Khmer Rouge victims’ bones to be preserved

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A man looks at victims’ skulls killed by the Khmer Rouge regime at the Choeung Ek killing field memorial in Phnom Penh. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

A ministry of Culture and Fine Arts official said bones excavated from Khmer Rouge killing fields will be listed as conservation items for the next generation to learn from.

The ministry’s Department of Archaeology and Prehistory director Voeun Vuthy said that since 2012, they have collected the remains of more than 10 thousand victims and that the project to conserve the bones of Khmer Rouge’s victims is ongoing Kingdom-wide.

“We want to remember this bitter history and preserve the victims’ bones to educate the people, especially the next generation. We don’t want people to be angry nor hate each other, but only make peace in their hearts and have justice in society,” he said.

Vuthy said that preserving the victims’ bones was essential to “clarify how they all died”.

“We are technicians and historians, so we need to be clear on our history. We will examine evidence to see whether those victims who died during the Pol Pot regime were killed with a spade, by cutting their throats or some other means. We have found up to 30 methods of killings and torture,” he said.

Conservation and registration of the bones, he said, had been carried out in more than 100 killing fields throughout Cambodia and that 10,000 victims’ bones were excavated out of five of the largest killing fields throughout the country – namely Tuol Sleng, Prasat Krabey, Krang Ta Chan, Kouk Prech, and Tuol Ors Lok.

“All of these killing fields have already been registered as conservation sites, and we have informed every province to discover more killing fields to conduct further research, study and conservation,” he said.

Documentation Centre of Cambodia director Youk Chhang said that conservation and registration of bones found in the killing fields is a positive contribution towards reconciliation and understanding for the next generation.

“Remembrance is a matter of justice. Therefore, any contributions to keep the victims’ bones are truly to fill the justice gap and a comforting act for the victims,” he said.

Chhang said that the government first issued a directive in 2001 urging local administrations to preserve victims’ bones.

“The conservation and registration of bones is a continuation of the work we’ve done over the past 20 years. It shows that we have not forgotten the tragic events of the past as we continue to carry out this task,” he said.