Documenting the Khmer Rouge Era:

Interview with Youk Chhang, Director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia

June 2018

In this interview, we speak with Youk Chhang, the executive director of the Documentation Center for Cambodia (DC-Cam). Born in 1961, Chhang was just a teenager when the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia in 1975. Under the regime Chhang was subject to extreme acts of cruelty and brutality until he was able to move to the USA as a refugee. 

Since then Chhang has worked tirelessly to promote justice within Cambodia and returned in 1992 as an election observer for the UN. Three years later he was placed in charge of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, or DC-Cam as it is known. The center began as Yale’s Cambodian Genocide Program which was backed by the US state department in order to conduct research and documentation of the Khmer Rouge.

Chhang continued to lead DC-Cam when it became independent in 1997. Since then it has been at the forefront of the effort to provide non-partisan, Cambodian led, research into this tragic period. DC-Cam now concentrates on collecting information ‘to preserve the history of the Khmer Rouge regime for future generations’ and to provide potential legal evidence in cases brought against the regime. Chhang himself testified as a witness during the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)

In addition to his work with DC -Cam, Chhang has also edited books and even produced two films exploring various aspects of Cambodian culture both before and after the Khmer Rouge regime. 

In this interview, Dr. Chhang tells us how DC-Cam was founded, what has led to the organisation’s success over the years, and how DC-Cam has worked together with the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia to support prosecutions of those deemed “most responsible” for the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge between 1975-79.