The Culture and Fine Arts Ministry’s archaeology department will soon catalogue remains of Khmer Rouge victims to be unearthed as it excavates 200 mass graves across the country.
The untouched graves are remnants of the genocidal Khmer Rouge that was responsible for the death of about 1.7 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979.
Department head Voeun Vuthy on Tuesday said that his team has so far catalogued the remains of victims at six killing sites since it began work in 2012.
The sites include Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh, Kraing Tachan and Pork Prech in Takeo province, Prasat Vordey pagoda in Kampong Cham province and Tuol Taploung in Kampong Thom province.
Since 2012, his team has identified about 200,000 victims based on their skeletal remains.
“Next month, our team will start to preserve the remains of the victims and compile a list of remains located in Porthivong pagoda in Siem Reap province,” Mr Vuthy said.
He said that his team will work on nearly 200 mass graves located throughout the country and estimated that it will spend ten years or more to cover the sites.
“It is difficult work and it takes a lot of money. We can spend over $100,000 on one spot,” Mr Vuthy said. “We have a budget from the government and other organisations.”
He said that compiling the list and preserving victims of the Khmer Rouge are part of the government’s initiative to document the past.
“I want to thank the government for creating the team so that we can preserve and protect the remains,” he said. “The work is challenging and dangerous because we are working with bones and bacteria, which could affect our health when we are hands-on.”