UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

09/04/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/04/2020 07:37

UNESCO / Jikji Memory of the World Prize 2020 awarded to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Cambodia)

The UNESCO / Jikji Memory of the World Prize 2020 was awarded to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in a Cambodia .

'The mission of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is essential to promote peace and ensure, through its archives, that such terrible crimes are never repeated,' declared UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. 'It is for this reason that we have been working together for more than ten years to safeguard and digitize these archives and make them accessible to everybody. The work of this museum is crucial for us to preserve the memory of genocide through time and beyond the life span of its victims and perpetrators.'

The museum is located on the site of the 'S-21 Security Office', a centre for detention, torture and killing of the system of repression put in place by the 'Democratic Kampuchea' regime which ruled the country from 1975 to 1979. Located in the heart of the Cambodian capital, this former school which had been converted into a prison preserves in its archives the evidence of the totalitarian mechanism set up by the Khmer Rouge to terrorize the population and ' purify' the state apparatus of its proven or supposed opponents. Those who survived the interrogation, having confessed to their participation in mostly imaginary crimes and plots, were then transferred to the Choeung Ek killing centre. Due to a principle of 'guilt by association' entire families could be imprisoned. It was not uncommon for detainees to be unaware of the reasons for their arrest.

More than 18,000 men, women, children, some of them foreign nationals, have been detained and murdered at the S-21 centre, as the regime's records attest. At least 1.5 million Cambodians perished during the Khmer Rouge terror, executions, famine or lack of medical care.

The archives of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, which are registered in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, have benefited from a conservation and digitization project to make them accessibly, notably to families searching for information about their missing relatives and to historians. As part of the project, UNESCO is also providing technical assistance to strengthen the capacity of the museum staff to conserve and sustainably manage the archives.

This is the most comprehensive documentary collection on the Democratic Kampuchea prison system. It includes photographs of more than 5,000 prisoners as well as their 'confessions' and biographies. More than 400,000 pages have been digitized, amounting to more than 4 million sets of data, which will be made accessible to the public through a website to be launched before the end of the year. The project is funded by KOICA, the Korea International Cooperation Agency.

The UNESCO / Jikji Memory of the World Prize commemorates the inclusion in the Memory of the World Register of Buljo jikji simche yojeol, a Korean work considered to be the oldest book to have been printed using movable metal type. Endowed with $30,000, funded by the Republic of Korea and usually awarded every two years, the Prize recognizes efforts to contribute to the preservation and accessibility of documentary heritage, as the common heritage of humanity. Originally comprising two volumes, one of which has disappeared, the Jikji is kept at the National Library of France.

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