Re: Overview of Documentary Materials at
The Documentation
Center of Cambodia

Dear Sirs and Mesdames:

The following is a brief overview of the holdings of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) in
Phnom Penh.  It includes a modified excerpt from a forthcoming chapter entitled "Documenting the Crimes of Democratic Kampuchea" by John D. Ciorciari with Youk Chhang.[1]  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 authors.

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.[2]  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 Cambodia's 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.

CPK Correspondence

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 Transcripts

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 1979:


[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.”[3]


Although 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 surviving 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 has survived.[4]  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.

CPK Biographies

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

can be 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

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.

Media Materials

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.[5]

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.[6]  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.[7]  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.[8]


Diaries and Notebooks

A 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.[9]

Post-DK Documentary Materials

In addition 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.

Survivor Petitions

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.[10]  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.[11]

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.[12]

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).[13]  Before
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.[14]  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

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 interview transcripts.

Mapping Reports

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 throughout
Cambodia.  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.[15]

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 period.

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 [855] 23-211-875, or via email at, 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.

Best Regards,

Youk Chhang
Director of DC-Cam

John D. Ciorciari, Esq.
Legal Advisor to DC-Cam



[1] John D. Ciorciari is the Wai Seng Senior Research Scholar at the Asian Studies Centre in St. Antony's College, University of Oxford.  He is an American lawyer and serves as a legal advisor to DC-Cam.  Youk Chhang is the Director of DC-Cam and manages it documentary holdings.

[2] Most of the documents available at DC-Cam have been catalogued according to a system developed primarily by the CGP and experts from the University of New South Wales.  For an explanation of the cataloguing system, see Nereida Cross and Helen Jarvis, Cambodian Genocide Databases: Input Manual (1999 updated ed., on file with DC-Cam).


[3] Thayer, "Death in Detail," Far Eastern Economic Review, May 13, 1999, at 21.


[4] "Decisions of the Central Committee on a Variety of Questions, Mar. 30, 1976," Documentation Center of Cambodia Catalogue Number D00693 [hereinafter 1976 Decisions], translated and reprinted in David P. Chandler et al, Pol Pot Plans the Future: Confidential Leadership Documents from Democratic Kampuchea, 1976-77 1 (1988).

[5] For an English translation of some of the surviving issues of "Revolutionary Youth" and "Revolutionary Flag," see Steve Heder, trans., Revolutionary Youth and Revolutionary Flag (unpublished manuscript on file with DC-Cam). DC-Cam obtained most of its original copies of CPK magazines from private individuals, whose identities have been recorded.

[6] For a list of the films, see Documentation Center of Cambodia, "Documentation Section: Khmer Rouge Films," (on file with DC-Cam).

[7] The CPK films are currently under the custody of Daniel Renoeuf of System TV in Paris but are to be delivered to DC-Cam in the near future. See Matt McKinney and Thet Sambath, "Visit Renews Hopes for Return of Lost Khmer Rouge Films," The Cambodia Daily, Aug. 15, 2002.

[8] See "East German (DEFA-Studio) Film Collection," numbers 1-6 (on file with DC-Cam).

[9] See generally "CPK Notebook Collection," numbers 1(nhk) to 520(nhk) (on file with DC-Cam). DC-Cam has recorded the identity of the donor of each item.

[10] The potential of political bias is a significant issue in considering the Renakse petitions, because the stated political goals of the PRK included eliminating the CPK and winning recognition from the United Nations as the legitimate de jure government of Cambodia.  See, e.g., Min Khin, "A Record on Total Crimes of China, Beijing and their Servants, Pol Pot, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan on the Cambodian People during 1975 and 1978," Renakse Collection, General File (on file with DC-Cam).  In that 1983 petition, Min asserted that 3,314,768 people were killed under Pol Pot, the "servant of Chinese hegemony."  The tone of the document, the recent Chinese invasion of Vietnam, Min's position as a PRK official, and the close ties between Hanoi and the PRK all suggest the possibility of bias, which could detract from the evidentiary value of this and certain other Renakse documents.

[11] For some examples, see Commission on Human Rights, UN Social and Economic Council, "Materials supporting the decision from the International Commission of Jurists under Commission on Human Rights Decision 9(XXXIV)," UN Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/414 (1979).

[12] For an English translation of the surviving documents from the 1979 Tribunal, see Howard J. DeNike, John Quigley, and Kenneth J. Robinson, Genodice in Cambodia: Documents from the Trial of Pol Pot and Ieng Sary 43-523 (2000).

[13] See Decree Law No. 1: Establishment of People's Revolutionary Tribunal at Phnom Penh to Try the Pol Pot-Ieng Sary Clique for the Crime of Genocide, July 15, 1979, republished in PRK Research and Publication Office, Tribunal for the Prosecution of the Genocidal Pol Pot-Ieng Sary Clique 305 (1979).

[14] See "Press Conference of Keo Chanda, Minister of Information, Press, and Culture, Chair of Legal Affairs Committee, July 28, 1979," cited in DeNike et al., supra note 12, at 47.

[15] DC-Cam produces annual reports on mapping activities and keeps records of interviews conducted.  See "Annual Mapping Reports 1995-2001," (unpublished manuscripts on file with DC-Cam).