Prominent Khmer Rouge research organization the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) is collaborating with a network of Burmese groups seeking to create an archive of human rights abuses in Burma as the country transitions from a military regime to a fledging democracy.
The Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma (ND-Burma), which includes local NGOs dedicated to advocating for Burmese political prisoners, ethnic minorities and women’s rights, is planning to implement the Unofficial Truth Project (UTP), which will document ongoing rights violations in the country, Han Gyi, a coordinator for ND-Burma, said by email.
DC-Cam Director Youk Chhang visited Burma last month to discuss the challenges that come with documenting human rights violations, said Mr. Han Gyi, adding that the Cambodian center’s expertise in compiling and understanding documents and evidence would be helpful in assisting ND-Burma.
“The project aims to provide a basis for the government to provide reparations, especially to those with urgent needs,” Mr. Han Gyi said. “In the long term, the aim is to prevent serious human rights violations.”
Because many members of the current government are from the previous regime, the word “truth-seeking” or “truth commission” in the vein of DC-Cam would be considered threatening, said Mr. Han Gyi, which is why it is, for now, an unofficial project.
After decades of military rule, Burma is opening up, introducing reforms such as free elections, increased press freedom and the release of some political prisoners.
However, human rights violations still persist in the country, most recently due to the growing polarization between Buddhists and minority Muslims. In the past year, more than 200 people have been killed in religious clashes and more than 150,000 have been displaced—the majority stateless Muslims known as the Rohingya.
Mr. Chhang said Sunday that ND-Burma would be sending some members to Cambodia on August 11 for about two months to learn documentation techniques.
“For me, it is fortunate to have the chance…to guide them through the political minefield of a project of this sort, caught between the sometimes polar opposites of ensuring that historical records are preserved in their entirety and maintaining a sufficiently positive relationship with both the…government and the background players which inevitably will include key remnants of the old regime,” he said.