Cambodian forensic team crowdfunds for Khmer Rouge grave analysis

Cambodian forensic team crowdfunds for Khmer Rouge grave analysis

Phnom Penh (dpa) – Forensic researchers in Cambodia have turned to crowdfunding to help support their work preserving and analyzing mass graves from the Khmer Rouge era.

"As far as we are aware, this site will be only the second to receive complete scientific analysis and preservation," said Julie Fleischman, an American PhD student who launched the crowdfunding campaign late Monday hoping to raise 4,500 dollars.

“There are about 100 mass grave sites for which the remains have been exhumed since 1980,” she added.

Some 10,000 of the regime's victims were buried at the former site of Krang Ta Chan Security Centre in Takeo province.

The exhumed remains were placed in a stupa, a Buddhist structure containing relics and bones, where they have started to disintegrate, Fleischman said. 

The researcher earlier secured a 20,000-dollar grant from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences’ Humanitarian and Human Rights Resource Centre to fund the preservation and analysis of the remains by a Cambodian forensic team. 

Crowdfunding will fill gaps to pay stipends to the Cambodian forensic team, who have no other financial support.

Analysis of the remains will reveal information about the victims' age, sex and cause of death, and whether they sustained any traumatic injuries. Without preservation, information about the Khmer Rouge regime could be lost forever, Fleischman said. 

The same team performed a similar analysis and preservation at Choeung Ek, also known as the “Killing Fields," a memorial and one of Cambodia’s most famous museums on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. 

The grave sites are just two of 20,000 mass graves that have been mapped by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia. In total, over 1.7 million people died under the Khmer Rouge regime, which ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.

Thumbprint phot courtesy of Julie Fleischman. 

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