Hinting at a larger debate over records at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) announced yesterday that it would make court documents available to the public at its offices in Phnom Penh as a “back-up plan”.
DC-Cam, the country’s main repository of Khmer Rouge history, has provided historical records of its own to the court, but it has also been cataloguing and preserving, among other things, transcripts, filings and multimedia from cases 001 and 002 in tandem with the tribunal’s own archival efforts.
Though the statement encouraged interested parties to visit the website of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as the tribunal is formally known, it maintained that the documentation centre’s own storage could be useful over time.
“This back-up plan aims to ensure that the public will have access to the ECCC’s documents even after the Court concludes its operations,” the statement said.
Without drawing a direct connection, the reassurance comes mere months after Khmer Rouge researcher Craig Etcheson wrote in the New York Times that, due to connections between high-ranking officials in the ruling government and the former regime, some records may be viewed as a threat.
“The risk is all the greater because the United Nations, the court’s donors and the Cambodian government have agreed that once the trials are over the ECCC’s database should remain in Cambodia and under the control of the Cambodian government,” he wrote.
Less than a month later, in September, the UN’s special expert on United Nations assistance to the Khmer Rouge trials, David Scheffer, responded in the same newspaper that the “disposition of the archives has not been finally settled”.
Youk Chhang, DC-Cam’s executive director, said in an email that the announcement was not a response to the debate in the Times.
“For us, it is about disseminating and it is about documenting as crimes continue,” Chhang said.
Tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra did not immediately respond to a request for comment.