So Vanna alias So Phim (center, in black) and Khmer Rouge troops visiting a unit of volunteer Vietnamese communist fighters, 1973. The photo was taken shortly before the allied guerillas launched an attack on the Krabao military base in Kampong Cham province as part of the civil war against the Khmer Republic government led by Marshal Lon Nol. So Phim later became the Secretary of the CPK for the Eastern Zone of Democratic Kampuchea. He committed suicide on June 3, 1978.
Source: Documentation Center of Cambodia Archives/VNA.
A Response Team for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal



The archives of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) comprise the world’s largest collection of primary documents on Democratic Kampuchea. The Center is thus poised to play a pivotal role in the upcoming tribunal of senior Khmer Rouge leaders (the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or ECCC).


We are requesting support for a three-year project (2007-2009, to coincide with the trials). The DRL’s support will allow our Legal Response Team to assist the ECCC in accessing DC-Cam’s collection, provide outreach services to Cambodian society and the international community in connection with the ECCC, and work to ensure that victims and witnesses have adequate support as they participate in tribunal proceedings.


The Legal Response Team began operating informally in October 2005 and officially in February 2006, without funding. Some of its activities to date include:

Compiling and translating relevant Communist Party of Kampuchea telegrams and other communication documents, as well as legal materials
Locating potential informants for the tribunal, as well as undisturbed mass graves
Identifying cadre names to establish chains of command and identify potential witnesses
Compiling lists of actions considered to be possible crimes/abuses
Responding to requests from UNKART (United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal) and ECCC staff; to date, we have provided them with databases containing over 50,000 documents held at DC-Cam, 400,000 pages of document copies, and 19,000 pages of interviews, as well as materials in response to specific requests
Training Judicial Police staff on conducting on-site investigations at mass graves, taking statements, and the protection of both witnesses and accused persons
Providing the Center’s glossary of Khmer Rouge terms to such organizations as the Voice of America
Conducting a study to understand the attitudes of people toward witnesses at the Tribunal, assessing the threats they might face, and devising ways to respond to their needs.

Program Planning/Ability to Achieve Objectives


DC-Cam began planning for the Legal Response Team in 2003, and our staff is well prepared to meet the project’s goals. First, they have been working with and conducting research on DC-Cam’s archival documents for nearly 10 years, and so are very familiar with both their contents and the sometimes-arcane use of terms the Khmer Rouge employed. Second, using such primary documents as biographies written during the regime, members of the team have been tracing and interviewing former cadres, who may be in a position to provide valuable evidence or testimony at the ECCC. Third, we have been able to send over 20 of our staff members abroad for advanced degrees in such fields as law and peace and reconciliation, giving them a good grounding for their work on the Legal Response Team (three of our staff members have already been seconded to the ECCC).


The Center has several programs in place that will support the Team. In the legal arena, these include our Documentation Team (which is the steward of our archives and enters our documents into publicly available databases) and Promoting Accountability Project (which interviews former cadres and victims in the provinces). We also have a variety of projects that help the Cambodian public better understand the modern history of their country as well as the impending legal proceedings, such as the Living Documents Project (which brings about 500 villagers a month for tours of the ECCC and genocide sites) and public outreach projects (magazine, film, radio, Public Information Room). Last, the Center’s Victims of Torture Project identifies and counsels Cambodians suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and will play an important role in supporting victims and witnesses.


We have also enjoyed the support of the Royal Government of Cambodia for our activities. This includes permissions to allow our staff and volunteers to distribute documents on the Tribunal throughout Cambodia, to work with nearly 400 mosques nationwide on documenting the history of Muslims during the regime, and to liaise with 1700 commune offices on our Living Documents Project. By maintaining neutrality and objectivity, we enjoy a degree of latitude that few other NGOs in Cambodia have to implement projects without government interference.


Project Functions


The Response Team will not provide formal legal advice to any ECCC personnel; however, it will be made constantly available to assist with searching for and providing documents, and helping the ECCC to understand and interpret the documentary record left by the Khmer Rouge. In its outreach capacity, the Team will focus on using the ECCC proceedings to enhance the legal literacy of the Cambodian public through a monthly newsletter and the distribution of other publications. The Team will also assist potential witnesses and members of the general public through such services as counseling (we note that the Tribunal may, by necessity, force many people to re-live the traumas they experienced during Democratic Kampuchea). In this vein, we plan to build the capacity of our own staff to provide counseling and other services in the long term.


Project Team


The Response Team will consist of both Cambodian and foreign experts. Most will be drawn from DC-Cam’s staff and be based permanently at the Center; others will consult from abroad and travel to Cambodia to work with the Response Team on an as-needed basis. (Please note, the titles for our team members have changed somewhat since our statement of interest was submitted.)



Main Responsibilities

Individuals Assigned

Chief of Response Team (International Attorney)

Overall responsibility for legal aspects of the project, reports to DC-Cam’s director

John Ciorciari, JD, Harvard, senior advisor to the Under and Assistant Secretaries for International Affairs, U.S. Department of the Treasury. (Note: Mr. Ciorciari will participate in the project on a voluntary basis.)

Response Team Coordinator (Cambodian)

Day-to-day administrative management of Cambodian staff and interns, point of contact with ECCC, liaison with press and Cambodian public

Dara P. Vanthan, LLM, Notre Dame, deputy director of DC-Cam, acting head of the Response Team. Earlier directed the Living Documents (tribunal outreach) Project.

Response Team Coordinator (Expatriate)

Day-to-day work with the Response Team chief and Cambodian coordinator on legal and administrative matters, point of contact with ECCC, liaison with English speakers

Candidates include: Julia Fromholtz, JD, University of California, Berkeley, former law clerk, US Court of Appeals, and Kevin Osborn, JD, Santa Clara (2007), DC-Cam legal intern, 2005.

Public Affairs Officer

Manage the Team’s public affairs functions and external tribunal outreach program, publicize the work of the tribunal in Cambodia and abroad

Dacil Q. Keo, MA, political science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and legal intern. In 2007, will leave DC-Cam to begin pursuing a PhD.

Kok-Thay Eng, director of research (currently a PhD candidate in global affairs at Rutgers and Fulbright scholar), will replace Ms. Keo in 2007.

Legal Officer

Coordinate and manage formal inquiries concerning ECCC legal or related matters

Terith Chy, LLM, Hong Kong University, field investigator, Legal Response Team, translator.

Historical Officer (2)

Produce public documents concerning historical events relevant to the tribunal, manage historical analyses for public consumption

Phalla Prum, MA, peace and reconciliation, Coventry University, member Promoting Accountability Team, researcher on Buddhism.

Kheang Ly Sok, MA, peace and reconciliation, Coventry University, member Promoting Accountability Team, legal translator.

Research Assistant

Assist historical officers

Rasy Pheng Pong, BA, English, Build Bright University (Phnom Penh), 2007. Led DC-Cam mass grave mapping work, field investigator on Response Team.

Web Designer/Technician

Maintain website dedicated to daily reporting on ECCC, improve search engine, add Khmer fonts

Chhayran Ra, BA, MIS, National Institute of Management (Phnom Penh), Promoting Accountability Team, DC-Cam website designer.

Technicians/Database Specialists (2)

Monitor and update DC-Cam’s databases; assist with Khmer website

To be determined.

International Legal Advisors

(all of the individuals nominated are currently advisors to DC-Cam; one or more will serve depending on availability)

Provide strategic, legal, research and other advice to the team as needed

Elizabeth Van Schaack, JD, Yale, assistant professor of law, Santa Clara University, former law clerk, ICTY.

Ronald Slye, JD, Yale, professor, Seattle University, member, Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation.

Jaya Ramji Nogales, JD, Yale, assistant professor of law, Temple University.

Legal Advisor

Same as that of the international legal advisors

Chey Entero, JD, Pacific Coast University, CA, member, Cambodian and Asia Pacific Bar Associations. Currently member of the Council of Jurists, Cambodia, where he writes and reviews draft laws.

Counseling Specialist


Coordinate the provision of support services to victims and witnesses participating in the ECCC; organize trainings for Cambodians involved in outreach to KR victims; coordinate referrals to social services.

Gerald Gray, MPH, University of California at Berkeley. Licensed psychotherapist for 23 years; has treated survivors of torture for 16. First director of a torture treatment center: the Asian Americans for Community Involvement Center in San Jose, CA.

Head Documentarian

Help ECCC navigate DC-Cam’s archives, provide informal translation services and summarize key documents

Sampeou Ros, BE, education, Build Bright University. Manager of DC-Cam’s Database Team, which archives documents at the Center.

Documentarian (4)

Assist Head Documentarian

Volunteers at DC-Cam.


Detailed Work Plan including Target Dates for Completion of Proposed Activities


We have divided our Work Plan into three basic components. We note that much of the Team’s work, particularly its assistance to the ECCC, will be in response to requests from that body, and will require flexibility and quick response. Thus, most of the Team’s work will be continual throughout the three-year project period. In addition, due to staffing limitations, it will also rely partially on interviews conducted by other DC-Cam teams (e.g., Promoting Accountability to help establish chains of command). In this vein, the Legal Response Team will work in a review and analytic capacity.



Assistance to the ECCC

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Provide documents, maps, photographs and other materials; translations; interpretations; and analyses to the ECCC on request. (We anticipate that the need for translation will be minimal, as the ECCC has its own translators and our Team does not have the capacity to provide these services on a continual basis.)

Assist NGOs, the press, and members of the public with research on Democratic Kampuchea, the Tribunal, and relevant legal matters. Attend meetings and forums of other NGOs on Tribunal-related matters.

Locate and interview potential informants/witnesses for the tribunal and use these interviews in conjunction with documents to establish chains of command, both at the request of the ECCC and for the purposes of the historical record on Democratic Kampuchea.

Catalog interviews conducted by the Promoting Accountability Team and correlate them against mass grave, prison and memorial sites.

Respond to requests for training from the ECCC, Cambodian government, or NGOs. For example, in 2006, the judicial police asked DC-Cam to provide training on witness security; after the course was completed, they asked for additional training. Other topics could include legal investigations and research techniques, and monitoring the ECCC. It will likely be necessary to bring in outside experts for this work, due to staff limitations, so the number of trainings will depend on the funding available.

Locate Communist Party of Kampuchea officials – particularly those likely to stand trial or serve as witnesses – whose names appear on Khmer Rouge communication documents. Confirm their current status (alive, dead, missing) and publish the list on the center’s website.

Continue searching for undisturbed mass graves for forensic analysis and translate mapping reports and Promoting Accountability interviews most relevant to senior leaders of the Communist Party of Kampuchea

Produce monograph on mass graves from Democratic Kampuchea with particular attention to undisturbed graves (January).

Database evaluation and upgrade plan completed (September), database updated continually.


Database updates continue; improved search engine and instructions added to site (February).

If Khmer fonts are available, they are added to the site before June.

Public Education/Awareness

Work with the Center’s Living Documents and Public Information Room Projects to compile lists of questions that villagers ask about the tribunal. Write brief, easy-to-understand answers to these questions and disseminate them through pamphlets, DC-Cam’s magazine, and radio.

Travel to selected villages, giving training them on how to monitor the trials, film the sessions, and show the films through other projects.

Prepare articles for local newspapers, radio stations and DC-Cam’s magazine to update the public on the work of the ECCC and the tribunals, once they begin. Participate in local radio shows and air DC-Cam radio programs (interviews with victims and perpetrators, as well as ECCC officials, call-in question and answer sessions, etc.).

Each year, produce an assessment on the transparency of the ECCC proceedings. Initially, this report will be prepared for DRL, but we will need its feedback on whether it is made public.

Work with ECCC and Cambodian Government officials to ensure that materials and statements are easy for the public to understand (for example, create a simple glossary of legal terms) and cooperate with the ECCC in delivering materials to the provinces.

Work with the NGO community in Cambodia to ensure that materials distributed to the public are as accurate as possible and not duplicative.

Produce documents for the public concerning historical events relevant to the tribunal (from both Cambodia and abroad); write articles for magazines and newspapers to educate the public on Democratic Kampuchea; update the chronology of the regime on the Center’s Website.

Prepare quarterly reports for DRL on the progress of the project.

Develop a website devoted to the ECCC with news postings daily; if Khmer fonts are available, the site will be in English and Khmer.

Website becomes operational shortly before the trials begin (because of potential content problems, blogs will not be allowed, but the site will publish letters from readers).


Website remains active until the trials end

Witness/Victim Support

Note: Much of this work would be conducted by DC-Cam’s Victims of Torture (VOT) Project, with the Legal Response Team taking action in the event it is called to assist potential witnesses at the Tribunal.

Through the VOT Project and other means (e.g., people contacting DC-Cam), report to the ECCC Victims’ Unit threats to potential witnesses, the accused, or victims of the regime.

Work with the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (DC-Cam’s partner on the VOT Project) to counsel survivors of the regime on what they can expect if they are called to the witness stand and simple ways to cope with any anxiety they may feel (e.g., Buddhist breathing exercises).

On request, organize trainings and simple publications for Cambodian and international NGOs involved in outreach and the provision of services to Khmer Rouge victims on such subjects as legal rights and giving testimony.

With other NGOs and the Cambodian Government (primarily mental health clinics), coordinate the provision of referral and support services to victims and witnesses participating in the ECCC.

Prepare a short pamphlet for the public to help them recognize post-traumatic stress disorder and what they can do to help themselves (e.g., seeking help from health clinics, religious and community leaders; Buddhist breathing exercises).

As the number of service providers rises, update and republish the pamphlet periodically.

Through the VOT Project, begin identifying potential subjects who would volunteer to be filmed.

Prepare a short educational film on a few subjects who tell their stories from the regime and their experiences in giving testimony/serving as witnesses.

Please note: This activity will take place only if the VOT Project works with witnesses.

If requested to do so by the ECCC, the Team would meet various ad-hoc requests, such as locating women who would testify about rape during Democratic Kampuchea.