A newly formed Khmer Rouge victims association has called on authorities to preserve the bones of those who died during the Pol Pot regime, saying future DNA testing may help families find the remains of their relatives.
Victims Association of Democratic Kampuchea First Deputy President Chum Sirath said his organization “categorically rejects” any attempts to cremate the remains, even for religious reasons.
“We request that the bones already unearthed, or to be unearthed, at Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek be preserved and not incinerated,” Mr Sirath said. “We hope that one day DNA techniques will reveal the affiliations these bones have with living relatives, enabling families to identify the remains of their loved ones and organize ceremonies in memory.”
Chuch Phoeurn, secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture, said the government planned to continue storing and displaying the bones of victims in stupas around the country and did not have any plans to incinerate them.
“We collect the bones and keep in one place for evidence at the Khmer Rouge tribunal,” he said. “There is no order to cremate the bones.”
The VADK held its first public meeting on Saturday in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district, with more than 100 of the 400-plus members in attendance, according to VADK President Chum Mey, a former prisoner at the Tuol Sleng prison.
“Our goal is for justice, so [the VAKD] is collecting support…to give a unified and strong voice to the victims who are demanding justice from the leaders of Democratic Kampuchea.”
Mr Sirath, whose family members were killed at Tuol Sleng, said the VADK also supported moves made by civil party lawyers in the trial of S-21 leader Kaing Guek Eav to construct a memorial bearing the names of the 17,000 people who were tortured and killed at the prison and Choeung Ek killing fields.
“In the event that the ECCC does not decide to erect this [memorial], we will seek partnerships with willing parties to build it,” he said.