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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Genocide researchers to put records on Net

Genocide researchers to put records on Net

THE most comprehensive catalogues of information ever assembled about the Pol Pot

regime are due to be dumped on to the Internet for worldwide viewing in December.

In the first public release of information by the Cambodian Genocide Program (CGP),

thousands of pages of database entries on Khmer Rouge leaders and their regime, 6,000

photographs of KR victims and 100 maps of mass grave and prison sites will be put

on the computer network.

But it will still constitute only a fraction of the CGP's information. Other documents

- such as the recently discovered archives of the secret police of the 1975-79 KR

regime - are unlikely to be included.

The Internet project will mark the end of the two-year program, whose United States

government funding expires in December, in its current form.

However, funding is being sought for its Documentation Center in Phnom Penh to be

reborn as an independent Cambodian NGO. Yale University, which won the initial funding

to set up the CGP, may continue to provide technical assistance.

CGP director Ben Kiernan said the December release of information would comprise

four databases: a biographical one of KR leaders and some of their victims; a bibliography

of KR documents and other literature about the regime; a photographic database of

6,000 victims; and a geographical one of computerized maps of prisons and mass graves.

Kiernan, speaking by telephone from Yale University in Connecticut, said the information

would be presented in its raw form - without any recommendations on how it could

be used as evidence for any legal proceedings.

"We won't be recommending charges or any legal action. If the [Cambodian] government

wishes to form any legal body, it's up to them. I stress that it's their decision."

Of KR breakaway leader Ieng Sary, Kiernan affirmed his belief that: "It is quite

clear from the entire history of the regime that he was deeply implicated in the

regime and its actions."

But on whether criminal charges were warranted against Sary or other KR leaders,

he said: "We're not making legal judgments. That's up to duly constituted authorities

to decide and determine whether charges are justified against particular people.

"What we're doing is providing sources of information, in a manner so the information

can be checked, and any duly constituted legal body can pursue charges if it finds

that the information warrants them."

Kiernan said the CGP information "may be useful for any legal or para-legal

body" set up by the Cambodian government in the future.

"If it's not useful for legal purposes, I hope it will be useful for scholars

and for the Cambodian people themselves who may still be searching for news of what

happened to their relatives."

Kiernan said CGP staff were still working on the four databases. It was uncertain

exactly how much information would be ready for release in December, but "it

won't be possible to provide a complete catalogue of all the material that we've

collected."

Many documents, including one of the program's prize finds - the records of the KR

regime's Santibal, or secret police - have yet to be fully catalogued. The Santibal

archives, totaling more than 100,000 pages, were discovered in March.

"We had no inkling that these archives existed when we began our program two

years ago. It was only because of the tremendous detective work of our Khmer staff

in Phnom Penh that we discovered it. To catalogue this is a very large task not funded

by our original grant.

"Nevertheless, it needs to be done."

The CGP was formed by Yale researchers awarded a $500,000 two-year grant from the

US State Department, which has turned down a request for a renewal of funding. Kiernan

expressed disappointment at that but said he understood the State Department's "budget

constraints".

Money was now being sought - from other governments, as well as private individuals

and foundations - to fund the CGP's Documentation Center in Phnom Penh for five more

years.

The center would be turned into an NGO in January, with a yet-to-be appointed Cambodian

board of directors, though Yale University hopes to be able to "continue to

work with them as partners."

The center would be tasked with preserving, cataloguing and making available to the

public the documents which had not yet been processed by the CGP.

The thousands of documents gathered by the program - from government and private

sources - would be returned to the people who provided them.

Funds were being sought to ensure they could all be electronically scanned, or at

least microfilmed or photocopied, beforehand.

Kiernan appeared to play down the prospect that the documentation work would collapse

through lack of funding. Although no further funding had yet been found, there was

"tremendous support" for the work, he said

"I think that people do understand how important it is that this work be done...

not only for Cambodian history, but for the history of genocide in the 20th Century.

"We're certainly very keen on getting the job done. We've worked very hard to

get this far. Just the fact that we've uncovered the amount of material that we have

is a sign that we're serious about carrying out our task and serious about finishing

it."

Although it remains unclear whether a trial of KR leaders will ever be held, Cambodia's

co-Prime Ministers and King Norodom Sihanouk have in the past expressed strong support

for the CGP's work.

Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, in an interview last week, urged foreign countries

to fund the program to ensure its completion as soon as possible.

A CGP conference in Phnom Penh last August was told that there was considerable evidence

of KR crimes during the Pol Pot regime, including genocide, crimes against humanity,

war crimes and other breaches of international and Cambodian law.

But the key-note discussion paper presented to the conference by two US law experts

shied away from the prospect of a trial of KR leaders

Instead, its main recommendation was for a "truth commission" to be formed

to "set the record straight" on the regime's atrocities without prosecuting

particular people.

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