Ten teams of media students were sent to former Khmer Rouge killing sites across the country to recapture on camera what took place there for short documentary films unveiled yesterday.
In nine provinces, groups from the Royal University of Phnom Penh uncovered different crimes–some memorialized, while evidence of others was fast disappearing.
“Our aim was to help people across the country to share their memories…and ask: How it is possible to live with those memories peacefully?” student producer Chea Nging said, noting that she had felt the emotions that the footage provoked in audiences at screenings in Anlong Veng district as well as Battambang, Kratie and Siem Reap provinces.
“The images and problems passed to me as a member of the younger generation,” said Ms Nging said.
Memories included 30,000 corpses being burnt to make human fertilizer in Siem Reap’s Kralanh district, tens of thousands of workers dying at the Jan 1 Dam in Kompong Thom province and over 10,000 killed at former Krang Tachan Security Center in Takeo province.
A crosscut of about 300 sites nationwide were filmed from those turning into tourist attractions, such as Battambang’s Sampov mountain caves, to puzzling remains like the Khmer Rouge airbase in Kompong Chhnang province and far-flung locations with a nearly forgotten prison in Ratanakkiri province, lecturer Andreas Grigo said.
“We gave each of these places a unique twist in content and a peculiar angle,” Mr Grigo said, noting that 500 copies of the DVD were released and featured audio and subtitles in both English and Khmer.
These will be distributed to pagodas, museums, cultural centers and NGOs, while there is a planned September screening at Phnom Penh’s German Cambodian Cultural Center and ongoing talks with a major TV station, Mr Grigo said.
Student producer Chum Sophea said that near Ratanakkiri’s Kan Seng lake few people remembered O Kanseng prison, whose foundations are now hidden by palm trees.
“There was nothing left, just grass and trees,” Mr Sophea said, adding that it was sometimes hard to tease information from sources.
Former prisoner Mao Phath, who points out the security center’s plan in the documentary, said that he did not want to build a memorial because the money would be better spent on schools and hospitals.
However, another ex-inmate, Phon Thol, said that evidence was needed to show the next generation.
“A memorial site could publicly establish that Pol Pot is the murderer of many people, and it is not a good example for the next leaders and Cambodian people,” Phon Thol said during an interview in the documentary.
Students said their research let them understand what their parents and the past generation suffered.
“We went to the place directly so the memory can be built into our minds,” Tith Chandara, 22, said.
“These documentaries play a role in the outreach process and help to educate the younger generation to know more about the about history, especially for those born after the Khmer Rouge period,” said Reach Sambath, chief of public affairs at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.