Re: Overview of Documentary Materials at
Dear Sirs and Mesdames:
The following is a brief overview of the holdings of the Documentation
Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) in
It includes a modified excerpt from a forthcoming chapter entitled
"Documenting the Crimes of Democratic
by John D. Ciorciari with Youk Chhang.
The chapter will be published in an edited volume entitled Awaiting
Justice: Essays on Khmer Rouge Accountability (Jaya Ramji, Jason
Abrams, and Beth Van Schaack, eds., Mellon Press, 2004). This
memorandum should not be reproduced without the consent of the
The Available Materials
Since its founding in 1995, DC-Cam has been active in collecting
documents relevant to the history of the Democratic Kampuchea (DK)
era. To date, DC-Cam has amassed well over 600,000 pages of
documentation from the DK era, petitions and interview transcripts
taken from survivors of the regime, and a variety of other potential
evidence. DC-Cam by no means possesses a monopoly on documentation
relevant to the crimes of Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) leaders,
but it is the largest existing repository of such materials.
The Tuol Sleng Archives (TSL) represent a second major repository of
potential evidence. The personal archives of certain leading
journalists and scholars-containing interview transcripts from
meetings with CPK officials, victims, and survivors-are also a
valuable source of potential evidentiary information.
The available documentary materials that may be used against CPK
leaders can be divided broadly into two major categories. The first
includes materials produced during the Pol Pot era. DK cadres and
officials authored most of the documents dating from the 1975-79
period, but confessions of CPK prisoners and documents from foreign
countries are also available. The second major category of
documentary evidence includes materials produced after the fall of the
DK regime in 1979. These are primarily petitions and
interview transcripts from survivors of the DK period, but they also
include mapping reports describing extant physical evidence.
Additional materials undoubtedly exist, and it is the continuing
challenge of DC-Cam and historical and legal investigators to identify
and collect them.
Documents Dating from the DK Era
A number of documentary materials exist from the Pol Pot period. Most
were discovered by officials of the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK),
which replaced the CPK as
de facto governing authority after Vietnamese forces and allied
members of the National Council of Kampuchea Defense Restoration
Solidarity Front (the Renakse or "Front") seized Phnom Penh on January
7, 1979. Together, these documents can help to prove the occurrence
of specific crimes, demonstrate the knowledge and complicity of DK
leaders, and clarify the CPK chain of command.
The first major tranche of documentary evidence against former DK
leaders comprises extensive official correspondence between members of
the CPK. Such correspondence includes reports from lower-ranking
officials to their superiors, directives from superiors to
subordinates, and requests for assistance or information. CPK
correspondence was generally typed, with some appearing on official
letterhead but most printed on plain paper. These items of CPK
correspondence, sometimes called the "Khmer Rouge telegrams," were
discovered by a Vietnamese team of experts in 1979 and promptly placed
in the custody of the Documentation Office of the PRK Ministry of
Interior, renamed the Cambodian Ministry of the Interior (MOI). They
were held in the custody of the MOI until their delivery to DC-Cam.
Confession reports are a second important type of CPK
documentation. The confession reports usually contain transcripts of
confessions and attached reports by CPK interrogators, some of which
indicate criminal conduct. Certain confession reports also include
notes written in the margins by high-ranking officials, most notably
Security Chief Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch, head of the CPK's state
security organization, the Santebal. Confessions extracted from
prisoners at the infamous Tuol Sleng prison (also known as "Office
S-21") are particularly numerous.
The TSL documents, which include most of the confessions and most of
the CPK biographies, were discovered and identified in 1979. Departing
DK officials had simply left the confession transcripts in Office
S-21. In an interview with Nate Thayer, Duch asserts that in January
[CPK Deputy Secretary Nuon Chea] didn't
tell me that the Vietnamese were invading so I had no time to burn the
documents. When I met Nuon Chea in 1983, he told me, “All the papers
from the party were burned except yours. You are stupid.”
Nuon Chea was incorrect in claiming that all of the other CPK
documents had been destroyed, the TSL collection is one of the largest
and most important bodies of
documentary evidence. PRK officials organized the documents and
preserved them with the founding of the TSL and the Tuol Sleng
Genocide Museum in 1980, where they have remained to the present day.
Most of the remaining confession transcripts and many of the CPK
biographies come from the so-called Santebal collection. The
documents in the Santebal collection were discovered by a team of
Vietnamese experts in 1979 at a large private villa located on 240
Street in Phnom Penh. Like the "Khmer Rouge telegrams," these
documents were delivered to the PRK Ministry of the Interior and
remained in the MOI their delivery to DC-Cam. The Santebal collection
has been supplemented by two confessions, amounting to approximately
200 pages, provided to DC-Cam by a private individual under a
condition of anonymity.
Committee Minutes and Reports
Reports from DK political and military committees represent a
third form of documentary evidence from the Pol Pot era. Minutes from
meetings of the CPK Central Committee, the Standing Committee of the
Central Committee, zone and regional committees, and certain military
bodies have been preserved. In addition, the DK leadership issued a
limited number of public proclamations. One of the most noteworthy
proclamations was made at a CPK Congress in early 1976, and a record
Such documents are extremely useful in discerning the authority of
specific individuals in the CPK hierarchy and establishing the mental
states of party leaders.
Many of the committee minutes come from the Santebal collection and
relate to the proceedings of CPK military divisions. Other minutes
relate to meetings of the Standing Committee, the top decision-making
body in the CPK (discussed below). Excerpts from some Standing
Committee minutes are held in the Cambodian National Archives, where
they were deposited by Renakse officials after the conclusion of the
PRK People's Revolutionary Tribunal, organized in Phnom Penh to try
the "genocidal Pol Pot-Ieng Sary clique" in August 1979. Copies of
other Standing Committee minutes are held in DC-Cam, given to the
Center by scholars Ben Kiernan, David Chandler, and Julio Jeldres.
Chandler and Kiernan obtained those copies from Khieu Kanharith, now
Cambodia's Secretary of State for Information and previously the
editor of Kampuchea, a weekly Cambodian newspaper. Khieu obtained
those documents directly from the PRK Renakse office after the
People's Revolutionary Tribunal of 1979.
A fourth variety of documents from the 1975-1979 period includes
the biographies of CPK prisoners and CPK party members. DK officials
recorded biographical information about each of the prisoners entering
S-21 and certain other detention facilities. CPK officials also took
down biographical information when individuals joined the party.
DC-Cam holds the biographies of several thousand prisoners, with
photographs attached, and over 19,763 biographies of CPK cadres and
soldiers, many of which contain photographs as well. The information
from employee and prisoner biographies
valuable in determining the identities of particular victims or
perpetrators and establishing relevant chains of command. The
biographies come from both the TSL and Santebal collections.
Foreign documents provide a further source of potential evidence
dating from the DK period. Over 1,000 pages of reports jointly signed
by CPK officials with counterparts from the Chinese or Vietnamese
officials are on file at DC-Cam. These documents describe the CPK's
commercial dealings with China, Vietnam, and other countries and
include information about foreign supply of civilian and military
goods to Democratic Kampuchea. Those documents, now on file with
DC-Cam, come from the MOI via the National Archives of Cambodia.
Original copies of three DK periodicals entitled "Revolutionary
Youth" (Yuvachon ning Yuveaneary Padevat), "Revolutionary Flag" (Tung
Padevat), and "Flag of the Front" (Tung Renakse) also exist. These
magazines were produced by the CPK on a monthly basis between 1975 and
1979 and distributed to officials throughout Democratic Kampuchea.
They include advice and exhortations from Party leaders, news reports
of alleged CPK successes in various endeavors, and sometimes poetry.
DC-Cam holds original copies of almost all of the published issues of
these monthly periodicals between 1975 and 1979.
In addition to the CPK periodicals, approximately 95 films and
instructional videos produced by the Pol Pot regime with its Chinese
advisors have been identified.
Like the Party magazines, films include directives for CPK members and
general propaganda trumpeting the successes of the regime. Ev Panaka
discovered the CPK film collection in the files of the DK Cinema
Department. They were stored in the PRK (and later Cambodian)
Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, Cinema Department until 1998, when
they were sent to France for restoration.
Six films produced by the East German government in Cambodia during
the DK era exist as well. These films, produced by DEFA-Studio, show
critical historical information about the DK regime and include
extensive visual evidence of widespread criminal activity in
Democratic Kampuchea. German Ambassador Dr. Helmut Ohlraun gave
original copies of the files to DC-Cam in 2001.
Diaries and Notebooks
variety of other documentary materials exist from the DK period, such
as the personal notebooks and diaries of 520 CPK cadres, soldiers, and
other officials, including the infamous Duch, Head of the Santebal,
and Mam Nai, chief interrogator at Office S-21. The notebooks and
diaries sometimes include hundreds of pages of notes or narrative,
recording day-to-day experiences under the DK regime and, in some
cases, offering chilling and incriminating accounts of criminal
behavior. DC-Cam obtained most of these handwritten CPK notebooks and
diaries from institutions and private individuals. Survivors of the
DK regime often found notebooks or diaries when returning to their
former homes or workplaces after January 1979.
Post-DK Documentary Materials
to documents from the DK period, DC-Cam holds extensive materials
produced after January 1979. These documents are often every bit as
important and useful as those dating from the DK regime. They offer a
great deal of information about the abuses suffered by DK survivors
and the experiences of interviewed victims and perpetrators during the
Pol Pot era.
The most numerous post-DK documents are petitions authored by
survivors of the DK regime in the early 1980s. Usually called the
Renakse documents, the petitions were collected by local officials of
the PRK regime. After January 1979, the PRK had succeeded the CPK as
the de facto authority in most of Cambodia, and PRK officials
collected petitions in districts and provinces throughout the country.
DC-Cam has most of the 1,166,307 handwritten Renakse petitions
reported by PRK authorities on file. The petitions were not authored
under penalty of perjury, and their evidentiary weight will hinge on
adjudicators' assessment of their reliability. Many detail CPK
atrocities and name specific victims, witnesses, and perpetrators.
Some petitions also identify the locations of CPK prisons,
interrogation centers, and mass graves. Between 1983 and 1997, the
Renakse petitions were locked in a storage facility in the PRK Front
Office, which later became the Cambodian Ministry of International
Ceremonies, under the charge of Chea Kien. In 1997, Chea delivered
the petitions en masse to DC-Cam, where they remain.
In addition to the Renakse materials, DC-Cam possesses 29 petitions
authored by Vietnamese citizens to the PRK government in Phnom Penh.
The Vietnamese petitions, written between 1979 and 1983, complain of
numerous offenses committed against them and their families by CPK
cadres during the Pol Pot era. They were obtained from Vietnamese
government files and delivered to DC-Cam by a Vietnamese official
under a condition of anonymity. Finally, numerous petitions were
submitted via international human rights organizations and political
bodies during and shortly after the DK period. Those petitions were
often included in official reports from agencies of the United
Nations, Amnesty International, and other organizations.
1979 Trial Documents
A second major category of post-DK documentation comes from the
1979 Popular Revolutionary Tribunal in Phnom Penh. Documents from the
1979 Tribunal include witness statements, reports by PRK criminal
investigators, excerpts from CPK documents, accounts from the foreign
press, and records of the trial proceedings and guilty verdict.
DC-Cam obtained these documents from Min Khin, former head of the PRK
Genocide Research Committee, in 1996. Min, who now serves as
Cambodia's Minister of International Ceremonies for the Royal Palace,
obtained the documents directly from Keo Chanda, the responsible PRK
authority, shortly after the 1979 trial.
The principal shortcoming of the 1979 trial documents-even more than
the Renakse petitions-is the appearance of political bias. The PRK
Decree establishing a tribunal states conclusively that the "Pol Pot-Ieng
Sary clique" was guilty of massive criminal offenses, before any
evidence had been presented in court. The defendants were not
present, and the PRK People's Revolutionary Council, a sworn adversary
of the CPK appointed all of the attorneys, judge, and ten "assessors"
(akin to jurors).
the trial began, Keo Chanda, the PRK Chair of the Legal Affairs
Committee, publicly pronounced on behalf of the government that the
Pol Pot-Ieng Sary clique was guilty of the crimes charged and needed
to be punished.
At the trial, no evidence was put forward on behalf of the defendants.
Consequently, while many of the documents emanating from that trial
doubtlessly contain relevant factual material, an adjudicator may
consider them less reliable due to concerns of bias.
Interview transcripts from leading scholars, journalists, and
DC-Cam staff members are a third source of post-DK documentary
materials. These transcripts represent one of the
most important and powerful sources of
potential evidence against the leaders of the Pol Pot regime. A few
interview transcripts date from the DK period, but most interviews
were conducted after 1979. Adjudicators will need to assess the
reliability of these transcripts by considering the date of the
interview in question and the likelihood that the interviewee's memory
permitted an accurate account.
Scholars including Ben Kiernan and Steve Heder have recorded some of
the most revealing interviews, and prominent journalists such as Nate
Thayer and Nayan Chanda have likewise produced extremely valuable
transcripts. All four men have conducted interviews with former
high-ranking CPK officials, among others. David Chandler, Alex
Hinton, David Ashley, Elizabeth Becker, and others also hold
collections of potentially valuable interview transcripts. DC-Cam has
also amassed a large number of interview transcripts. Its research
teams have conducted over 1,000 transcribed interviews of DK survivors
in recent years, including hundreds of interviews of former CPK
cadres. Those materials are readily available for use in a legal
proceeding and, in many cases, have been conducted with the pursuit of
legally useful information specifically in mind. To the extent that
these interview transcripts are made available to criminal
investigators, they can serve as a valuable source of evidence. Their
weight will be even greater if interviewers and interviewees are
willing to testify to their conversations and affirm the accuracy of
Finally, mapping reports prepared by the Director and staff of
DC-Cam are an important form of potential secondary evidence produced
in the post-DK period. The mapping reports were prepared with the
advice and assistance of technical experts and the application of
global positioning system technology. They have been accumulated
through extensive field research, involving both physical exploration
and hundreds of interviews. The mapping reports now detail the
locations and characteristics of over 19,440 mass burial pits
They also include information about countless skeletal remains and
over 167 prisons or detention facilities apparently dating from the DK
era, many of which contain the remnants of torture devices.
In combination with photographs and transcripts from interviews with
witnesses, the mapping reports highlight the abundant physical
evidence of the crimes of the CPK. To maximize their utility, expert
forensic testimony will be required, establishing the age of the human
remains and the likely manner of death. By analyzing the age of
materials and substances found at particular prisons and torture
sites, forensic experts may also be able to link them to the DK
Conclusions on the Available Materials
Collectively, the various types of documentation described above can
play an invaluable role in proving the crimes of CPK leaders. In all
categories, "smoking gun" documents are comparatively rare. The
shrouded nature of the Pol Pot regime, as well as the number and
complexity of their offenses, requires that documents be used in
concert to prove specific offenses. By proving the occurrence of
criminal acts, the knowledge or intent of particular leaders, and the
relevant command relationships, documentary materials can function as
links in an evidentiary chain, thereby establishing culpability.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at  23-211-875, or via email
firstname.lastname@example.org, should you have any questions about the
contents of this memorandum or DC-Cam's documentary holdings. We
appreciate your interest in the Center's work and your assistance in
helping us meet our goals of achieving memory and justice in Cambodia.
Director of DC-Cam
John D. Ciorciari, Esq.
Legal Advisor to DC-Cam