The Documentation Center of Cambodia plans to display 10 human skulls bearing marks of violent death, along with explanations of their executioners’ methods, at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum later this month.
The exhibition will employ forensic science to illustrate the final suffering of the Khmer Rouge’s victims, Youk Chhang, the center’s director, said Thursday.
“When experts point out to you how people died, and you can see it in the skull, it is very frightening,” he said. The specimens will show the impact of bullets, blades and bludgeoning, according to the exhibition catalog.
Youk Chhang explained that the skulls will be encased in glass, but resting on stands constructed of wooden slats. The slats are spaced to allow the spirits of the victims’ in the exhibit come and go as they wish.
He said it took three months to decide on the appropriate presentation of the artifacts.
After all, Tuol Sleng once held an assemblage of remains that sparked controversy. In March 2002, a map of Cambodia, consisting of skulls and other bones wired to a wall, was dismantled after being deemed disrespectful.
The new skull exhibit is the product of a year’s labors, which employed the expertise of two Canadian forensics specialists, Youk Chhang said.
It was funded by a $50,000 grant from the US State Department. The grant was also used to locate undisturbed mass graves from the 1975-1979 Pol Pot era, which can be used as evidence in a Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Youk Chhang said three such graves have been found in Kompong Cham province and are being guarded until the tribunal’s forensics experts can excavate them.
Government and UN officials involved in the establishment of a tribunal have said they hope to see surviving Khmer Rouge leaders on trial before the end of 2004.
The Tuol Sleng exhibition opens Feb 26. Youk Chhang said it will be a permanent installation.