as an abstract search for historical truth. When the Khmer Rouge took power, he was marched off, like millions of others, to do forced labor in the countryside. His brother-in-law and two nieces died. Then his sister was accused of stealing rice. "She denied it," he remembers, "but the Khmer Rouge cadre refused to believe her. To prove his accusation, he took a knife and slashed her belly open. Her stomach was empty. She died a slow and horrible death."

Years later, Youk tracked down the man who had killed her. He had grown old and pathetically poor. Youk has decided that revenge is not the answer. "Nothing can resurrect what we've lost," he says. "Violence won't erase the horrible memories. It could never ease the pain of Cambodia's past." Youk believes the trial, to which he has devoted so many years, will help Cambodia find closure. Without accountability, he argues, the country will remain dysfunctional and unable to advance, no matter how much foreign aid is poured in. "Cambodia is like broken glass," he says. "Without justice, we cannot put the pieces together."

by Philip Short, a former correspondent with the BBC, who is the author of Pol Pot: The History of a Nightmare and Mao: A Life.

Phatry said...

And for a limited time, come download the whole collection of books in PDF format published by DCCAM free of charge at:

And soksabai, Andy!