CAMBODIA, TO THE MEMORY OF

Cambodia

2008

Sept. 2010 – Cambodia tribunal indicts four ex-Khmer Rouge leaders.

Duch Trial: Khmer Rouge Prison Chief sentenced to 35 years.

He has been found guilty of crimes against the humanity by Cambodia’s UN War Crimes Tribunal.

February 17th 2009. Under the joint flags of Cambodia and the United Nations, Cambodian justice took a historic leap forward today. Three decades after the end of its murderous four years in power, the Khmer Rouge finally went on trial.

Kaing Kech Ieu, alias Comrade Duch, was the director of the infamous Tuol Sleng prison, the interrogation centre that came to symbolise the horrors of Pol Pot’s genocidal regime. Between 1975 and 1979 up to 17,000 men, women and children were sent to his prison to be tortured and killed. Only a handful survived.

The genocide committed in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 has no equal in the history of mankind – never before has one group of people inflicted such methodical savageries on its own citizens. Cambodians, under the influence of their “Year Zero” ideology, exterminated their fellow Cambodians. Over two million people were murdered in a country whose population is seven million.

The theme of the Khmer Rouge has been investigated extensively by journalists and historians, although there is no photographic documentation of the act of massacre, the protagonists did document the evidence of their victims. Day after day the victims were maniacally cataloged: before every interrogation, the prisoners were portrayed with a number hanging around their neck. Hundreds of thousands were photographed. Today some of these images are exhibited at the Tuol Sleng Museum, a former security prison were 14.000 people were killed and now serves as the Memory Museum.

Trying to work with photography on the concept of Memory, on past and concluded events, might seem a contradiction. Images in themselves are bearers of memory. And the word that, everyday, plays with what happened in the past has a love-hate relationship with photography – it loves and hates its own immediacy.

The choice of taking “pictures of the pictures”, that infinite sequence of portraits of the victims before and after they are murdered, in its intentional redundancy, strives to be an amplification and an homage to that unique means which revealed itself to be objective, real, tangible, and immutable; a means that has carried the faces to the present – the expressions, the features, the appearance and a trace of humanity of those two million people. Today Cambodia is one of the states with the higest development rate not only in Asia, but in the entire world. It is a nation with a population of very young people with little desire to look back.

What I am going to do is a investigate this Memory. Through the survivors and their stories, the places in which the genocide has been perpetrated, and their relationship between the present and the past, I will carry out that process of documentation and interpretation that is typical of the historians.