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A book to remember: Listing victims of the Khmer Rouge

A book to remember: Listing victims of the Khmer Rouge


It is estimated that almost two million people died under the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979. Do you understand how many two million people is? According to Yan Nivoat who is an architect familiar with the works of Vann Molyvann, the Olympic Stadium of Phnom Penh can house approximately 60,000 people. Two million people means many Olympic Stadiums would have to be filled to get all the people. That is the fact of the Khmer Rouge genocide. But do you know who they are? What are their names and what did they do? The answers to these questions is the focus of a new effort by the Documentation Center of Cambodia to list all the names of the two million people who perished under the Khmer Rouge into multiple volumes of books which we call Book of Memory.

Apart from listing names, we also write stories about the two millions people. This is the first ambitious effort to cover such a scope of work. However, it is beneficial to survivors and history that the stories of individual persons are written and published. This would also serve the purpose of memorialisation of the victims of genocide, and the following purposes: to give a descriptive sense of the scope of death as a result of the genocide by telling stories of individual victims; to assemble a comprehensive history of the Khmer Rouge genocide through stories of individuals; to study the pattern of death under the Khmer Rouge including locations, manner of death, execution tools used, average age, sex composition, distribution of death through the years under the Khmer Rouge; and to count the number of victims.

DC-Cam already has in its database up to a million names of those who perished under the Khmer Rouge. The next step would be to record more names from survivors who are the only source of knowledge about their relatives who died under the Khmer Rouge regime.

The victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, if we can call all of those who died as victims,  died in many different circumstances. Four major causes of death include execution by the Khmer Rouge, starvation, forced labour and disease. These four causes of death are interconnected, but the general condition of death is attributed to the Khmer Rouge’s creation of an environment that induced widespread killing and death. One can consider this environment of death in a local framework. The evacuation of city dwellers into the countryside created an instant shift of physical condition not suitable for an urban population which had experienced little manual labour. This shift caused many problems including sickness, mistakes and culture shock. Once contracting sickness former urban dwellers and other groups of people could not receive adequate and proper medical care. By then the Khmer Rouge had abandoned modern medical equipment. Once hungry, many people were prone to committing mistakes and mistakes sometimes led to arrest and execution. The Khmer Rouge also purged their own cadres.

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