A Number of Evidential Photos will be used in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Posted by khmernews on January 31, 2007

In a press conference held by a former Khmer Rouge photographer and national and international journalists on 25th January, 2007 at the American embassy, Joseph A. Mussomeli, American ambassador in Cambodia, said that photos taken by the photographer would be used as an unarguable evidence of the brutal acts during the Khmer Rouge regime and that young generations would be able to believe that this terrible regime occurred in their own country. 

Nhem En, a former Khmer Rouge photographer who was stationed in Toul Sleng prison and a present Anlong Veng deputy-governor said that he was a photographer in Toul Sleng prison during the Khmer Rouge regime, but that taking photographs was his only task and apart from this task he didn’t know what happened. He claimed that the people of whom he took pictures were all killed. He also showed pity that all those victims died under the brutal dictatorship of the Khmer Rouge leadership.

He said that during the [Khmer Rouge] regime he was just one “screw” in a large machine, and that he also partly contributed to the regime by being a photographer. He also said that his work then may contribute to the tribunal today. As he was a part of the regime and contributed to the misery of the souls that suffered at that time,, he publicly apologizes to Cambodian and non-Cambodian victims, as some expatriates died at that time as well, he pointed out. These photos will be used as evidence of the Khmer Rouge mass killings which both national and international milieus are focusing and the cruel acts which all leaders must now avoid he said.

He said that he was raising funds to build a museum to show his photos in Anlong Veng district. He has around 1,000 photos and will ask the government for permission to sell the photos of Khmer Rouge leaders when those photos are shown.

“Building a museum for the photos is very important. Reconciliation of Cambodia starts with oneself and hopefully can grow to a larger group and then can increase to as many people as possible,” said Chhang Youk, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam). “Although Nhem En’s consciousness cannot satisfy the victims; it comes from his heart, it is the first step for all former Khmer Rouge to follow, and it is also a reminder for all the people in the country.”

He said that in a country which has experienced genocide, nothing can compensate for the breakdown of society as it is like trying to fix a broken glass which has shattered into many pieces, and the fact that Nhem Ean is making a museum for his photos is equal to trying to put the broken parts of the glass together again. The Documentation Center of Cambodia will scan the photos, study them, and publish an album book of those photos which he [Nhem Ean] is showing as an apology to Cambodians and as information for the international community. Moreover, DC-Cam will organize an exhibition of these photos for him. DC-Cam hopes that he will try to make a museum for these photos soon and that they will help to explain the former Khmer Rouge.

The American ambassador in Cambodia said that these photos will make the Toul Sleng prison cells more profound. The photos are terrifying to all visitors. The victims eyes stare at us, haunt us and scream out to us. No one can forget the photos after they’ve visited Toul Sleng prison.

These photos are also unarguable evidence of the Khmer Rouge’s cruelties. At present, we see that many young people do not believe that there was a genocide in the country and think that their parents are lying to them. Now these photos have reminded everyone of how enormous the crimes were. We have almost no interest in crimes happening everyday in the news but we do believe that these photos will make us feel uneasy.

The American ambassador said that we have often heard that one photo is equal to a thousand words, here he said that each photo is equal to a thousands teardrops. He pointed out that although these photos are really important for documenting the brutalities of Khmer Rouge, the public apology of Nhem En on his contribution to the Khmer Rouge regime plays an important role for the country. His action breaks the long silence that has been kept by former Khmer Rouge leaders as no former Khmer Rouge leader has yet dared confess publicly about the crimes they perpetrated during their regime.

Somleng Youkvachon Khmer , Vol 14, #2953, 26 January 2007.    


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