News / Asia

Rare Khmer Rouge Prison Photos Donated to Archives

In this photo taken on Aug. 20, 2012, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, Chhang Youk arranges photos, a part of about a thousand of newly-discovered photo collection of detainees at the former Khmer Rouge main prison S-21, in his office in PhnoIn this photo taken on Aug. 20, 2012, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, Chhang Youk arranges photos, a part of about a thousand of newly-discovered photo collection of detainees at the former Khmer Rouge main prison S-21, in his office in Phno
x
In this photo taken on Aug. 20, 2012, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, Chhang Youk arranges photos, a part of about a thousand of newly-discovered photo collection of detainees at the former Khmer Rouge main prison S-21, in his office in Phno
In this photo taken on Aug. 20, 2012, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, Chhang Youk arranges photos, a part of about a thousand of newly-discovered photo collection of detainees at the former Khmer Rouge main prison S-21, in his office in Phno
Nash Jenkins

More than 1,400 photographs of inmates facing certain death four decades ago in a notorious Khmer Rouge torture center have been presented to an official Cambodian archive.  

The photos were donated anonymously this month to the Documentation Center of Cambodia. They stunned archivists with rich details of prisoners held at the Tuol Sleng prison during the 1975-1979 rule of the extremist group.

Documentation center chief Chhang Youk tells VOA's Khmer Service the back of each passport-size photo contains information on each prisoner, with much of it written by the prisoners themselves.

"It will prove extremely important in helping living family members identify and locate their lost relatives," he said.  "After all these years, the Cambodians are looking for the peace of memories left behind by their loved ones in the grip of the Khmer Rouge - handwriting, names and photographs - so they can move on with their lives."

A place of unrivaled infamy
 

A pile of mugshots provided to the Documentation Center of Cambodia by an anonymous collector. (Credit: DC-Cam)A pile of mugshots provided to the Documentation Center of Cambodia by an anonymous collector. (Credit: DC-Cam)
x
A pile of mugshots provided to the Documentation Center of Cambodia by an anonymous collector. (Credit: DC-Cam)
A pile of mugshots provided to the Documentation Center of Cambodia by an anonymous collector. (Credit: DC-Cam)
Tuol Sleng, known to the Khmer Rouge as S-21, was a place of particular horror.  Of its estimated 17,000 prisoners, only seven survived, making it the regime's deadliest venue.  Analysts say at least four of the photos showed Americans accused of spying.  Authorities say the four have not yet been positively identified, but could be named in the near future. 


Tuol Sleng chief Duch, who was later imprisoned for war crimes, kept meticulous records of prisoners and their forced confessions.  But researchers say most of those records were lost in the upheaval that followed the defeat of the Khmer Rouge by Vietnamese forces in 1979.

Khmer Rouge researcher Peter Maguire, who authored Facing Death in Cambodia, said "archives were literally blowing in the wind" and remained highly disorganized for years.

US legislates Cambodian Genocide Justice Act

But in 1994, the U.S. Congress approved a measure urging then-President Bill Clinton to approve a program helping organizations and individuals collect data on the genocide.  The assistance program then chartered a group of academics at Yale University to spearhead collection efforts under the banner of the Documentation Center for Cambodia. 

Two years later, the Center was archiving what would become a trove of more than 155,000 documents and 5,000 photos.  For his efforts, Chhang Youk was named in 2006 to Time Magazine's annual list of "100 Most Influential People."

Author Maguire describes the Center as an "independent historical broker," noting that it operates free of government influence, as an international tribunal in Phnom Penh continues hearing war crimes cases brought against three surviving Khmer Rouge leaders. 

New photos a boon to families, but legal value unclear

Legal analysts are not yet certain what role, if any, the new photos will play in the ongoing trials.  But Chhang Youk says the photos' greatest value is the emotional impact they will have on the heirs of the four-year calamity at Tuol Sleng and beyond. 

"In the case of these pictures, families are more important than the tribunal," he said.  "These pictures bring closure .....they contain information [proving] that no one, no genocide, can ever completely destroy a human race.  There's always something left behind."

Chhang Youk also took note of the photos' donor, a woman who worked for the People's Republic of Kampuchea, which took over when the Khmer Rouge was ousted in 1979. She acquired the pictures decades ago and held onto them for years. 
 

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Phanny from: VA
August 22, 2012 10:52 PM
That is wonderful. Can you imagine what the closure would mean to these families? I know a lot of us have been waiting for it.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid