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Analysis & Conservation of Remains in Cambodia - Archival
This presentation provided an introduction to the work conducted in Cambodia to analyze/preserve human remains from violence committed by the Khmer Rouge. Specifically the site of Krang Ta Chan, a former prison with mass graves, was discussed.
Krang Ta Chan is one of nearly 20,000 mass gravesites throughout Cambodia resulting from the violence committed during Khmer Rouge period (1975-1979).  Krang Ta Chan was the site of a former Khmer Rouge detention and execution center.  According to a witness, eight graves were exhumed at the site in 1979 revealing the remains of around 10,000 victims.  This presentation discussed the research conducted on the human skeletal remains in Cambodia resulting from this violence, and the implications of this work.

After a civil war in the early 1970s, the Khmer Rouge regime came to power in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in April 1975 and established the government of Democratic Kampuchea (DK).  The DK leadership, led by the infamous Pol Pot, abolished money, education, religion, and private property and almost all Cambodians were forcibly relocated from cities to collective farms in the countryside.  The conditions were severe, and historical estimates state that approximately one quarter of the Cambodian population of nearly eight million died from mistreatment, overwork, malnutrition, and violence.  After the Khmer Rouge regime were overthrown in 1979, thousands of mass graves across the country were discovered and the bodies were exhumed.

The application of proper scientific analytical techniques can produce the following important information for each victim: age-at-death, sex, health conditions affecting the skeleton, and evidence of traumatic injuries before death, around the time of death, and after death.  Analyzing and preserving the remains at Krang Ta Chan, although emotionally challenging, helped to determine some of this information which contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of the victims of Khmer Rouge regime.

Ms. Fleischman wrote the AAFS HHRRC grant that funded this project and was fortunate to be able to work with the Cambodian team while they conducted their analyses and then preserved the remains from Krang Ta Chan.  While much has been written about the history of Khmer Rouge violence, the work undertaken by this research team at Krang Ta Chan is one of the first large-scale efforts to analyze and preserve the millions of human remains that serve as a visceral reminder of this human rights tragedy.  However, this work is not without its challenges and controversies, as is common when working with human remains from post-conflict sites around the globe.  This presentation will conclude with a brief discussion of the implications of this type of work in Cambodia and also internationally.

The Humanitarian and Human Rights Resource Center (HHRRC) of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) promotes the application of contemporary forensic science and forensic medicine principles to global humanitarian and/or human rights projects requiring special forensic assistance.  The projects in this Webinars Series with the FTCoE are those selected for support by the International Advisory Council of the HHRRC.

This webinar was recorded in its entirety at the time of the Live event in order to capture the one on one interaction with the presenter. Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence event has been provided by the National Institute of Justice.


Julie Fleischman
Julie Fleischman is an Anthropology PhD Candidate at Michigan State University and will be completing her degree in the next few months. She is a skeletal biologist with emphases on forensic anthropology and human rights. Her research interests include skeletal traumatic injuries, improving skeletal analysis methods, and incorporating broader theories into forensic anthropology...