Tyner J. A. The Politics of Lists: Bureaucracy and Genocide under the Khmer Rouge
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The Politics of Lists
The Politics of Lists
Bureaucracy and Genocide under the
James A. Tyner
West Virginia University PressMorgantown 2018
Copyright © 2018 West Virginia University Press
All rights reserved
First edition published 2018 by West Virginia University Press
Printed in the United States of America
brary of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Tyner, James A., 1966- author.
Title: The politics of lists : bureaucracy and genocide under the Khmer Rouge / James A. Tyner.
Description: Morgantown : West Virginia University Press, 2018. | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2018010573| ISBN 9781946684400 (cloth) | ISBN 9781946684417 (pb) | ISBN 9781946684424 (ebook)
Subjects: LCSH: Cambodia--Politics and government--1975-1979. | Government information--Cambodia--History--20th century. |
Bureaucracy--Cambodia--History--20th century. | Genocide--
Cambodia--History--20th century. | National security--Cambodia--
Classification: LCC DS554.8 .T965 2018 | DDC 959.604/2--dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018010573
Cover design by Than Saffel / WVU Press
erging from the Shadows
2. A Ta
le of Two Lists
to the Darkness
On November 14, 1976, a young woman named Kim Ham Bin was
arrested and detained at a secretive prison designated S-21. Located
in Phnom Penh, the security center was established as one of approx-
imately two hundred detainment sites located throughout
cratic Kampuchea, as Cambodia was renamed. During its
formal existence, between October 1975 and January 1979, more
than twelve thousand men, women, and children were warehoused
under inhumane conditions. Many were tortured and forced to
confess to various crimes; all but a handful were eventually executed,
either within the greater S-21 compound or at the nearby killing
fields known as Choeung Ek. These deaths were but a subset of
countless other people who were purged by members of the Khmer
Rouge security apparatus. Little is known of Kim Ham Bin. Archives from S-21 indicate
that she was twenty-five years old. Her position is recorded simply
as “wife of Chhim Sak.” No documents have survived that might
indicate why she was arrested, other than the fact that she was the
wife of Chhim Sak. As to Chhim Sak, he was arrested on January
16, 1976, and executed on July 22, 1976, four months prior to his
wife’s arrest. On the day of Kim Ham Bin’s detainment, forty-five
other people were arrested. Of these, at least forty were women, all
of whom were classified as “wife,” “mother,” or “sister” of other
detainees. And with few exceptions, all of these women, including
Kim Ham Bin, were executed within twenty-four hours. In
Democratic Kampuchea, to be accused was to be guilty; to be guilty
was to be sentenced to death. Indeed, the Khmer Rouge term for
those imprisoned was
neak tos , meaning, literally, those who are
The Politics of Lists provides a theoretically informed, empiri-
cally grounded study of the Khmer Rouge security apparatus. More
ecisely, it engages with the intersection of material documents
and bureaucratic power. “The material culture of bureaucracy and
empire,” Geoffrey Bowker and Susan Star write, “is not found in
pomp and circumstance, nor even in the first instance at the point
of a gun, but rather at the point of a list.”
1 Their observation is fitting
for any analysis of S-21 or Democratic Kampuchea writ large, for
prior to their execution, the names of thousands of victims, such as
Kim Ham Bin and Chhim Sak, appeared on lists. Indeed, through -
out Democratic Kampuchea bureaucratic lists wer
e pervasive. As
Michelle Caswell explains, Khmer Rouge cadres were meticulous
2 Officials of all ranks were continuously sending,
by messenger or telegram, lists of people to be arrested, interro -
gated, released, or executed; lists also were compiled of names
ntioned in forced confessions, to be used for the generation of
ever more lists of arrests, interrogations, and executions.
Collectively, lists were used to generate lists of alleged strings of
traitors: networks of conspirators that, for high-ranking officials of
the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), established the proof
of traitorous activities. These documents therefore served as action -
able evidence to engage in a crude form of preemptive punishment,
at is, a legal order predicated on the arrest, detainment, and exe -
cution of suspected people before treasonous plans could be put
to operation.The impetus of this project, but also its premise, is intimately
tied to current events, namely the legal proceedings of the
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC),
better known as the Khmer Rouge tribunal. The ECCC’s first trial,
Case 001, convened four years after the establishment of the
tribunal. On July 31, 2007, Kaing Guek Eav (alias Duch), comman -
dant of the S-21 security center, was formally charged with crimes
ainst humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of
August 12, 1949.
3 Duch’s initial hearing was held on February 17,
2009, with the substantive part of the trial beginning on March 30,
2009. The trial lasted seventy-seven days, culminating on November
27, 2009, with a final verdict delivered on July 26, 2010. Duch was
found guilty of crimes against humanity, including extermination,
enslavement, imprisonment, torture, rape, and other inhumane
acts. He was also found guilty of grave breaches of the 1949
Convention, including the willful causing of great suffering or
serious injury to body or health, willfully depriving a prisoner of
war or civilian of fair trial rights, and of unlawful confinement of
4 Following an appeals proceeding, in 2012 Duch was sen-
tenced to life imprisonment for his crimes. On S
eptember 15, 2010, Nuon Chea (former deputy secretary of
the CPK), Khieu Samphan (former president of Democratic
Kampuchea), Ieng Sary (former minister of foreign affairs), and
Ieng Thirith (former minister of social affairs) were indicted on
charges of crimes against humanity, genocide, and grave breaches
of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The following year the Trial
Chamber decided to sever the charges in Case 002 into a series of
smaller trials; the first trial, Case 002/01, commenced on November
21, 2011. For many observers, the advanced age of the defendants
was of great concern. Both Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary were eighty-
five years old, Khieu Samphan was eighty, and Ieng Thirith was
seventy-nine. It was also noted that because of their advanced age,
even if convicted, they were unlikely to serve a significant portion
of any prison sentence handed down.
5 These fears only added to a
more pervasive sense that the tribunal was, ultimately, too little and
too late. Indeed, prior to the commencement of the trial, in August
2011, Ieng Thirith was diagnosed with dementia and subsequently
declared incompetent to stand trial.
6 Ieng Sary died prior to the
completion of the trial. On August 7, 2014, a verdict was rendered in Case 002/01 against
Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. Both were found guilty of crimes
against humanity and both were sentenced to life imprisonment. In
reaching its verdict, the Trial Chamber determined that both men
were guilty of participation in a “ joint criminal enterprise,” the
purpose of which “was to implement rapid socialist revolution.” The
Trial Chamber concluded also that “certain policies formulated by
the Khmer Rouge involved the commission of crimes as the means
to bring the common plan to fruition” and that these included “a
policy to forcibly remove people from urban to rural areas” and “a
policy to target officials of the former Khmer Republic.”
002/02, in which Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were charged
with a series of crimes, including genocide, commenced on October
17, 2014, and the presentation of evidence began on January 8,
Notably, in September 2012 the Supreme Court Chamber of the
ECCC ordered that 1,749 documents of the tribunal be made public.
In addition, a total of 13,383 documents related solely
to S-21 have
been declassified; these include S-21 daily entry logs, monthly entry
logs, yearly entry logs, periodical entry logs, sectional entry logs,
prisoner biographies, interrogation lists, and execution lists.
of these documents have not widely been incorporated into the
scholarly account of the Cambodian genocide. Indeed, it is not
uncommon still for some scholars to lament the “lack of materials”
available, or—incredulously—to conclude that documentation and
administrative protocol were anathema to CPK officials. Many of
these records were initially archived by the staff at the
Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-CAM).
10 DC-CAM is
the principle archive of documentary materials related to the
Cambodian genocide and includes two main types of documents:
primary documents (i.e., those produced during the genocidal
years) and secondary documents (i.e., those produced after 1979,
including interviews with both Khmer Rouge members and survi -
vors of the genocide). Overall, the archives at DC-CAM include
proximately one million pages of documents from the Khmer
Rouge period, including meeting minutes, telegrams, reports, party
periodicals, and files from the Khmer Rouge secret police. In
addition, the archives include documentation of over 20,000 mass
grave sites, 196 prisons, 6,000 photographs from the Khmer Rouge
period, 260 documentary films shot during and directly after the
Khmer Rouge regime, and approximately 50,000 interviews con -
ducted by DC-CAM staff with perpetrators and survivors.
In my assessment of the Khmer Rouge bureaucracy I follow
Kirsten Weld, who details how documents, at different historical
moments, may represent distinct archival logics. 11 Writing in the
context of Guatemala’s violent past, Weld identifies two organiz -
ing principles surrounding the voluminous materials archived by
Guatemala’s secret police. The first logic, Weld explains, “was one
of surveillance, social control, and ideological management,”
while the second, “emerging from the records’ rescue, is one of
democratic opening, historical memory, and the pursuit of
ju s t ic e .”
12 In Cambodia, before the many Khmer Rouge docu -
ments were archived at DC-CAM or the ECCC, they were stored
by the Khmer Rouge in countless file cabinets, binders, or desks
throughout Democratic Kampuchea. Lawyers and scholars have
given these documents a second life.
13 Less attention has been
focused on the first life of these documents: their original produc -
tion, circulation, and usage.
14 Thus, I want to “document the
process, not to process the documents.” 15 My overriding purpose
is to redirect attention toward the processes of documentation
and to interpret the documents as they were produced by the CPK
toward particular purposes. In other words, my intent is not to
document so much what the Khmer Rouge did as it is to under -
stand why the Khmer Rouge documented the way they did.
The politics of how archives are compiled, created, and opened
are intimately tied to the politics and practices of government. 16
Consequently, a focus on the documentary processes of the CPK
will shed insight into the broader coordinates of governance both as
envisioned and practiced by the Khmer Rouge, for as Ann Stoler
relates, “Filing systems and disciplined writing produce assem -
blages of control and specific methods of domination.”
17 Such a
journey, therefore, requires that we step into the mundane world of
the bureaucrat, a passage that seems incongruous with more con -
ventional understandings of the Cambodian genocide. To speak of
e Khmer Rouge is to bring to mind black-clad youth wielding
AK-47s; bureaucrats, conversely, are mild-mannered administra -
tors toiling behind desks, all but forgotten in their tiny cubicles.
d yet as the voluminous materials compiled by both DC-CAM
and the ECCC demonstrate, Democratic Kampuchea was flush
with documents. These documents did not materialize in a vacuum
but instead were the products of innumerable men and women,
who may have wielded weapons, but also were armed with pens,
paper, and typewriters.The term
bureaucracy originated as a protest against incompe -
tence, inefficiency, and excessive governmental regulations. 18 In the
late seventeenth century the French king designated Jean-Baptiste
Colbert comptroller general of finance. Subsequently, Colbert initi -
ated a series of rules that were to be applied uniformly throughout
e realm. He believed that the uniform application of rules would
demonstrate fairness and equality of the government. Nearly a
century later, however, France’s administrator of commerce, Jean-
Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay, derided the ever-increasing
rules and regulations as harming business activity. Thus, to “sym -
bolize the idea that rule-makers and rule-enforcers who did not
derstand or care about the consequences of their actions were
ruining the French government, he coined the sarcastic term
bureaucratie —government by desk.” 19
The prominence of bureaucrats and bureaucracies within the
practice of statecraft has received considerable, if uneven, attention
in recent years.
20 Merje Kuus, for example, finds that the “effects of
bureaucratic processes are well documented in their convoluted,
contested, and indeterminate character as well as their far-reaching
impacts on human lives, but the production of bureaucratic knowl -
edge inside policy-making institutions has received less attention.”
Following Ben Kafka, therefore, we should concentrate on putting
the “bureau” back into “bureaucracy” and to “investigate the pens,
papers, and other raw materials of power.”
22 Required is an explicit
focus on the tasks of bureaucrats in the course of their everyday
activities, not least of which is the preparation, circulation, and
filing of documents. Documents are essential for bureaucratic rule. Indeed, recent
scholarship has shown how bureaucratic documents are produced,
used, and experienced through procedures, techniques, aesthetics,
ideologies, cooperation, negotiation, and contestation.
23 In short,
recent scholarship has effectively detailed the importance of under -
standing “the materiality of information.”
24 Two functions are
particularly notable. First, “documents promote control within
organizations and beyond not only through their links to the
entities they document but through the coordination of perspec-
tives and activities.”
25 This implies that we take seriously the
“objects” of politics, including “both the militarized and the
26 Second, bureaucratic documents entail a “generative
capacity” in that they bring
things into existence. 27 Marie-Andrée
Jacobs, for example, details how documents, but especially consent
forms, generate “form-made persons.” Jacobs elaborates that while
documents “answer the bureaucratic needs for efficiency and for
comparability of documents,” they also “make political subjects
visible.” In turn, these subjects may more readily be “archived, clas -
sified, measured, compared, and controlled on a mass scale.”
short, documents “are central to how bureaucratic objects are
enacted in practice.”
In his pioneering work Economy and Society , Max Weber
argues that “ bureaucratic administration means fundamentally
domination through knowledge.”
30 Relatedly, in the writings of
Michel Foucault, knowledge, but more precisely the truth function
of knowledge, assumes a central place. Indeed, a dominant motif of
Foucault’s work was to provide a critique of the way modern societ -
ies control and discipline their populations by sanctioning the
owledge claims and practices of the human sciences. 31 For
Foucault, therefore, knowledge is inseparable from power. Foucault
explains that power and knowledge directly imply one another;
that there is no power relation without the correlative constitution
of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presup -
pose and constitute at the same time power relations.
Power is often equated with brute force: jackbooted thugs
wielding truncheons or armed police in riot gear suppressing a
protest. We readily understand the muscle of massed troops, fleets
of naval vessels, and squadrons of fighter jets. However, power is
not synonymous with violence, although power does enable
violence to flourish. For Foucault, power is exercised rather than
possessed. He elaborates that “Power must be analyzed as some -
thing which circulates, or rather as something which only functions
in the form of a chain. It is never localized here or there, never in
anybody’s hands, never appropriated as a commodity or piece of
we a lt h .”
33 This conception overlaps with that of Hannah Arendt,
who writes, “Power is indeed the essence of all government, but
violence is not. Violence is by nature instrumental: like all means,
it always stands in need of guidance and justification through the
end it pursues. And what needs justification by something else
cannot be the essence of anything.”
34 Arendt elaborates that
“Where commands are no longer obeyed, the means of violence
are of no use. . . . Everything depends on the power behind the
35 Significantly, both Foucault—but especially Arendt—
locate this form of power within the bureaucracy, a “rule by
No b o d y,”
36 a form of governance where those who wield power do
so not with guns, knives, or explosives but with pen, ink, and
paper; where the main actors are not readily visible kings or
generals, soldiers or police, but instead anonymous clerks and
typists. In so doing, both Foucault and Arendt readily understand
that “the entry of life into politics” is occasioned by the emergence
of the bureaucracy as a form of power.
A focus on bureaucratic documents calls to question the materi -
ality of power as it is administered behind the scenes, for here we
e how seemingly mundane technologies—files, charts, and
records—become the means that enable a few to know about or to
rule over many.
38 Indeed, as Kenneth Dauber describes, “record
keeping makes it possible to characterize and administer large pop -
ulations with a (relatively) small staff.”
39 This observation holds
considerable purchase when understanding, for example, the rule
of the Khmer Rouge throughout Democratic Kampuchea. As
detailed in subsequent chapters, the Communist Party of
Kampuchea never enjoyed mass popular support; in fact, even
those cadres who fought and died in the civil war leading up to the
CPK’s revolutionary victory did so not for ideological reasons.
Consequently, it was incumbent upon the CPK to effectively wield
power over an increasingly discontented population. Direct force
was used; and this violence has been well documented by scholars
of Democratic Kampuchea. But so too was control facilitated
through mundane exercises of power.Recent scholarly accounts have detailed how bureaucracies are
essential for the production of knowledge and how knowledge is
critical to the exercise of power. To this end, the “rule of experts”
has figured prominently.
40 What, though, constitutes an expert?
Dominic Boyer provides an initial definition whereby “an expert
[is] an actor who has developed skills in, semiotic-epistemic
competence for, and attentional concern with, some sphere of
41 Boyer quickly acknowledges that such a
definition may lead to the conclusion that “there is no human being
who is not ‘expert’ in some fashion,” but this openness, however,
“highlights the tension between the experiential-performative and
social-institutional poles of skilled knowing and doing.”
42 In other
words, it is necessary to consider not simply the symbolic and
practical qualifications that underscore a claim to expertise; it is
also necessary to engage with the intangible dimensions by which
anyone is fashioned as an expert. Senior leaders of the Khmer
Rouge, for example, branded themselves experts on any number of
subjects. Such self-positionality conformed to their understanding
of the CPK as a vanguard, but it also highlighted a profound belief
in their own infallibility. It was this presumption of technical
expertise in all fields of politics and economics that provided for the
senior leadership a rationalization for purges directed against
people who were unable to meet CPK expectations but also the
elimination of perceived “strings of traitors” and enemy infiltrators. Widespread purges throughout Democratic Kampuchea were
the result of bureaucratic procedures: a complex interplay of sur -
veillance techniques, biopolitical documentation, and preemptive
licing strategies. Underscoring the administration of violence
was a pervasive paranoia. This paranoia, however, should not be
conceived simply as a “pathological and unwarranted phobia” but
instead a particular form of governance.
43 As Nicholas Holm
explains, “notions of ‘paranoia,’ and the commingled sense of con -
spiracy that accompanies them can be considered more than just
inevitable impediments to be overcome when addressing surveil-
lance; they can also be productive.” 44 This statement admittedly
appears somewhat incredulous at first blush. And yet, as detailed in
the chapters that follow, a pervasive mistrust among Khmer Rouge
cadres conditioned their attempt to establish a socialist state. For
the Khmer Rouge, paranoia and an attendant conspiratorial con -
sciousness provided the context for subsequent disciplinary action
d policing functions, both informed materially by the compila -
tion, evaluation, and archiving of documents. A g u
iding thesis I develop is that the power of the Communist
Party of Kampuchea was derived in no small part from the material
production of information by a small cohort of self-styled experts.
This challenges more conventional accounts of the Khmer Rouge in
that I place equal weight on the administration of power as well as
the ruthless imposition of direct violence of killings and the struc -
tural violence of famine.
45 Democratic Kampuchea, in other words,
is not reducible to the moniker of terror state. Rather, Democratic
Kampuchea exemplifies the calculative power of bureaucratic rule.
As Foucault explains, “It is only if we grasp these techniques of
power and demonstrate the economic advantages or political utility
that derive from them in a given context for specific reasons, that
we can understand how these mechanisms come to be effectively
incorporated into the social whole.”
46 Consequently, it is necessary
to interpret S-21 not in isolation but as a key node in a larger
bureaucratic rule of governance. Rather than merely a place of bru -
tality and horror, S-21 must be understood, following Bruno Latour,
a s a “
center of calculation,” where truth and knowledge became
manifest, materially, in the form of documents.
In so doing, my work is couched within a larger historiography
of bureaucratic power, for it is my contention that the power and
violence that demarcated Democratic Kampuchea was not unique.
Rather, my reading of the Khmer Rouge security apparatus resitu -
ates the Cambodian genocide squarely within the study of the
cropolitics of bureaucracy and a longer history of state knowl -
edge production and the practices of killing. My overriding purpose
erefore extends beyond the particulars of Cambodia. For it is my
intention to speak directly to the theoretical understanding of
security discourses and apparatuses, networks within a security
context, and the politics of lists associated with security practices.
In short, my work aims to contribute to the rapidly developing
scholarship that has critiqued the politics of calculation and the
materiality of information that underpin contemporary practices of
surveillance and violence. Important parallels are thus made
between the techniques of security as enacted by the Khmer Rouge
with similar practices forwarded within the global war on terror.
The current debates centered on surveillance and subterfuge, of
torture and interrogation, of targeted killings, find resonance in
numerous antecedents, including that of the Khmer Rouge. It is
necessary therefore to draw parallels with other accounts in that
they point us toward a much longer history of the ways modern
bureaucracies make mass murder possible.
Rosa Luxemburg, while imprisoned in 1918, wrote an essay
entitled The Russian Revolution. This work was later published
after her execution. In the essay Luxemburg provides a critique of
Bolshevik policies enacted following the October Revolution.
Notably, she cautions that the whole mass of people must take part
in the socialist revolution, otherwise socialism will be decreed
from behind a few official desks by a dozen intellectuals. The words
of Luxemburg would prove prophetic for much of what went
wrong with twentieth-century communism. Exemplary in this
regard is the brutal bureaucracy imposed throughout Stalinist
Russia, but also the secretive machinations of the Communist
Party of Kampuchea. The Politics of Lists provides an account of
this latter episode of rule by bureaucrats. The writing of this book was a collective effort, the culmina -
tion of years of conversations and consultations, discussions and
debates. Primary thanks are due to Derek Krissoff and the entire
staff at West Virginia University Press, who shepherded the man-
uscript from initial proposal submission through final production.
Special thanks are extended also to the editorial board at West
Virginia University Press and the anonymous reviewers who
provided critical feedback. At Kent State University I express my
appreciation to Jim Blank, Todd Diacon, Marcello Fantoni,
Mandy Munro-Stasiuk, and Scott Sheridan for their continued
support of my research. Kent State University is a remarkable
institution and I am deeply grateful for the productive working
environment provided by these individuals. In Cambodia I am
indebted to the support and assistance of Youk Chhang and the
staff at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, and also Visoth
Chhay and the staff at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The
center has been exceptionally generous in the provision of docu-
ments and photographs for this project and others over the years.
Likewise, the museum has been equally generous in their provi -
sion of materials. I humbly offer my thanks to both institutions.
More specifically, however, I thank Dara Vanthan and Phirun
Suon for their assistance in obtaining permissions for the photo -
graphs used in this book. Special thanks are also extended to
Sokvisal Kimsroy and Kok-Chhay Ly for their input and insight
and for their translation of documents. Lastly, I thank Chenjian
Fu, Kok-Chhay Ly, and Zheye Wang for their help with the empir -
ical analyses in Chapter 4.
Over the years I have benefited immensely from critical feedback
and comments of my students: Gabriela Brindis Alvarez, Alex
Colucci, Gordon Cromley, Christabel Devadoss, Kathryn Hannum,
Sam Henkin, Josh Inwood, Sokvisal Kimsroy, Robert Kruse, Kok-
Chhay Ly, Mark Rhodes, Stian Rice, Savina Sirik, Dave Stasiuk,
Rachel Will, and Chris Willer. I have also drawn inspiration from
and been challenged in my thinking through conversations with
innumerable scholars over the years, including Derek Alderman,
Caroline Bennet, Stéphanie Banzaquen-Gautier, Noel Castree,
Youk Chhang, Visoth Chhay, Randle DeFalco, Khamboly Dy, Craig
Etcheson, Julie Fleischman, Jim Glassman, Michelle Hamers,
Rachel Hughes, Helen Jarvis, Ben Kiernan, Caroline Laurent, Dany
Long, Andrew Mertha, Don Mitchell, Anne-Laure Porée, Vicente
Sánchez-Biosca, Ian Shaw, Simon Springer, Sarah Williams, and
Melissa Wright. During the development of this book I have been
fortunate to provide preliminary results and interpretations at the
Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University, the
Department of Geography, West Virginia University, and the
seminar on “Traces and Memories of the Cambodian Genocide:
Tuol Sleng in Testimony, Literature and Media Representations”
held in conjunction with the American Comparative Literature
Association. I thank the audiences for their comments and sugges -
tions and for pushing me to reinterpret preliminary ideas and
I thank my parents, Dr. Gerald Tyner and Dr. Judith Tyner, for
their unwavering support and encouragement. Three decades ago
my parents made a considerable sacrifice so that I could attend the
University of Bradford as an exchange student. My year in England
was transformative and set the stage for my eventual career in
academia. It sounds clichéd, but I honestly would not be where I am
today without their support, both emotionally and materially. To
this end, I would also like to thank my mother specifically. An
accomplished author and scholar in her own right, I have enjoyed
thoroughly our long conversations about the ups and downs of
writing and I hope to have many more conversations in the years
ahead. For my mom, I dedicate this book. Since the publication of my first book over ten years ago I have
been accompanied in my writing by two late-night friends: my cat
Jamaica and my dog Bond. Sadly, Jamaica passed away during the
completion of this book. Bond and I will continue to read and write
late into the night, but our friend and companion will be deeply
missed. My daughters, Jessica and Anica, continue to make me
laugh and keep things in perspective. They are a welcome reprieve
from hours spent reading and writing about genocide, mass
violence, torture, and execution and from my incessant following of
U.S. politics. And lastly, I thank my wife, Belinda, and not just for
the usual reasons. Belinda is the beacon in our household, a shining
light that illuminates all that is good and all that needs attention.
And I promise, now that this project is complete, to do something
about that stack of books and papers that has been sitting on the
dining room table for the past several months.
Emerging from the Shadows
On September 27, 1977, Pol Pot delivered a long, rambling speech
that was subsequently broadcast throughout Democratic
1 This particular speech is remarkable, in part, because
it was the first public announcement of the CPK’s existence and Pol
2 It is also meaningful insofar as it expresses the
official objectives of the Khmer Rouge. A recurrent theme through -
out the 1977 speech, but prevalent also in scores of other public
onouncements and propaganda materials disseminated by the
CPK, is that of defending the country. More than a simple call to
arms, however, the CPK’s security discourse is connected to the
wider political economy of Democratic Kampuchea. Pol Pot
exhorted his audience that the duty ahead was “to contribute to the
national defense, the building up of the country, and the raising of
the people’s living standard, all toward carrying out, with a high
sense of revolution responsibility, the glorious task which the Party
has entrusted to them.”
By this point, the postrevolutionary period was well under way.
The CPK had been in power for nearly thirty months, communes
had been initiated throughout the country, and an assortment of
bureaucratic ministries and departments had been established. For
nearly thirty months, people had been reclassified as Party
members, cadres, base people, or new people. They had been sub -
jected to near-starvation food rations, denied adequate health care,
parated from their families, and forced to labor on massive infra -
structure projects. And to maintain internal order, an extensive
curity apparatus composed of approximately two hundred
prisons was installed.
It is not known how those who heard Pol Pot’s speech responded
to his hyperbolic platitudes. No doubt they were sensitive to the
disconnect between Pol Pot’s geographic imaginary of Democratic
Kampuchea as a bountiful land and the reality of privation. But by
September 1977, most people had learned to remain quiet, for the
eyes and ears of Angkar were ever present, ever watching, ever lis -
tening. Linguistically, Angkar is derived from the Pali word
meaning a part of the body; it is also related to the Khmer word
angk , which also denotes a structure, or a limb of a body. The term
speaks of mana-filled objects, or orderly institutions. And for most
people of Democratic Kampuchea, it was unclear as to whether
Angkar was a person, a group, or an organization. As John Marston
explains, “There was always an ambiguity in its usage” and that
“this was not incidental to its usage but very much of the essence of
what the word signified in practice.”
4 What was clear was that
Angkar represented power, an absent authority other than the
person who was immediately speaking.
5 All orders and slogans, for
example, were issued in the name of the Angkar Padevoat, or
Revolutionary Organization. Historically, the use of Angkar among Cambodian revolution -
aries preceded the Khmer Rouge. Stephen Heder explains that
gkar was used as early as the 1940s as a catchall term for “orga -
6 It was not a term purposively adopted by the CPK to sow
confusion among the populace. During the 1960s, however, it was
increasingly used by a cohort of revolutionaries, including but not
limited to Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea, and Khieu Samphan, who
adhered loosely to a Marxist-Leninist doctrine. Prior to this time,
the Cambodian revolution was an ad hoc assortment of individuals
and groups, all operating with different objectives and methods.
Throughout the 1940s, for example, many Cambodians sought to
liberate their country from French colonialism; following indepen -
dence, most of these revolutionaries laid down their arms and
turned to farming. Others were disillusioned with the existent
monarchy and desired to overthrow the long-standing prince,
Norodom Sihanouk. Since being placed on the throne by French
authorities during the Second World War, Sihanouk had dominated
Emerging from the Shadows
Cambodian politics. And a minority of revolutionaries pursued a
more radical form of politics; these men and women wanted not to
simply replace the existing system of governance with their own
politicians but instead desired to effect sweeping changes through-
out the whole of society. This was the Pol Pot faction; this was the
hort of revolutionary cadre who, in the 1960s, formed the
Workers’ Party of Kampuchea (WPK) which, in time, would trans -
form into the Communist Party of Kampuchea. The W
orkers’ Party of Kampuchea was itself a reconfiguration of
an earlier party, the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party (KPRP),
which was heavily influenced, if not outright dominated, by
Vietnamese Communists. It was this history that haunted Pol Pot
and served as backdrop for his 1977 speech. Throughout the course
of Cambodia’s two thousand–year history, Pol Pot explained, the
country had experienced a series of class-based revolutions. In
previous slave societies, for example, Pol Pot stated that the
“exploited class struggled against the exploiting class,” but, he clar -
ified, “this struggle was not guided by a correct line.” He identified
so a revolutionary struggle against feudalism. Victory, again,
“was temporary, because those who were the victors did not possess
a correct line to really liberate the country and really liberate the
people, the exploited masses who comprise the peasant class.” Past
failures, Pol Pot reasoned, stemmed from the fact that those who
overthrew the previous class, the revolutionaries, “made themselves
warlords and ruled like kings and viceroys, and they became the
new exploiters of the peasant class.”
7 Nothing short of a complete
and total revolution would ensure victory; nothing less would safe -
guard a communal utopia devoid of class conflict, poverty, and
Real revolution, Pol Pot explained, necessitated “self-mastery”
and “self-reliance,” two phrases that peppered both official and
operational objectives forwarded by the CPK. Combined, these
concepts signified an exceedingly cautious approach to the interna -
tional community and an overall approach to foreign policy based
o n f
ear of betrayal and deceit. For Pol Pot, such an approach was
warranted, for the years of revolution were marked by a series of
betrayals and traitorous activities. Secrecy was necessary because
enemies were thought to be everywhere. The revolution, Pol Pot
explained, required sacrifice and hardship, but these were small
prices to pay by “the Kampuchean people, who [had] suffered
enslavement, deceit, oppression and exploitation for centuries.”
Victory on April 17, 1975, for Pol Pot, marked a momentous
period in Cambodia’s history, for this was the first time the country
“was totally and definitively liberated.”
9 And while this was a time
to rejoice and exhort the revolutionary sacrifices made, it was also a
time to remain ever vigilant against enemies, both external and
internal. He explains that “Our revolutionary task . . . is no longer
the same; no longer is it the revolution for national liberation and
independence. Our revolutionary task now is to defend our country,
to defend Democratic Kampuchea; defend our independence, our
sovereignty and our territorial integrity within our present borders,
defend the worker and peasant power of our Party, and safeguard
the sacred victories of the revolution.”
10 To achieve these ends,
however, Pol Pot cautions against contradictions that threatens the
security of the Party, the revolution, and the country. Here, his
speech takes on a darker, more ominous tone. He warns against
contradictions among the people, of men and women who retain
vestiges of their old class character; of reactionary elements; and of
enemy agents, who belong to various spy networks and who secretly
implant themselves to carry out subversive activities.
11 Pol Pot’s
summation is foreboding:
We do not consider these traitors, these counterrevolutionary
elements, to be part of the people. They are enemies of
Democratic Kampuchea, of the Kampuchean revolution and
of the Kampuchean people. Contradictions within these
elements must be solved by the measures proper for enemies:
separate, educate and win over the elements which can be
won over; neutralize the elements which are wavering, pre -
venting them from doing any damage to the revolution; and,
finally, isolate and eradicate only the smallest possible
number of those elements who are cruel and persist in acting
Emerging from the Shadows
against the revolution and the people, and collaborate with
foreign enemies to destroy their own people and their own
In September 1977 the CPK emerged from the shadows, only to
reveal that other, more deceitful creatures remained hidden in the
darkness. Pol Pot’s speech is illuminating, therefore, in that it high -
lights not only a pervasive sense of mistrust but also the justification
o f a r
uthless approach to dealing with betrayal. Such was the
context for the establishment of S-21 and other security centers
throughout Democratic Kampuchea.
The Politics of Lists constitutes an exegesis of S-21 as a center of
calculation. Although variously described as an extermination
center or death camp, such comparisons with Nazi-organized insti -
tutions provide little in the way of analytical insight. With an
phasis on the production and documentation of information in
material form by Khmer Rouge bureaucracies, I provide a critical
account of the administrative context of mass violence during the
Khmer Rouge regime. More precisely, I consider the overarching
security discourses forwarded by high-ranking officials of the
Communist Party of Kampuchea; how these discourses material -
ized in the form of prisoner biographies, confessions, and myriad
her lists; how these documents provided the fodder to construct
elaborate conspiracy theories of networks of traitors; and how the
presumed existence of these networks necessitated (from the per -
spective of these officials) a security apparatus that operated on the
sis of precrime and preemptive punishment. In short, my thesis is
that the paranoia-induced purges of the Khmer Rouge are best
explained within a framework of bureaucratic necropolitics. Before
explicating the resultant conspiracy of culture that would come to
dominate Democratic Kampuchea, however, it is necessary to first
situate the security concerns of the CPK within a historical context
of perceived treacheries.
The Unexpected Revolution
By the mid-1950s the future of Cambodia appeared promising,
with independence having been achieved in 1953. A foreign
observer captured some of this optimism, writing in 1955 that
“Cambodia seems to stand at the extended new road to life among
the many nations. She has passed several tollgates and is entering
the main highway. . . . In certain places in the world, there are
unspoiled places awaiting training and education for the new era;
Cambodia is one of those places.”
13 Over time, this optimism
dissipated, replaced by unattained aspirations, increased dis-
illusionment, political factions, and war.
The long-standing Franco-Viet Minh War (1946–54), culminat -
ing with the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu, and the
sequent Geneva Accords, left the future of Indochina in doubt.
Most pressing was the decision to temporarily divide Vietnam into
two political entities, the Communist-dominated Democratic
Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in the north, and a United States–
supported Republic of Vietnam in the south, with nationwide elec -
tions to be held in two years. For many observers, the cessation of
stilities was but a respite as the region assumed greater impor -
tance in the rapidly expanding Cold War between the United States
d the Soviet Union. Cambodia’s future was very much in doubt.Politics in Cambodia were characterized by Sihanouk ’s
monopoly of political power and his positioning of Cambodia on
the international stage.
15 Sihanouk was widely popular, and the
young prince capitalized on his approval to deepen his role in gov -
ernance. By constitution, the monarchy in Cambodia was largely
remonial and so in 1955 Sihanouk abdicated the throne in favor
of his father in order to take full executive control of the govern -
ment. Furthermore, he consolidated a number of contending
litical parties under the banner of the Sangkum Reastr Niyum
(People’s Socialist Community) to more fully dictate the future of
Cambodia. Foremost among his concerns was to retain Cambodia’s
neutrality in the brewing conflict in Vietnam. However, as David
Emerging from the Shadows
Chandler concludes, Cambodia would remain neutral and at peace
only as long as its neutrality served the interests of other states. 16
Difficulties in maintaining neutrality stemmed from France’s
colonial neglect of Cambodia. As Margaret Slocomb writes, follow -
ing independence the “production of electrical energy, the supply of
troleum products and the water supply were controlled by for -
eigners, as were the few major industrial establishments.”
Consequently, Sihanouk was forced to enter into economic alliances
with foreign powers, thereby placing in jeopardy his proclamations
of neutrality. Depending on the political winds, Sihanouk allied
with members of both the Soviet-dominated Eastern bloc and the
American-dominated Western bloc. Over time, these economic
arrangements placed Sihanouk and Cambodia on a collision course
with opposition from across the political spectrum. Throughout the 1950s decisions forwarded by the DRV were
greatly tinged by the prospect of war with the United States. Thus,
while Communist insurgents throughout southern Vietnam
pressed for permission to wage armed rebellion, DRV leaders
refused. Patience was required, they argued, lest the United States
be drawn into open warfare. So intense was this concern that revo -
lutionary activities in the south were limited to political agitation.
It was not until 1959 that the Vietnamese leadership agreed to
armed resistance in the south. In the following year, the National
Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam, better known as the
National Liberation Front (NLF, derisively known as the Viet
Cong), was established. That a successful insurgency in the south was dependent upon
the ability to provision the NLF was widely understood by the
DRV’s military leaders. Indeed, even before the formal constitution
of the NLF, North Vietnamese military planners had begun the
arduous task of establishing a series of supply lines through eastern
Laos, the Central Highlands of Vietnam, and eventually eastern
Cambodia. Known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail, this was a vast
network of roads and footpaths whereby food, weapons, medicines,
and other supplies were transported by groups of men and women.
In time, even North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops would utilize
the Ho Chi Minh Trail. North Vietnamese access through
Cambodia, however, was conditional upon Sihanouk ’s assurance
or, at the minimum, his acceptance, of neutrality.In June 1965 Pol Pot and a handful of associates traveled to
Hanoi, where they stayed for nine months. Their purpose was, on
the one hand, to undertake political studies and to learn from
Vietnamese military theoreticians and, on the other hand, to
discuss the role of the Khmer Communist movement within the
context of the escalating war in Vietnam.
19 By this point the United
States was actively engaged in armed conflict against the DRV and
the NLF. Following a perceived attack by North Vietnamese forces
against an American naval vessel, on August 7, 1964, the U.S.
Congress hurriedly passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, authoriz -
ing President Lyndon Johnson to use armed force in Indochina.
stained aerial bombing campaigns against the DRV had com -
menced in mid-February 1965. It i
s probable that Pol Pot expected support from his Vietnamese
counterparts to at least make contingency preparations for armed
struggle in Cambodia; more optimistically, Pol Pot probably hoped
to acquire weapons needed for the revolution.
20 However, for the
Vietnamese, the foremost priority remained the defeat of the United
States. This necessitated continued access to sanctuaries within
Cambodia, as well as the ability to transport weapons and other
war materiel into southern Vietnam. Indeed, the Vietnamese
Communists had recently reached an agreement with Sihanouk
that allowed the NLF and other Vietnamese insurgents access to
21 In exchange, the Vietnamese pledged to
honor Cambodia’s territorial borders at war’s end. Pol Pot was rebuffed in his request to expand the revolution in
Cambodia. Indeed, the Vietnamese leadership berated the Khmer
Communist for pursuing a nationalist agenda and for wanting to
put the Cambodian revolution ahead of the greater regional
conflict. In no uncertain terms, Le Duan, secretary-general of the
Vietnamese Communists, stressed that the Khmer’s strategy of
“self-reliant struggle” was inappropriate, and that the Khmer Rouge
were to subordinate their objectives to that of the DRV.
Emerging from the Shadows
precisely, Le Duan “recommended that the Cambodians combine
building revolutionary bases in the countryside through unarmed
mass mobilization with continued infiltration of parliament and
government, in order to position the Party to make a bid for power,
perhaps through violence, once the Vietnamese had won the war.”
Having failed to secure a go-ahead to launch an armed revolu-
tion, Pol Pot next traveled to Beijing. There, he met with several
gh-ranking officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CPP),
including Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi.
24 Pol Pot’s visit, from
February to May 1966, happened during the early months of Mao
Zedong’s Cultural Revolution—a movement that many scholars
surmise to have influenced Pol Pot’s later policies. Chandler, for
example, suggests that Pol Pot was drawn to Mao’s emphasis on
“continuous class warfare, individual revolutionary will, and the
importance of poor peasants—ideological areas in which China
differed from Vietnam and which were later emphasized in
Democratic Kampuchea.” Furthermore, Chandler contends that
Pol Pot must have been impressed by the scale, autonomy, and
momentum of China’s social mobilization. It was, Chandler con -
cludes, China’s triumphant revolution rather than Vietnam’s
duous, unfinished struggle that Pol Pot desired to bring back to
Aside from any insights Pol Pot may have gleaned regarding the
ideology of class struggle, he failed to receive the material support
required to wage armed conflict. Chinese officials, similar to their
Vietnamese counterparts, urged restraint. They cautioned that it
was necessary to maintain a wider perspective on events in
Indochina; that liberation required solidarity between the
Vietnamese and the Khmer. This meant, once again, to support
Sihanouk despite the monarchs’ ongoing purges of Khmer
revolutionaries. Meanwhile, conditions within Cambodia continued to deterio -
rate. Mass protests erupted in Phnom Penh and other provincial
wns, often led by students and civil servants who objected to
widespread corruption and an overall lack of political and economic
opportunities. Even within the countryside, support for Sihanouk
was waning as the gap between urban wealth and rural poverty
became more pronounced. Rice farmers, in particular, were hard-
pressed. In 1963 Sihanouk had refused U.S. aid, nationalized the
import-export sector of the economy, and closed Cambodia’s pri-
vately owned banks. He hoped, through these steps, to encourage
ronger relations with China and the Soviet Union and, in the
process, curtail the escalating war in Vietnam from expanding
further into Cambodia. However, by severing relations with the
United States, Sihanouk further crippled Cambodia’s faltering
economy. Neither China nor the Soviet Union was willing to invest
substantial funds in Cambodia; consequently, Sihanouk was forced
to make drastic reductions in defense spending, thereby incurring
the ire of the minister of national defense, Gen. Lon Nol, and the
broader military establishment. Moreover, the nationalization of
foreign trade encouraged the commercial elite to trade clandes -
tinely with Communist insurgents in Vietnam. As t
he United States intensified its military actions in Vietnam—
over 536,000 U.S. military personnel were stationed in Vietnam by
1968—both the NLF and the military forces of the DRV increased
their use of Cambodian territory as sanctuary and for resupply. In
turn, U.S. officials steadily, secretively, expanded the war into
Cambodia. In 1967 American military advisers initiated Operation
Salem House. Whereas U.S. personnel had been operating in
Cambodia since at least the early 1960s, Salem House systematized
these operations. Teams of six to eight Americans and South
Vietnamese would enter Cambodia seeking tactical intelligence. At
first, missions were restricted to the northeastern tip of Cambodia;
over time, as the operation was renamed Daniel Boone, the base of
operation included the entirety of the Cambodian-Vietnamese
border. Limitations on the number of American personnel were
also lifted, as were restrictions on the conduct of operations. The
use of antipersonnel land mines, for example, was allowed—a tactic
that would take a devastating toll on Cambodian peasants. By 1969,
U.S. forces had conducted 454 covert missions into Cambodia; this
figure increased to 558 the following year. The number of
Emerging from the Shadows
Cambodian civilians killed between 1969 and 1973 is placed as
high as 150,000. 26
Cambodian officials condemned these missions. In just one
month, October 1969, representatives protested eighty-three
separate incidents of American intervention. Aerial and artillery
attacks, supposedly targeting NLF strongholds, were more likely to
destroy Cambodian villages—houses, schools, bridges—killing
more Cambodian civilians than enemy personnel.
27 Poi nt e d l y,
Sihanouk did not give his permission for the U.S. military violation
of Cambodian territory. Certainly, he tolerated limited actions, and
he did acquiesce to some demands of both the DRV and the United
States to operate within Cambodia’s borders. However, as Kenton
Clymer explains, these were specific and limited arrangements,
agreed to in a desperate bid to preserve Cambodia from the excesses
of all-out war.
More devastating than these limited incursions, however, was
the United States and its South Vietnamese ally’s escalating aerial
bombardment of Cambodia. On February 9, 1969, Gen. Creighton
Abrams recommended a single, intensive attack on a site within
Cambodia that was suspected to be the headquarters of NLF forces,
identified as the Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN). The
previous administration of President Johnson had repeatedly
refused such a strike; for the incoming president, Richard Nixon,
the operation aligned strongly with his desire to expand the armed
conflict in a futile attempt to extradite the United States from the
quagmire of Vietnam. Thus, on March 18, 1969, Nixon ordered a
series of secret and illegal B-52 bombing raids to be conducted
inside Cambodia. Known as Operation Menu, the campaign would
last for fifteen months, during which time more than 3,800 B-52
sorties were flown, disgorging more than 100,000 tons of bombs.
While traveling to France, Sihanouk had entrusted his govern -
ment to Lon Nol and his pro-Western deputy prime minister,
ince Sisowath Sirik Matak. In Sihanouk ’s absence, Lon Nol and
Sirik Matak launched attacks on the Vietnamese Communist posi -
tions, organized anti-Vietnamese demonstrations, and reestablished
es with various non-Communist groups. Sihanouk, upon learning
of these actions, condemned both Lon Nol and Sirik Matak. In
response, Sirik Matak pressured Lon Nol to depose Sihanouk and,
in turn, the National Assembly voted eighty-nine to three to remove
Sihanouk from power.
The coup d’état was a turning point in the geopolitical chess
match. Initially, Chinese leaders sought to align themselves with
the government of Lon Nol and Sirik Matak. Crucial to this strategy
was the necessity of retaining DRV access to bases in Cambodia. In
essence, the Chinese were willing to postpone the Khmer
Communist revolution in order to help the Vietnamese defeat the
United States. This too was the immediate intention of the DRV.
Refusing, however, to work with the Chinese, Lon Nol adopted a
hard-line anti-Vietnamese and anti-Communist position. In part
this reflected Lon Nol’s own political leanings, but it also reflected
his misreading of the wider geopolitical climate. Lon Nol believed,
naively perhaps, Nixon’s rhetoric. The Cambodian general sup -
ported the expanded U.S. military presence on Cambodian soil, the
going bombing campaigns, and the presence of thousands of
troops of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Lon Nol believed
also in Nixon’s promise that military and economic aid would be
forthcoming. Sihanouk similarly made a fateful decision. The leadership in
China, having been rebuffed in their overture to Lon Nol, encour -
aged Sihanouk to form a military alliance with the Vietnamese and
mbodian Communists and to lead a government in exile. 31
Sihanouk, as Arnold Isaacs explains, was far too clear-eyed not to
have realized, even in these early weeks, that he was tying himself
to interests that were mortally dangerous to Cambodia’s survival.
Cold War calculus, however, forced the prince into a Faustian
bargain. Having received no support from the United States,
Sihanouk had few options. In response to the coup, Sihanouk issued an appeal to the
Cambodian people, whereupon Royalist supporters would join the
Khmer Rouge in a unified effort to defeat the Lon Nol government.
More formally, on March 23, 1970, Sihanouk announced the forma -
tion of the National United Front of Kampuchea (Front Uni
Emerging from the Shadows
National du Kampuchea, or FUNK), a political and military coali-
tion of Royalists and the Khmer Rouge, committed to destroying
n Nol’s republican forces. Two months later, the Royal
Government of National Union of Kampuchea (Gouvernement
Royal d’Union Nationale du Kampuchea, or GRUNK) was
announced. Sihanouk assumed the post of GRUNK head of state,
while Penn Nouth was designated as prime minister. Other
high-ranking positions were occupied by Khmer Rouge cadre:
Khieu Samphan was designated deputy prime minister, minister of
defense, and commander-in-chief of the GRUNK armed forces; Hu
Nim served as minister of information; and Hou Yuon assumed
the position of minister of interior, communal reforms, and
Both Sihanouk and the Khmer Rouge leadership recognized the
tenuous basis of their alliance. The Khmer Rouge continued to hold
Sihanouk responsible for the war in Cambodia, but well understood
his mass appeal. Pol Pot, in particular, used Sihanouk ’s popularity
for propaganda and recruitment purposes. Sihanouk likewise
understood that his role in the alliance was little more than as
titular figurehead. He gambled, however, that he might use the
arrangement as a means of deposing Lon Nol and eventually
returning to power. The geopolitical machinations of China and the United States
would reverberate across the fields and forests of Cambodia. With
Sihanouk removed, and the more pliable and pro-American Lon
Nol in power, Nixon expanded even more the American military
presence in Cambodia. On April 30, 1970, Nixon announced to the
American public that U.S. ground forces, accompanied by the
Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) had made a strategic
advancement into Cambodia. Nixon explained that “North
Vietnam [had] increased its military aggression,” especially in
Cambodia, and that “to protect [Americans] who are in Vietnam
and to guarantee the continued success” of U.S. operations, the
time had come for action. Nixon was disingenuous when he
explained that “American policy [had] been to scrupulously respect
the neutrality of the Cambodian people.” No mention was made,
for example, of the ongoing covert operations dating back to the
mid-1960s or of the bombings associated with Operation Menu.
Rather, Nixon avowed that the United States had “maintained a
skeleton diplomatic mission of fewer than 14 in Cambodia’s capital,”
and that “for the past five years [the United States had] provided no
military assistance whatsoever and no economic assistance to
Cambodia.” North Vietnam, Nixon asserted, was guilty of interfer-
ence in the sovereignty of Cambodia; North Vietnam had
tablished military sanctuaries along the Cambodian border with
South Vietnam; and that these sanctuaries contained “major base
camps, training sites logistics facilities, weapons and ammunition
factories, airstrips, and prisoner-of-war compounds.” Nixon further
explained that Cambodia “sent out a call to the United States” for
assistance, and that without American support, Cambodia would
become a vast enemy staging ground and springboard for attacks
on South Vietnam.
Employing the euphemistic term incursion , Nixon stressed that
ongoing military operations did not constitute an invasion. The
purpose, Nixon stated, was not to occupy Cambodian territory but
to drive the Vietnamese Communists out of the country. And wary
of Soviet or Chinese responses, Nixon avowed that the actions were
“in no way directed to the security interests of any nation,” and that
any government that chose to use the incursion as “a pretext for
harming relations with the United States” would be doing so on its
own responsibility, and on its own initiative. Nixon then repeated
that the United States undertook the incursion “not for the purpose
of expanding the war into Cambodia, but for the purpose of ending
the war in Vietnam and winning the peace.”
On July 27, 1970, Nixon subsequently announced the resump -
tion of B-52 carpet-bombing raids over Cambodia; these would
ntinue until the American Congress called a halt to all American
military operations in Cambodia in 1973. Estimates of Cambodian
casualties range from 150,000 to nearly 750,000.
36 Moreover, the
bombing campaign further devastated an already deteriorating
infrastructure. William Shawcross details the lingering effects of
Emerging from the Shadows
the bombing campaign: “Eighty percent of the country’s prewar
paddy fields had been abandoned, and the government’s own
figures showed that in 1974 rice production was only 65,000 metric
tons—as opposed to 3.8 million tons in the last year before the
w a r.”
37 Henry Kamm concludes that “With the callous disregard of
the interests of the Cambodian people that marked all of America’s
wartime involvement in that country, and in full knowledge that
Cambodia’s demented and corrupt regime could only prolong their
people’s suffering, America did all that it could to drag out sense -
lessly the life of a hated government and a war that Washington
w was lost.” 38
The air war did not bring victory to either Lon Nol’s republic or
the United States. It did, however, create a ground swell of support
for the Khmer Rouge.
39 The carpet bombing “gave the Khmer
Rouges a propaganda windfall which they exploited to the hilt—
taking peasants for political education lessons among the bomb
craters and shrapnel, explaining to them that Lon Nol had sold
Cambodia to the Americans in order to stay in power and that the
US, like Vietnam and Thailand, was bent on the country’s annihila -
tion so that, when the war was over, Cambodia would cease to
i s t .” 40 As explained by one survivor, who experienced the
bombings in Svay Rieng Province, “Then in 1972 B-52s bombed
three times per day, fifteen minutes apart, three planes at a time.
They hit houses in Samrong and thirty people were killed. There
were no troops in these villages. At that time there were some
Vietnamese [Communist] troops on the border [nearby], but they
didn’t bomb the border: they bombed inside it, people’s houses.”
As Anthony Barnett concludes, “the Pol Pot regime would not have
emerged in the form it took without the war from 1970–1975, when
US intervention in Vietnam spread across the whole of Indochina.”
Indeed, in 1970 Khmer Rouge forces were described as “marginal.”
Consequently, when the Khmer Rouge achieved victory in April
1975, they constituted neither a unified party nor an organization
that enjoyed popular support.
The Khmer Rouge Culture of Conspiracy
In a speech delivered before an assembly of cadres in June 1976,
the speaker, most likely Pol Pot, described the role of the vanguard
in its liberation of Cambodia from its oppressors. In 1970, the
speaker questioned, “Our armed forces were small. . . . The
[outside] world said we were weak, small, few; how could we win?”
He explained, however, that “We had to have our own Party, our
own army, our own people, and be our own leaders regardless of
the difficulties.” There were two paths: “We could win quickly, in
three to four or five years” or “The war could extend for ten to
fifteen or twenty years.” Opting for the first path, “We organized
forces, attacked, and won in a period of five years. This was
because of the Party. If the Party had not been absolute, with no
correct line on strategy or tactics, we would not have won like
t hat .”
43 Throughout this speech, and in many other public and
private statements, numerous themes are developed and repeated:
that the CPK vanguard achieved victory through their sheer
determination, tenacity, and pursuit of a correct line; that the
Khmer Communist revolution was accomplished without any
assistance, including that of their Vietnamese counterparts; and
that their revolution was unprecedented, both in scale and scope.
Were the senior leaders who professed such beliefs sincere in
their interpretations? Certainly there was a disconnect between
reality and rhetoric. We know also that several key leaders under -
stood very well that certain public and private statements were
lse. Indeed, by 1979 many men and women would be purged
because they challenged the official Party line.
44 It is necessary,
however, to contextualize these statements not solely or even exclu -
sively as evidence of delusion, but instead as a contributing factor in
e emergence of a conspiracy culture.
Academics are often reluctant to take seriously conspiracy
theories. The promotion of conspiracy theories, for example, is
taken to be an irrational response rooted in a pathological con -
dition—whether of a psychological or sociological nature—in a
45 In colloquial language, conspiracy theory is
Emerging from the Shadows
not a neutral label but rather a pejorative expression, an evalua-
tive term used to dismiss a particular explanation as untrue. 46
As corollary, any competing explanation derives legitimacy, in
that the “category conspiracy theory polices the borders of legit-
imate versus risible statements, and intellectually competent
actors versus paranoiacs.”
It is widely held among scholars of the Khmer Rouge that the top
echelon of leadership subscribed to conspiracy theories of networks
of traitors, and that Pol Pot (especially) was prone to paranoia. The
widespread labeling of senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge as con -
spiracy theorists has, I maintain, contributed to an exceptionally
opic view of CPK policy and practice. Too often Khmer Rouge
governance has been dismissed as irrational, unfounded, or simply
absurd, and that the CPK eschewed bureaucracy to the point of
chaos. These platitudes, however, fail to square with the documen -
tary evidence. What is needed is a scholarly interpretation of Khmer
uge paranoia and how this intersects with CPK bureaucracy.
Indeed, to simply identify senior Khmer Rouge cadre as paranoid is
not particularly helpful. A more fruitful path is to take seriously the
claims of the Khmer Rouge that their government was infiltrated
with networks of traitors burrowing from within. Let me be clear:
this is not an argument that conspiratorial networks of traitors
were in fact ubiquitous throughout Democratic Kampuchea.
Rather, it is to interpret specific actions of the Khmer Rouge, from
their own perspective, based on the material record documented
and archived during their time in power. It is imperative, in other
words, to parse out the materiality of bureaucratic violence through
an understanding of their own security discourses. Following
Laura Jones, it is necessary to “critically interrogate the discourses—
representations and practices—of conspiracy which circulate across
and between actors, networks, scales and territories and which have
the capacity to shape how people understand the world around
t hem .”
Much like the term conspiracy theory the term paranoia mar -
ginalizes or discredits certain individuals. And yet, following Anne
Clintock, it is possible to salvage this term as it intersects with
the power/knowledge relationship. 49 Recall that survival is perhaps
the most fundamental objective of any government. It is for this
reason that discourses of security are so important. As Jonathan
Bach explains, to better understand the imbrication of power/
knowledge and paranoia, it is necessary to begin with the proposi -
tion that “there is no political system without a system of rule, and
ntral to any form of rule is the urge to survive.” 50 Howe ver, B a c h
elaborates that “survival necessitates anticipation, and anticipation
requires the employment of secrecy.”
51 Here we begin to see the
work performed by lists, in that the bureaucratic compilation of
personal information, interpreted through data analytics of
network logics, is essential to the survival of the government.
Secrecy is paramount and only trusted bureaucrats are informed of
Taken together, the conspiratorial beliefs of pervasive networks
of traitors imagined by the Khmer Rouge and a tendency among
academics to discount these beliefs has led to a stunted critique of
CPK policy and practice. This is not to argue that key leaders of the
CPK were justified in their pronouncement of traitors infusing
government and society. It is to argue that we must understand
how Khmer Rouge conspiracy theories materialized and inter -
sected with the broader political economy of Democratic
mpuchea. We need to document and interpret how a burgeon -
ing conspiracy culture was articulated within the Khmer Rouge
curity apparatus. This requires a deeper engagement with
paranoia as a form of power.
In a perverse way, bureaucratic processes contribute to a partic -
ular form of paranoid politics. According to Bach, “the structure of
le comes to imitate the symptoms of paranoia, which include a
slowly developing mistrust, suspicion of others, delusions of
grandeur, feeling of being persecuted, theories of a highly orga -
nized system that appears as a conspiracy, fear of loss of autonomy,
ojective thinking, and hostility.” 52 This statement effectively
captures the waning years of the Khmer Rouge regime, but it also
highlights the contradictions of governance—contradictions that
will likewise become apparent in later chapters. On this point,
Emerging from the Shadows
McClintock defines paranoia as “an inherent contradiction with
respect to power: a double-sided phantasm that oscillates precari-
ously between deliriums of grandeur and nightmares of perpetual
reat, a deep and dangerous doubleness with respect to power that
is held in unstable tension, but which, if suddenly destabilized, can
produce pyrotechnic displays of violence.”
53 The term paranoia ,
therefore, becomes analytically useful not as pathology but instead
as an “analytically strategic concept, a way of seeing and being
attentive to contradictions within power, a way of making visible . . .
the contradictory flashpoints of violence that the state tries to
conceal.” 54 Together, the concepts of paranoia and conspiracy recast
as political practices provide a more robust approach to under -
standing Khmer Rouge governance and, more pointedly, to the
itiation and conduct of a series of bloody purges that would ulti -
mately destroy the regime in a spasmodic fit of violence. In t
his book I appraise the conspiracy theories of the Khmer
Rouge as “a tradition of explanation, characterized by a particular
55 More precisely, I understand the CPK’s claims of
prevalent strings of traitors as a particular security discourse, a dis -
course derived from the compilation of lists interpreted as proof of
aitorous networks. In security practice, the network constitutes a
particular technology of risk. For example, in recent years the
deployment of network logics has been routinely and repeatedly
applied to so-called dark networks: social organizations of crimi -
nals and terrorists. Growing numbers of criminologists and
unterterrorism experts are now routinely analyzing large data
sets and using computer simulations to identify and anticipate
national security threats.
56 To this end, within the war on terror,
organized terrorist groups are widely interpreted as comprising
intricate, transnational social networks.
57 Indeed, within terrorism
research, social network analyses promise the ability to map whole
networks and to prioritize security action for maximum disruptive
58 By conceptualizing criminal and militant or terrorist
groups as networks, the use of the network as metaphor subjects
men and women to a functional analysis in which they are seen as
comprising a series of connections or layers of relationships.
this way, previously compiled lists of thousands upon thousands of
names produce the object of which they speak: networks of sus-
pected criminal elements.
Long considered the rudimentary raw material of scholarly
analyses, lists have now attracted critical attention as objects in
their own right.
60 As Cornelia Vismann explains, “individual
items are not put down in writing for the sake of memorizing
spoken words, but in order to regulate goods, things, or people.
Lists sort and engender circulation.”
61 It is necessary, in other
words, to account for the particular operations that the format of
the list enables. List-making, whether derived through the assem -
blage of digitally acquired information or through biographies
written with pen and ink, is not only a problem of selection, but
rather is a “transformative and performative practice that
produces the items which the list will comprise.”
62 Urs Stäheli
maintains that we have to understand the “mediality” of a list—in
other words, that we recognize that the list must come into exis -
tence before someone may be rightly or wrongly included on the
63 As a case in point, it becomes possible to list a person as a
traitor or terrorist only if we have already determined the exis -
tence and presence of traitors or terrorists. In this way, lists
produce their own reality and, by extension, the actuality of
listable men and women becomes a self-evident fact. Approaching
lists in this way invites us to think differently about how diffuse
security powers are created, expanded, and sustained.
64 To this
end, and departing from an instrumentalist perspective that
understands lists as simply the compilation or representation of
preexisting information, lists are more robustly understood as
“inscription devices” that produce specific material, political, and
65 It is necessary, therefore, to consider more precisely
the work that lists perform as a specific technique of govern -
66 Security lists, for example, may be viewed as knowledge
practices and modes of legal ordering. 67 Consequently, following
de Goede and Sullivan, “situating the materiality of the listing
process at the center of analysis helps to bring the specific legal
ordering capabilities of lists—that is, the ways they work to
Emerging from the Shadows
constitute law and establish new modes of legal transmission—
into clearer view.” 68
The use of a network as metaphor is highly problematic and has
received considerable criticism, especially within the context of
list-making. Of particular concern is that the use of data-mining
techniques on contrived lists of suspected men and women, when
interpreted through the metaphor of the network, becomes also a
self-fulfilling procedure. The interpretation of kill lists, for example,
is based principally on a “quantitative link analysis methodology.”
This works, Weber explains, on the basis of a two (or three)–hop
query through data collections to find connections to other sus -
pected terrorists or members of terrorist organizations.
69 As Mac
Ginty elaborates, “The nature of technology means that analysts
may be tempted to identify connection after connection, potentially
criminalizing an entire community.”
70 This process will become
patently obvious when we later explore the day-to-day mechanisms
of the purges initiated by the CPK, as entire units of men and
women were arrested en masse. On the other hand, the network has
the ability to endlessly generate investigative leads. The practice of
engineering networks is never-ending, as analysts are always
expanding the net wider and wider. In so doing, these bureaucratic
procedures deepen the political ontology of the threat and seem -
ingly affirm the existence of conspiratorial networks. To this point,
na Leander explains that because lists work by disconnection
and by tying contexts together, they follow an open-ended logic—
always be made. Moreover, this openness and future
orientation make lists appear full of potential. Attention is thus
directed away from an inscrutable present/past and toward an open
Crucially, the calculations involved in developing a list of net -
worked people as a security risk affords a veneer of empirical rigor
d objectivity to policing practices. The network as metaphor as it
relates to the production of lists therefore highlights the importance
of data gathering, of organizing masses of disparate data sources,
and of anticipating future actions. Weber affirms, noting that “It is
not only senior leaders of a ‘terrorist’ group who are regarded as
valid objects for targeted assassination but also anybody who is
identified (by an algorithm or an analyst) as being vital to the
group—according to their strategic position in the network.”
clear and present danger, analytically, is that the number of names
that may possibly be added to any given kill list is infinite. In other
words, networks derived from lists may be understood as auto-
referential statements. This is not to deny that networks do not nec -
essarily exist. It is to emphasize that there is a danger in creating
lse positives—that is, to assert the existence of criminal networks
that have no material reality. Such simulated networks provide the
foundation for the concept of guilt by association. Network logics do not just visualize fields of intervention. They
also calculate, order, and classify objects—whether people, ideas, or
material things—and the relations between these objects.
73 In this
manner, the use of social network analyses does not simply uncover
or display preexisting networks but instead establishes the existence
of networks even, potentially, when no such networks actually exist.
Innocent men and women are thus subject to prosecution through
guilt by association. Viewed in this light, bureaucratic invocations
of criminal or terrorist networks are not simply metaphorical rep -
resentations of danger or objective threats but materialize as
curity devices that render the world actionable and amenable to
74 The dividing line between perceived networks and
conspiracy theories becomes very fine indeed.
Security discourses do not so much respond to objectively
existing threats, but instead these discourses themselves consti -
tute and actualize dangers, select risks, and prioritize threats.
other words, following Marieke de Goede and Samuel Randalls,
“threats do not exist prior to practices of articulation and identity”
but rather “it is through modes of representation and imagination
that threats are brought into being, and are perceived as endanger -
ing particular communities and as demanding particular forms of
76 More to the point, security discourses often
assume a future-oriented, speculative act of preemption, which
takes as its target potential rather than actual risks.
security is less about reacting to, controlling, or even prosecuting
Emerging from the Shadows
crime than it is addressing the preconditions of a security breach.
The presumption is that an assemblage of relations may identify
criminals who are planning to commit a crime before any such
crime has actually happened.
Once the realm of science fiction, as exemplified notably by
Philip Dick ’s short story “The Minority Report” and the subsequent
film of the same name, the calculative potential of big data situated
within state-sanctioned security apparatuses is “intimately tied to
the contemporary turn to pre-emptive security techniques.”
now becomes a matter of preventing crimes before
Indeed, Lucia Zedner details that “we are on the cusp of a shift from
a post- to a pre-crime society, a society in which the possibility of
forestalling risks competes with and even takes precedence over
responding to wrongs done.”
Precrime policing is predicated on presumed intentions, and the
algorithmic calculations of big data, of the massive production of
knowledge on a real-time basis, are predicated on such assump -
tions. When governments act on analyses derived algorithmically
om biopolitical lists, people are targeted not because they have
necessarily committed any criminal activity, “but because they
show specific behaviors or link patterns, which are regarded by
analysts or software designers as suspect or which ‘emerge’ from
the data analysis.”
81 In a statement that will echo our subsequent
interpretation of Khmer Rouge purges, Weber concludes: “The
quantitative methodology cannot make qualitative distinctions
between relationships of different ‘nodes,’ which are easily
subsumed into terror networks. Accordingly, relatives, friends and
co-workers who have multiple connections to suspects or targets
are added to the list.”
Understanding lists as inscription devices, as the wherewithal to
generate entire networks, draws attention to their strategic func -
tionality: the visceral realities of a perceived threat manifest (e.g.,
rrorist watch lists) and—supported by narratives of conspiratorial
networks—legitimate preemptive action.
83 To this end, an unavoid -
able corollary of precrime surveillance is preemptive punishment. 84
Preemptive punishment may take any number of forms, including,
for example, travel bans or having one’s financial assets frozen.
Other forms include arrest and detainment, but also torture, politi-
cal assassinations, and targeted killings.
Preemption is a bureaucratic mode of power that takes threat,
which has no actual referent, as its object. 85 As a technique of gov -
ernance, it has likewise been subject to intensive legal and moral
criticism. Laurie Calhoun, for example, describes preemptive
predator strikes as examples of summary executions.
86 She calls
to question the problems inherent in the algorithmic calculation
of suspected terrorists and terrorist networks, noting that “the
conviction and sentencing to death of a human being for a capital
crime leaves open the possibility of error.”
87 For, as Calhoun elab -
orates, “Human beings are fallible, and the purpose of due
process, one of the hallmarks of modern democratic societies, is
to minimize the occurrence of the grossest form of injustice, the
infliction of penalties upon people for crimes that they did not
88 Preemptive targeted killings are in violation of due
process. Guilt is determined not in a court of law but through cal -
culations hidden within the bowels of a faceless bureaucracy.
Calhoun continues: “The processes of democratic systems are
intended to be transparent. The processes of totalitarian regimes
are intended to be opaque. Indeed, the defining characteristics of
a totalitarian regime are its lack of due process and arbitrary
absolutism, arrived at not through an open dialogue among
diversely situated parties but, rather, through a secret decision
process that metes out justice in its own arbitrary and unilateral
Calhoun’s criticism is leveled at the use of drones to terminate
suspected terrorists in the global war on terror. It is equally valid
in our critique and condemnation of the Khmer Rouge.
Throughout Democratic Kampuchea, life-and-death decisions
were made in secret, arrests were made in secret, and executions
were carried out in secret. Only a small circle of senior officials
was privy to these procedures. Those men, women, and children,
condemned by the Khmer Rouge security apparatus, were subject
to an opaque legal order premised not on an arbitrary execution
Emerging from the Shadows
of justice but instead on a systematic rationale founded upon the
threat of traitorous networks and saboteurs. For the Khmer
Rouge, evidence was produced in the form of personal biogra-
phies, surveillance, and forced confessions. Failures to reach
production quotas, disagreements over policy within the inner
circle of government, and even the existence of disease, malnutri -
tion, and famine became facts that proved saboteurs and traitors
were acting against the Party. For tens of thousands of men,
women, and children who would die at the hands of the Khmer
Rouge, death began when their names appeared on a list.
The Necropolitics of Bureaucracy
During a meeting held on October 9, 1976, a Khmer Rouge official
declared emphatically that within his unit, “Ninety-nine percent
of the cadres and combatants . . . are good, although there are
some battalion cadres who are not good, but there are only one or
two of these.” He explained that “Some company cadres behaved
inappropriately in terms of eating and communication,” and that
a man named Soeun “stole a letter from his fellow company cadre
and ran away,” but was later arrested.
Read in isolation, this text appears rather ordinary. And yet, its
simplicity calls to question the everydayness of bureaucratic
power. Throughout the reign of the Khmer Rouge, to be identified
in a meeting of this sort was to be subjected to an enigmatic yet
pervasive security apparatus that functioned primarily through
the production, circulation, and consumption of biopolitical
knowledge. We read into this text, therefore, not an innocent
accounting of organizational activities but the infusion of poten -
tial death into the everydayness of life. For within Democratic
Kampuchea, what one said, or did, or with whom one associated,
was documented, filed, and evaluated. More precisely, we glimpse
how bureaucratic procedures constitute a necropolitical form of
governance. Here, we see how the labels criminal or traitor
became bureaucratic inscriptions written into the biographic
record of countless men, women, and children.
Following Michel Foucault, in the classic conception of sover-
eignty, the right of life and death was one of the sovereign’s basic
tributes. In other words, to say that “the sovereign has a right of
life and death means that he [
sic ] can . . . either have people put to
death or let them live.” 92 Life and death, therefore, are removed
from the realm of the natural and fall within the field of gover -
nance. Foucault suggests also that the sovereign cannot grant life in
e same way that he or she can inflict death. The right of life and
death, therefore, “is always exercised in an unbalanced way: the
balance is always tipped in favor of death.” Consequently, the “very
essence of the right of life and death is actually the right to kill: it is
at the moment when the sovereign can kill that he [
sic ] exercises his
right over life.” 93
Gradually, the ancient right to take life or to let live was replaced
by a twofold power to foster life or to disallow life to the point of
death. On the one hand, there emerged an anatomo-politics of the
human body: a micropolitics that sought to maximize the forces of
the body and to integrate it into efficient, productive systems. Here,
Foucault explains that “it is largely as a force of production that the
body is invested with relations of power and domination; but, on
the other hand, its constitution as labor power is possible only if it is
caught up in a system of subjection . . . the body becomes a useful
force only if it is both a productive body and a subjected body.”
the other hand, there emerged a suite of regulatory practices that
biopolitics . This latter development was imbued
with the mechanisms, the calculations, of life in its totality: birth,
morbidity, mortality, longevity.
95 From this point onward, it became
possible to speak of a state’s population, as if that population had a
transcendental existence and experience above and beyond the gov -
ernment—facets that were intensely managed and analyzed by new
specialized academic disciplines (e.g., demography, sociology,
and epidemiology). The modern state’s right to make life or to disallow life, however,
never completely erased the classical right to kill. This is seen, for
example, when states wage war, when states execute convicted
felons, and when states engage in political assassinations and
Emerging from the Shadows
targeted killings. Consequently, what the modern state reveals is a
decidedly more nuanced and complex management, or bureaucra-
tization, of life and death. At t
his point, it is appropriate to introduce the extension, or
modification, of Foucault’s work as developed by Achille Mbembe.
To begin, Mbembe declares that “To exercise sovereignty is to
exercise control over mortality and to define life as the deployment
and manifestation of power.”
97 This power is manifest in the
mundane bureaucratization of society: of the administrative classi -
fication of bodies into discrete categories as understood through
e lens of security. Indeed, Mbembe postulates necropolitics as the
“syntheses between massacre and bureaucracy.” As Jamie Allinson
explains, “it is the old sovereign power of death, operative in a bio -
political setting, implying therefore a division between populations,
e making of a ‘caesura’ between the population worthy of being
made to live, and that subject to the right to command death.”
the context of Democratic Kampuchea, this caesura appears within
the interstices of paranoia politics and the purging of suspected
conspiracy networks, a bureaucratic space where everyone is
suspect and no one is beyond the lethal surveillance of the Khmer
Rouge security apparatus. It is the knowing and naming of political subjects manifest
materially in documents and dossiers that provide the foundation
of necrobureaucracies, where the compilation and interpretation of
lists is done not for the purpose of life but for death. In the pages
that follow, we examine more closely the production of myriad lists:
lists of arrests and detainments, of interrogations and executions.
We will consider the self-writing of biographies and the routiniza -
tion of forced confessions. In so doing we understand that Foucault
s correct in his assertion that power circulates, but also that
power circulates through material documents.
A Tale of Two Lists
Surviving documents of the Communist Party of Kampuchea,
including reports, memorandums, and telegrams, are replete with
lists. Consider for example the following:
1. Pol Touch, female youth;
l Neang, female youth;
u Ong, -ditto—Sap Hoeun, girl.
−Husked “white” rice Number 1 with broken grains of 15
ercent. . . . . 5,000 Tonnes
anuts. . . . . 65 Tonnes
ffee beans (Robusta variety) Number 1. . . . .
ffee beans (Robusta variety) Number 2. . . . . 2,610
To n n e s
ffee beans (Robusta variety) Number 3. . . . . 1,440
To n n e s
ack pepper Number 1. . . . . 35,125 Tonnes
Taken in isolation these two lists provide little by way of explana -
tion. Read together they provide vital insight into the functioning of
e Khmer Rouge bureaucracy. The first list appears in a memo sent
to Angkar on September 1, 1977, by a Khmer Rouge cadre named
Khun regarding security matters. Khun explains that a man named
Chead Han had “said in the morning that he was going to break the
hoe’s handle, then in the afternoon, he suddenly broke the hoe’s
A Tale of Two Lists
handle. After breaking it, he then said if they gave [him] another hoe
[he] would break it again until all the hoes were running out.” Khun
continues that “In the evening of the 31st August 1977, there were 3
female youths and a girl who broke 4 spoons during dinner.” Their
names were subsequently listed in the memorandum. Khun con-
cludes the letter with a simple but ominous request: “As reported
ove, what will the Angkar decide? Please provide us an opinion in
order that we can take action to solve these matters.”
The second list is contained in a letter sent by Vann Rit, on
behalf of the Committee for Foreign Trade of Democratic
Kampuchea, to the Embassy of the Socialist Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia on July 15, 1978. The occasion of the letter was in
response to a shipment of rice, peanuts, coffee beans, and pepper,
which were to be loaded onto a container ship docked at Kampong
Som. Vann Rit explains that Democratic Kampuchea was unable to
honor the request, noting that they had waited nearly two weeks
for confirmation of the order, but none had been forthcoming.
Vann Rit clarifies that “we have in the past arranged goods for sale
to Yugoslavia and have been waiting for long without offering them
to any other market. We were afraid that if Yugoslavia reversed the
decision, we would not be able to make timely arrangements to sell
the goods to other market[s] which would therefore degenerate
goods quality significantly.” To buttress his point, Vann Rit
describes a previous order in which 200 tons of coffee, 5,000 tons of
husked rice, 45 tons of pepper, and 40 tons of peanuts were
requested by Yugoslavia; after considerable delay, however, this
request was subsequently reduced to only 200 tons of coffee.
According to Vann Rit, “Due to time constraints after such a long
wait, we could not make timely arrangements for the sale of the
rice and the other goods to other market[s], thus downgrading our
goods quality and incurring much loss.” He concludes: “We would
like to raise this matter for Yugoslavia’s information and under -
standing as to our endeavor and challenges. We are confident that
h challenges are temporary and will be overcome, and that both
of our sides will continue to cooperate and strive to work out
Two features of these documents are remarkable. On the one
hand, both documents provide insight into the day-to-day opera -
tions of Democratic Kampuchea. The first document addresses
curity concerns, notably the suspicion of subversive elements who
posed a threat to the solvency of Democratic Kampuchea, while the
second highlights the difficulties of conducting trade on the global
market. On the other hand, these two documents indicate the dia -
lectics of what we may call the political economy of security. In both
cuments representatives of the CPK express their concern over
potential economic losses: broken hoes and spoons or spoiled food -
stuffs. More precisely, these documents indicate the interconnections
o f a
gricultural productivity, international trade, and the fear of trai -
torous actions and sabotage. Tha
t both documents were archived by members of the CPK is
especially telling. Indeed, the collection of these documents is testi -
mony “to the functions and actions of the dominant political
thorities whose transactions they reflected and whose interests
and needs were served by their preservation.”
5 In other words, these
documents constitute the material manifestation of power within
Democratic Kampuchea, for it is through the production and distri -
bution of these documents that form is provided to bureaucracies.
re properly, an examination of these lists calls attention to the
iterative administration of power.
To quote Akhil Gupta, an engagement with the quotidian trap -
pings of bureaucracies “makes evident that the materiality and
lidity of the state dissolve under scrutiny.” 6 Here, Gupta directs
attention to the fact that there is no preexisting, monolithic state
but instead an assemblage of material and symbolic practices, all
intimately embedded in everyday practices. When a child pledges
allegiance to the flag, the state comes into being. When we pay
taxes, apply for a visa, or complete the census, the state comes into
existence. These activities, moreover, are located in myriad
agencies or bureaus, each with its own directives, agendas, and
functions. Consequently, “one must inquire into the relation
between agencies that regulate different subject areas: departments
or bureaus may be responsible for portfolios as diverse as industry,
A Tale of Two Lists
education, defense, policing, medical care, housing, pollution,
infrastructure, and the like.” 7
Gupta is correct that we need to think differently about the state
and that it is necessary to disaggregate various “agendas, bureaus,
levels, and spaces that make up the state.”
8 Gupta’s argument is all
the more relevant for our understanding of the Cambodian genocide.
It is nonsensical, for example, to speak of the state of Democratic
Kampuchea or even to reduce authority to a singular body, such as
Angkar or the Communist Party of Kampuchea. However, it is also
necessary to consider specifically how the state may be conceived
and articulated not theoretically or academically but instead by
those bureaucrats who constitute any particular form of governance.
In this chapter I provide an overview of the broader state apparatus
as constructed and understood by the CPK.
9 Here, the term state
apparatus , broadly conceived, refers to the set of bureaucratic insti -
tutions through which power is exercised.
A Materialist View of the Communist Party
Marxist political philosophy understands the state as a material
manifestation of a class rule. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
forward the idea that the modern state is inseparable from capi -
talism. Thus, as a form of social organization, the state is a
concrete manifestation of the ruling class, that is, the bourgeoisie.
More broadly, the state for many Marxists is understood as some -
thing not imposed on society from the outside but instead a
product internal to any given society at a certain stage of
The bourgeoisie state, or capitalist state, in particular, is most
directly addressed by Vladimir Lenin, notably in his 1917 essay
State and Revolution , written on the eve of the Bolshevik
Revolution. 12 Lenin argues that bureaucracies and standing armies
are bourgeois parasites that feed on society and, accordingly, it is
necessary for the proletariat to concentrate their forces on the
destruction of state power. More precisely, the proletariat is to
regard the problem of the state “not as one of perfecting the state
machine, but one of
smashing and destroying it .”13 As justification,
Lenin calls attention to the
Communist Manifesto , in which Marx
and Engels declare: “The proletariat will use its political supremacy
to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize
all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the
proletariat organized as the ruling class, and to increase the total
productive forces as rapidly as possible.”
“If the state is the product of irreconcilable class antagonisms,”
Lenin continues, “if it is a power standing above society . . . it is
clear that the liberation of the oppressed class is impossible, not
only without violent revolution, but also without the destruction of
the apparatus of state power which was created by the ruling class.”
It is my contention that the Communist Party of Kampuchea took
to heart the sentiments expressed by Lenin; it is necessary therefore
to understand the “state” of Democratic Kampuchea not according
to conventional terms but rather in Leninist terms. For Marx, all previous revolutions failed largely because the
existing state was appropriated by revolutionaries as opposed to
being dismantled. Lenin extends this argument, declaring that “all
the revolutions which have occurred up to now have helped to
perfect the state machine, whereas it must be smashed, broken.”
The dialectic transformation of society entails, on the one hand, the
complete annihilation of the previous regime and, on the other
hand, the establishment of a transitional form of government that,
over time, would wither away, resulting in a classless, communal
society free of exploitation, oppression, and alienation. The imme -
diate objective of the socialist revolution in Cambodia, therefore,
s the material obliteration—the smashing—of the current state.
This is made clear in a Khmer Rouge document from 1975: “The
immediate goal of the party is to lead the people to succeed in the
national democratic revolution, to exterminate the imperialists,
feudalists, and capitalists, and to form a national revolutionary
state in Cambodia.” The document elaborates that “The long range
A Tale of Two Lists
goal of the party is to lead the people in creating a socialist revolu-
tion and a communist society in Cambodia.” 17
Key members of the CPK viewed themselves as comprising a
vanguard of the proletariat and we must reinterpret the establish -
ment of Democratic Kampuchea as a transitional state in this
ntext. Lenin argues that a vanguard organization “must of
necessity be not too extensive and as secret as possible.”
18 He elabo -
rates that “A small, compact core, consisting of reliable, experienced
d hardened workers, with responsible agents in the principal
districts and connected by all the rules of strict secrecy with the
organizations of revolutionaries, can, with the wide support of the
masses and without an elaborate organization, perform all the
functions. . . .”
19 To this end, when Pol Pot and a handful of cadre
met in 1960 to replace the KPRP, they in effect formed a dictator -
ship of the proletariat. Referred to as Angkar, this core group
uld greatly determine the future state of Democratic
20 This is well illustrated in numerous minutes of the
CPK’s meetings. On March 30, 1976, for example, high-ranking
officials of the CPK issued a series of directives related to the estab -
lishment of state organizations. It was noted that the goal of the
volution was to seize state power and to place it in the hands of
the worker-peasants; and that all forms of oppressive state power,
presumably of the former regime, were to be eliminated. It was
necessary from their vantage point that the CPK establish its own
organizations that would reflect the character of the revolution.
Disturbingly, the document announced that “The Government:
Must be totally an organization of the Party.”
Within months of securing military control over Cambodia, the
CPK set out to establish Democratic Kampuchea as a transitional
state, a mode of social organization that, in principle, would provide
a path toward Communism. According to Statutes adopted in
January 1976, the Communist Party of Kampuchea held Marxism-
Leninism as the foundation of its views and as the compass for all
22 Consequently, Democratic Kampuchea was to be
governed according to the “concrete situation of Kampuchea” and,
subsequently, “along the principles and stances of dialectical
materialism and historical materialism.” 23 This is a remarkable
statement that must guide our theorization of the concrete form
and function of governance intended by members of the CPK. A historical materialist approach begins “with real individuals,
their activity and the material conditions of their life.”
24 At a most
basic level, this translates into the obtainment of food, water, shelter,
and clothing, which constitute the basic conditions for a living exis -
tence. It is noteworthy, therefore, that the first objective identified
i n t
he CPK’s Four-Year Plan was to “serve the people’s livelihood,
and to raise the people’s standard of living quickly, both in terms of
supplies and in terms of other material goods.”
Any given society will have its own way of satisfying (producing)
these material needs, for example, through self-production, trade,
barter, exchange, or even theft. From this, everything else follows,
for, as Marx and Engels explain, “By producing their means of sub -
sistence men are indirectly producing their material life.”
26 To t h i s
end, both Marx and Engels forwarded the proposition that cultural
practices and social institutions emanate from satisfaction of the
basic necessities of life. Religion, marriage, law itself: these do not
precede survivability nor do they emerge apart from the attainment
of the conditions of life itself. As Marx explains, “Neither legal rela -
tions nor political forms could be comprehended whether by
emselves or on the basis of a so-called general development of the
human mind.” Instead, “they originate in the material conditions of
27 This is not to suggest that production determines all facets of
social reality. For Marx, determinism is neither teleological inevita -
bility nor a variant of fatalism. Production was determinant only in
far as to say that groups of people (societies) will establish partic -
ular institutions and productive relations that are reflective initially
of the immediate conditions of existence. Throughout his writings Marx employs the concept
. His clearest exposition of this contested term appears
Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy :
In the social production of their existence, men inevitably
enter into definite relations, which are independent of their
A Tale of Two Lists
will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given
stage in the development of their material forces of produc-
tion. The totality of these relations of production constitutes
the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on
which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which
correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode
of production of material life conditions the general process
of social, political and intellectual life.
As this passage indicates, the mode of production, on the one
hand, is composed of two inner-related components: the relations
of production and the forces of production. Combined, these con -
stitute the base or mode of production of society. The superstructure
o f s
ociety, conversely, is composed of those institutions, relations,
and practices that make possible the functioning of the base. These
include, but are not limited to, political institutions, legal systems,
education, and religion. Following Marx, these are not epiphenom -
ena of the base but instead are dialectically related—hence the
nception of dialectic materialism.The relations between any given mode of production and its
superstructure have often been oversimplified, both by Marx’s
admirers and his detractors, into a fixed, deterministic hierarchy.
Such a myopic, reductionist interpretation not only does a disser -
vice to Marx’s own complex understanding of social relations but
so clouds our subsequent understanding of observable politi -
cal-economic structures. To argue that the superstructure emanates
om the base is not to unduly privilege the latter over the former. It
does not follow that emanation equates with domination. For Marx,
it was essential to consider how the pieces fit together, for example,
how productive apparatuses interact with legal systems and how
educational systems relate to, and are influenced by, political insti -
tutions. He does, unquestionably, afford primacy to economic
nctions, but only insofar as without the necessary obtainment of
food, water, and shelter, all else fades in significance. A society that
is unable to feed itself cannot survive. Is it possible, for example, to
have law or education without an underlying mode of production?
Marx would argue no, because the mode of production accounts for
the processes by which the materiality of day-to-day life is experi-
enced. Does law or education influence how the materiality of social
production takes place? Yes, and this brings home the point that
the relation between the base and superstructure is dialectic and
not mono-causal, that is, the base does not determine the super -
structure in a vulgar cause-and-effect manner. For Marx, the basis
superstructure comprise a totality whereby economic, political,
legal, and social relations are coconstitutive. Academically, we may quibble with Marx’s interpretation of
societal functions and his so-called privileging of productive forces.
However, any scholarly evaluation of Democratic Kampuchea must
acknowledge that members of the CPK followed Marx in his assess -
ment. Documentary evidence reveals that the CPK approached
vernance from the standpoint of, first and foremost, securing
people’s livelihoods. This was to be accomplished, in principle,
through a concrete analysis of the basic conditions of survivability
throughout the country. That the material conditions conducive to
life were not wholly provided must not detract us from the materi -
alist articulations of Khmer Rouge planning. Only through the lens
o f h
istorical and dialectic materialism is it possible to lay bare the
parameters of CPK bureaucracy.
State Functions of the Khmer Rouge Bureaucracy
Following Gordon Clark and Michael Dear, a proper analysis of
bureaucracies requires an understanding of state functions, which,
in turn, must be derived from an analysis of state form. Form, in
this context, refers to how the specific state structure is constituted
by, and evolves within, a given social formation. State functions
refer to those activities undertaken in the name of the state.
Helpful in this regard is Charles Perrow’s distinction between
“official” and “operative” goals.
30 Official goals are those ideas put
forth in public statements by representatives of the state, such as
presidents, prime ministers, or secretary-generals. It is common
that official goals as exemplified by public pronouncements are
A Tale of Two Lists
“purposely vague and general.” These statements, moreover, “do
not indicate two major factors which influence organizational
behavior: the host of decisions that must be made among alterna-
tive ways of achieving official goals and the priority of multiple
als, and the many unofficial goals pursued by groups within the
31 Operative goals, conversely, refer to “the ends
sought through the actual operating policies of the organization;
they tell us what the organization actually is trying to do, regard -
less of what the official goals say are the aims.”
Throughout Democratic Kampuchea an assortment of goals was
forwarded, for example, in public statements, speeches, and radio
broadcasts. These include references to building socialism or to
launching offensives against nature in an effort to increase rice pro -
duction. Frequently, such official statements were deceptively
mple and laden with hyperbole. Meeting minutes, internal tele -
grams, and messages delivered by courier, on the other hand, more
dily indicate the various options considered by senior leaders.
These operative documents, unlike official statements, press
releases, and public statements, better provide critical insight into
the decision-making processes that took place.
All archival records are incomplete. In recognition of this,
Jason Dittmer writes of the “occlusion of documents,” that is,
archives and historical records are always partial.
33 On the one
hand, not all materials survive or are collected while, on the other
hand, those materials that are archived are likewise incomplete in
their recordings. Many Khmer Rouge documents, for example,
provide summaries of discussions as opposed to detailed accounts
of what was deliberated. Likewise, it is not always possible to
parse out the competing positions adopted by participants. We
know, by way of illustration, that on May 3, 1976, Pol Pot, Nuon
Chea, Ieng Sary, Penh Thuok, and Khieu Samphan met to discuss
foreign affairs, and that Phouk recorded the minutes.
34 We do not
know who, if anyone, was absent from the meeting. We know also
from the minutes that Ieng Sary prepared a report on an
upcoming conference scheduled to take place in Colombo, Sri
Lanka. We know that three decisions were made, but it remains
unclear if there was any disagreement and, if so, by whom. It also
remains unclear how these decisions were derived, or if alterna-
tives were considered.
Beyond these limitations, there is much that remains undocu -
mented. As anyone who has ever worked in a bureaucracy knows,
ny decisions are made informally—the proverbial hallway or
water-cooler conversation. Barring the appearance of these conver -
sations in memoirs, diaries, or related documents, it is simply not
ssible at this point to provide a complete understanding of the
operative goals forwarded by the CPK. The herculean efforts of the
staff at the Documentation Center of Cambodia have provided a
solid foundation, and my evaluation and interpretation of the
Khmer Rouge bureaucracy is indebted to their efforts. With these caveats in mind, it is possible to provide a broad
description of the CPK’s bureaucratic structure. Throughout this
chapter I employ a modified taxonomy of the state apparatus as
developed by Clark and Dear.
35 My intent in adopting this approach
is not to unambiguously pigeonhole the myriad ministries, com -
mittees, and other political entities established by the CPK into
finitive categories. Nor is my purpose to suggest a form of institu -
tional organization of the CPK’s practice where none existed.
ther, my approach aims to accentuate, as Andrew Mertha writes,
that Democratic Kampuchea “was a state defined by a distinctive
network of organizations and institutions, not the absence of
t hem .”
The Executive Apparatus
As a dictatorship of the proletariat, the CPK did not attempt to
establish a state as this political term is commonly understood. 37
Rather, the leadership of the CPK, on paper, adopted a representa -
tive form of governance termed democratic centralism . Not found
in the writings of Marx or Engels, democratic centralism was first
introduced as the organizing principle of both the Bolshevik and
Menshevik factions of the Russian Revolution and subsequently
elaborated on by Lenin. As a form of political organization,
A Tale of Two Lists
democratic centralism holds that postrevolutionary societies
would be governed not by members of the (deposed) ruling class
but democratically by the workers themselves. Under socialism,
according to Lenin, the functions of state administration become
simplified to the point of irrelevance. Accordingly, a separate
managerial class was thought to be unnecessary, for the workers
themselves would be able to govern. This form of representative
democratic politics would extend into other spheres of society,
including that of production, whereby workers would assume the
decision-making role of bureaucrats regarding production and
Publicly, the CPK’s adherence to democratic centralism was
announced in the aforementioned speech by Pol Pot in September
1977. Pol Pot declared, “the implementation of the Party’s dictator -
ship of the proletariat in all areas of our revolutionary activity. We
omote broad democracy among the people by a correct applica -
tion of democratic centralism, so that this immense force will
bilize enthusiastically and rapidly for socialist revolution and
construction, at great leaps and bounds forward.”
Democratic centralism was also embedded in the Constitution
of Democratic Kampuchea, promulgated on January 5, 1976.
According to Article 1, “The State of Kampuchea is the State of the
workers, peasants and other laborers of Kampuchea.”
39 Here, we
must not lose sight that the “State” referred to in this article must be
understood as a state in the Leninist sense, that is, a communal
organization of men and women. This understanding necessarily
informs Article 2 of the Constitution: “All important means of pro -
duction are the collective property of the people’s State and the
llective property of the communally organized people.” 40 In other
words, and consistent with the broad coordinates of democratic
centralism, economic productivity was to be organized by the
workers themselves. That this did not occur should not detract us
from understanding, at a theoretical level, how key members of the
CPK approached the question of governance. Governance in practice was centralized among a few important
individuals who comprised the Standing Committee. Dominated
by Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Son Sen, and Ieng Sary, the Standing
Committee was the true locus of sovereign power and literally held
the power of life and death. Membership of the committee fluctu-
ated, in large part because of internal purges initiated by Pol Pot
ward other members suspected of traitorous activities. As of April
1975, the Standing Committee included Pol Pot (secretary-general),
Nuon Chea (deputy secretary-general and vice-chair of the Military
Commission), Ieng Sary (deputy prime minister of foreign affairs,
So Phim, (secretary, East Zone), Vorn Vet (deputy prime minister
for the economy), Ros Nhim (secretary, Northwest Zone), Ta Mok
(secretary, Southwest Zone), and Son Sen (deputy prime minister
for defense). The Standing Committee was a subset of a larger body desig -
nated as the Central Committee.
41 By Statute, the Central
Committee was the highest decision-making body in Democratic
Kampuchea. Likewise, as a more broadly representative body, the
Central Committee was theoretically given responsibility to
“implement the Party political line and Statute throughout the
Party,” as well as to “Govern and arrange cadres and Party members
throughout the entire Party.”
42 In practice, the Central Committee
remained subservient to the dictates of the Standing Committee. The Standing Committee was supported by several governmen -
tal bureaucracies essential for the day-to-day operations of
mocratic Kampuchea. These included both the Political Office
870 and Office S-71 (this latter entity was known also as Ministry
S-71 or simply the Government Office). Political Office 870 was
tasked with matters of policy, including the coordination of com -
munication between the Party Center and the various territorial
mmittees (discussed below). S-71, conversely, was responsible for
a variety of administrative and logistical functions and included a
wide array of suboffices, all code-named with the prefix
K.43 K-1 for
example, designated a housing compound that contained, for at
least part of the time, the residence and workplace of Pol Pot; other
key offices included K-3 (Khieu Samphan’s residence), K-4 (logis -
tics), K-7 (courier and communications), K-11 (medical affairs), and
12 (motor pool).
A Tale of Two Lists
The Standing Committee exercised near total control through-
out Democratic Kampuchea through a particular territorial
ministrative function, itself greatly informed by democratic cen -
tralism. Following the coup of 1970, the Khmer Rouge began to
ild its rank and file through the establishment of a new
Communist system throughout the countryside. Modeled after
their Chinese and Vietnamese counterparts, small guerrilla units
korng chhlorb were organized to both fight and recruit
new members. These military units were under the command of a
three-person committee consisting of a chief, deputy chief, and a
Throughout the civil war, CPK armed forces were regionally
based and largely autonomous. 45 Traditionally, Cambodia was
administered following a territorial hierarchy. At the lowest level
phoun (hamlet) or phum (village). Collectively, phoun and
phum would comprise a khum (commune), various khum would
srok (district), and various srok would form a province. The
CPK effectively continued the territorial division of Cambodia for
administrative purposes, but made a number of modifications.
First, the CPK adopted a military administrative unit known as
phumipeak , or zone. Previously, a phumipeak that encompassed
many provinces existed only in the military domain under the form
of a military region. The CPK, however, elevated all civilian admin -
istration to the zone level.
46 These were referred to by cardinal
directions, for example, Southwest or East Zone, although all zones
were given numeric codes.
47 Second, each zone was to be composed
damban , or regions (also translated as sectors). These were largely
based on former provinces, but there was no one-to-one correspon -
dence. In fact, many regions of Democratic Kampuchea crossed the
d administrative boundaries of Cambodia. Regions were desig -
nated by number, often (but not always) indicating a level of
stemization. The Northwest Zone, for example, was composed of
seven regions, numbered 1 through 7. The East Zone consisted of
five regions numbered 20 through 24. Other regions, however, were
less straightforward, reflecting in part the ongoing shuffling of
regions between zones.
48 Administrative divisions below the zone
and regional level conformed to prerevolutionary terminology.
Each region was composed of several districts (
srok ), each district
was composed of several communes (
khum ), and each commune
was composed of numerous villages (
phum ). In the Northwest
Zone, Region 5, located north of Battambang City, was divided into
four districts, identified as Serey Sophoan, Preah Neth Preah,
Phnom Srok, and Thma Puok. Each of these four districts was
divided into a number of communes. Phnom Srok consisted of five
communes while Thma Puok was composed of nine communes. In
the district of Phnom Srok, Sreh Chik commune consisted of fifteen
villages. As of April 1975, the CPK divided Cambodia’s nineteen prov -
inces into five zones: the Northeast, North, Northwest, Southwest,
d East. A special zone was also created to include the area around
Phnom Penh. In the ensuing months and years, administrative
divisions changed often, usually as a result of internal purges or
power plays among CPK leaders. Toward the end of 1975, for
example, the Southwest Zone was split into two, forming a new
West Zone and a smaller Southwest Zone. The Phnom Penh special
zone was also dissolved, thereafter categorized as a distinct terri -
tory not within the formal administrative structures. Later, two
tonomous regions were formed: Region 106, consisting mostly of
Figure 2.1: Territorial Organization of Democratic Kampuchea
A Tale of Two Lists
the former Siem Reap and Oddar Meanchey provinces, and Region
103, composed of the former Preah Vihear Province. The port
facility at Kampong Som was also organized as a separate entity.
And in late 1976 and early 1977 a seventh zone was created when
Regions 103 and 106 were merged to form a new North Zone; the
old North Zone was renamed the Central Zone.
Each political division was administered by a three-person com-
mittee consisting of a secretary, deputy secretary, and member,
ponsible for politics, security, and economics, respectively. At
the commune and village level, the two senior ranking committee
members were usually identified as chief and deputy chief. The
CPK’s spatial organization of the country was pivotal for its admin -
istrative practices. The Zone Committee, for example, was
Figure 2.2: Former Provincial Boundaries and CPK Zone-Level
Administrative Boundaries, ca. 1976
responsible for overseeing the implementation of CPK plans and
policies throughout its respective zone and for delegating plans and
policies to all other levels (e.g., regions and districts) in its zone.The committees at the region, district, and commune levels
fulfilled similar functions of implementing tasks delegated by the
higher levels. The degree of authority, especially among lower levels
of governance, remains unclear. In general, “administrative levels
below the zone were more akin to implementing bodies than
50 However, evidence indicates that for some
projects, such as the construction of small-scale canals and dikes,
local chiefs had a certain degree of leeway. Each political division from the commune level up included a
variety of three-person committees responsible for specific tasks,
including economics, transportation, finance, medical, mobile,
military, social affairs, fishing, textile, and security. Here, Khmer
Rouge terminology is important. The Economic Committee, for
example, was responsible for the collection and warehousing of
rice, while the Finance Committee was tasked with the distribution
of all other agricultural products. Mobile Committees were respon -
sible for the deployment of mobile work brigades to undertake
ecific projects, such as the construction of a canal, the clearance
of forest, or the harvesting of fields. Moreover, not all zones, regions,
districts, communes, or villages would include all ten committees.
Communes that did not include sizable bodies of water would obvi -
ously not have Fishing Committees. In general, most divisions
uld have an Economic Unit, Transportation Unit, and Security
Unit. Existing apart from, but still administratively connected to, the
hierarchical structure of zone, region, district, commune, and
village were cooperatives, that is, ad hoc units born of administra -
tive necessity and formed according to specific needs. If, for
ample, a major construction project was initiated at the zone
level, such as the building of a reservoir, the relevant zone secretary
would be responsible for assembling myriad cooperatives to under -
take the task. Depending on the expected number of workers
quired, each region may be called upon to arrange for a specified
A Tale of Two Lists
quota of laborers; subsequently, each district would be required to
provide a certain number of laborers. This recruitment system con-
tinued to the level of the commune, whereby groups of villagers
uld be assembled. Conversely, if a project was initiated at the
district level, laborers would be recruited only from those
communes (and hence, villages) of the district involved.
The Consensus Apparatus
The purpose of the consensus-seeking mechanism is to ensure
that all social groups have access to the processes of the social
contract; in general, consensus apparatuses would include those
mechanisms addressing politics, law, and repression.
51 The politi -
cal subapparatus, more specifically, would incorporate a myriad
of parties, elections, and constitutions; the legal subapparatus
would include courts, law firms, and legal statutes; and the repres -
sive subapparatus would include various mechanisms of internal
and external enforcement of power, such as the police and the
m i l it a r y.
52 The repressive subapparatuses of Democratic
Kampuchea will be discussed at length in Chapter 4; in this
section I address only the first two.
Important for any form of governance are the conditions by
which citizens may participate. Consequently, the consensus appa -
ratus entails the mechanisms by which the public participates in
ernance. Most prominent throughout Democratic Kampuchea
was the distinction between new (or after April 17) people and base
people. The moniker
base people refers to those who came under
Khmer Rouge control during the civil war, that is, prior to April 17,
1975. In general, these people were considered more loyal and trust -
worthy. The category of new people, conversely, consists of those
o either did not live in liberated areas prior to the date of victory
or did not support the Khmer Rouge. Beyond this informal distinc -
tion, other, more legal qualifications were applied. According to
ticle 9 of the Constitution, “Every citizen of Kampuchea has the
full right to enjoy material, moral and cultural life. . . . Every citizen
of Kampuchea has all his means of existence fully secured.”
rights did not extend, however, to full and equal political participa-
tion, despite rhetoric that Democratic Kampuchea was a people’s
ate. Indeed, Statutes adopted in 1976 outlined the ideology, mem -
bership, structure, and organization of the Party.
54 Article 1, for
example, specifies that any man or woman, aged eighteen or older,
could in principle join the CPK.
55 However, membership was condi -
tional upon the fulfillment of two criteria. First, prospective
mbers “Must have had good and constantly combative activities,
tested in successive revolutionary work in the unions, in the coop -
eratives, and in the Revolutionary Army, following the Party
litical line, following the ideological stances of the Party, and
following the organizational stances of the Party”; “Must be of good
class pedigree, and in particular hold the worker class stance of the
Party, which they have successfully strived to build while inside the
revolutionary movement under the leadership of the Party”; “Must
have[a] good and clean life morals and be good and clean politi -
cally, never having been involved with the enemy”; “Must examine,
stion, and take the measure of the opinions of the popular
masses inside the framework that those selected into the Party must
live or work in the cooperatives, unions, company-level units, or
various other units”; and “Must have a clear personal history with a
verified base of origin, place of residence, and work.”
56 This last con -
dition is especially noteworthy in that it directs attention to the
cond criteria, the process
of becoming a member. To this point,
the Statutes indicate that “Many levels of Party organization must
collectively examine, deliberate, and decide before permission to
join can be granted.”
57 In general, this meant that members
throughout the various hierarchies of administration were to decide
on one’s fulfillment of the first set of criteria; these decisions were
based in large part on an evaluation of biographies that were
gathered from all people throughout Democratic Kampuchea. According to the Statutes, a preparatory period was necessary,
during which evaluators would (again, in principle) determine
whether any specific man or woman was eligible and acceptable for
membership. Potential Party members were required to satisfy ten
additional criteria for selection into various Party leadership
A Tale of Two Lists
positions. Article 5 clarifies that “To raise the quality of Party lead-
ership and to guarantee its inherent strength and purity of Party
litics, ideology, and organization, various criteria must be estab -
lished as the factors for deliberation in selecting cadre into the
rious leadership committees of the Party.” 58 These included (1)
“Strong revolutionary stance on the Party political line”; (2) “Strong
Party revolutionary stance on proletarian ideology”; (3) “Strong
revolutionary stance on internal Party solidarity and unity”; (4)
“Strong revolutionary stance on the lines of organization, leader -
ship, and work of the Party”; (5) “Strong Party revolutionary stance
revolutionary vigilance, maintaining secrecy, and defending
revolutionary forces”; (6) “Strong revolutionary Party stance of
‘independence, mastery, self-reliance, and self-mastery’”; (7)
“Strong revolutionary stance in making and examining personal
histories and revolutionary life views”; (8) “Strong revolutionary
stance on class”; (9) “Strong revolutionary stance on clean life
morals, and politically clean”; and (10) “The capability to build
oneself and be receptive to future leadership.”
59 Each of these ten
criteria contained detailed explanatory remarks as to fulfillment.
For example, to demonstrate “Strong Party revolutionary stance of
proletarian ideology,” a cadre (1) “Must have a correct and strong
proletarian class stance in every sector, material, right of power, and
life morality”; (2) “Have a correct and strong stance of collective
ownership in every sector, materials, right of power, and life
morality, and live in a regime of collective organization”; (3) “Have
a high and absolute stance of sacrifice of private ownership in every
sector, material, right of power, and life morality”; (4) “Have an
audacious stance of active combat and endurance of difficulties on
all occasions in absolute class struggle in the national defense and
national construction of Democratic Kampuchea in the direction
of social revolution and building socialism”; and (5) “Must be
vigilant regarding the stance of thick and materialistic personal
and private ownership, rights of power, and life morality.”
The Statute clarifies also that individual members could not
make decisions by themselves, but only in concert with other mem -
bers—a key tenet of democratic centralism. Of particular
significance is the designation of rights (Article 3) afforded to Party
members. Full-rights status meant that members were permitted to
“consider and discuss and join in decision making” on all Party
affairs, unlike “candidate” members, who were allowed only to par-
ticipate in meetings, without the right of decision-making.
Constitutionally, Democratic Kampuchea was to be governed by
the Assembly of the People’s Representatives of Kampuchea. As
specified in Article 5, this body was to be composed of 250 members
representing workers, peasants, other laborers, and the
Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea. Consequently, on March 20,
1976, elections were held to appoint men and women to this gov -
erning organ, and during the first and only congressional meeting
o f t
he PRA, held April 11–13, 1976, Khieu Samphan was appointed
as chairman of the State Presidium, a position that, under the
Constitution, was responsible for representing the State of
Democratic Kampuchea, both foreign and domestically. Nuon
Chea was to serve as chairman of the Standing Committee of the
People’s Representative Assembly.
62 Apart from the appointments
of Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, these elections mattered little,
as true political power remained vested in the Standing Committee
of the CPK.
The Productive Apparatus
After years of armed conflict, the physical infrastructure of
Cambodia was in ruins. Approximately one-third of the country’s
bridges were destroyed, two-fifths of the road network was
unusable, and the railroad was inoperable. Much of the country’s
productive infrastructure, including its lone oil refinery near
Kompong Som, had stopped working. Only 300 of 1,400 rice mills
and 60 of 240 sawmills were functioning; and both timber and
rubber production, Cambodia’s major prewar commercial products
other than rice, had declined to only one-fifth of prewar produc -
tion levels. Moreover, upward of half of Cambodia’s livestock had
en killed, either through fighting, bombing, or as a food source
for the starving people.
63 While not absolving the CPK of
A Tale of Two Lists
responsibility for the brutal conditions that would characterize
Democratic Kampuchea, it is necessary to reposition CPK policy
and practice within the realities of a postwar environment.The CPK premised that economic success and, by extension,
political success, depended on its agricultural sector.
64 As explained
in its Four-Year Plan, developed between July 21 and August 2,
1976, the CPK identified two economic objectives. The first, as we
have seen, was “to serve the people’s livelihood, and to raise the
people’s standard of living quickly, both in terms of supplies and in
terms of other material goods.”
65 This was to be accomplished
through the satisfaction of a second objective, namely, to “seek,
gather, save, and increase capital from agriculture, aiming to
rapidly expand our agriculture, our industry, and our defense.”
Therefore, to achieve industrial
self-sufficiency, including both light
and heavy industry, the CPK decreed that they would “only have to
earn [foreign] capital from agriculture.”
Overall, Democratic Kampuchea’s economy was structured
around a policy of import-substitution industrialization (ISI), a
strategy widely employed by member states of the Non-Aligned
68 Much has been made of the CPK’s rhetoric of self-
reliance and self-mastery. For some scholars, this is evidence of a
deeply entrenched policy of isolationism. Karl Jackson, for example,
explains that “the Khmer revolutionaries were trying to establish
total sovereignty and self-reliance in the cultural, economic, and
political realms,” and that their “application of the doctrine of self-
reliance led the revolutionaries to seal Cambodia off from all but a
very few close allies.”
69 Charles Twining likewise explains that the
leaders of Democratic Kampuchea “wanted genuinely to create a
country totally independent from every point of view. To achieve
this state, Cambodia must be self-contained and self-reliant to the
point of autarky.”
70 These assessments, however, are grossly
inaccurate and only deflect attention from the geopolitical context
within which Democratic Kampuchea was organized.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, representatives of
many former colonies sought to forge an independent path, free
from the Cold War dictates of either American capitalism or Soviet
socialism. 71 Known as the Non-Aligned Movement, this movement
became a powerful political force that proclaimed a commitment
to nationalism, the preservation of national dignity, and the reali -
zation of national power.
72 Moreover, the Non-Aligned Movement
connoted an alliance with the forces of regionalism, national inde -
pendence, the struggle for a new economic order, social and
onomic progress, and self-reliance. 73 The CPK’s adherence to the
Non-Aligned Movement is codified in numerous speeches and
documents, including the 1976 Constitution of Democratic
In August 1976 representatives of the CPK, including Khieu
Samphan, attended the 5th Summit Conference of Non-Aligned
Countries, held in Colombo, Sri Lanka. A report subsequently pub -
lished by the Embassy of Democratic Kampuchea in Berlin, East
r m a ny, 74 expounded that:
The people of Kampuchea warmly hails the victories of the
5th Summit Conference of Non-Aligned Countries which
consolidate the non-aligned principles, enhance the non-
aligned movement and strengthen the solidarity within its
ranks. . . . In contributing to the revolutionary struggle of the
peoples of the world, to the liberation struggle of the broth -
erly countries of the Third World and to the strengthening of
the cause of the great non-aligned family, the people of
Kampuchea is determined to carry out the revolution suc -
cessfully in its own country, to build up its economy and
edify its country according to the principles of independence,
sovereignty and self-reliance.
Two months later, Ieng Sary, deputy prime minister of foreign
affairs, spoke before the 31st Session of the United Nations General
Assembly in New York. Following an opening statement, Ieng Sary
The 31st Regular Session of our General Assembly takes place
at a time when all the peoples of the world and especially the
peoples of the non-aligned countries and of the Third World
A Tale of Two Lists
are waging a victorious struggle everywhere against imperi-
alism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, Zionism and all forms
of foreign interference, aggression, expansionism and
exploitation, for independence, sovereignty, territorial integ -
rity, for the right to determine their own destiny and for the
establishment of a new international economic order on the
basis of justice and equality.
He continued that:
Dozens of new independent states are arising from the ruins
of colonialism, determined to engage in the struggle to
defend and consolidate their political and economic indepen-
dence, their sovereignty and territorial integrity against all
acts of domination, exploitation, interference and aggression
on the part of the rich great powers. . . . They call forcefully
for the establishment of new relations between the peoples
and nations, in accordance with the significant changes
which have taken place in the world, and based on the princi -
ples of mutual respect of independence, sovereignty and ter -
ritorial integrity, equality, mutual advantage, non-interfer -
ence in the internal affairs of other states and the right of
every people to manage its own affairs.
Democratic Kampuchea, Ieng Sary explained, stood by these princi -
ples. Moreover, the people of Kampuchea had participated actively
in t h
e struggle against colonialism and foreign aggression. “Together
with all the other peoples,” he declared, Democratic Kampuchea
“has actively taken part in the common struggle against imperial -
ism, colonialism and neo-colonialism in order to liberate itself from
l forms of domination, oppression and exploitation.”Ieng Sary’s official statements reflect an attitude not of isolation -
ism but of an attempt to establish Democratic Kampuchea as an
dependent, sovereign state that would interact on the global stage
on conditions of its own choosing. Seen in this light, the repeated
phrases of self-reliance and self-mastery peppered throughout
hundreds of CPK operational documents take on a vastly different
meaning than that proposed by Jackson, Twining, and others. CPK
officials were not opposed to cultivating foreign relations, as docu-
mentary evidence clearly shows. Indeed, throughout 1975 and 1976,
y CPK officials were anxious to extend relations, especially with
(but not limited to) those governments associated with the Non-
Proponents of ISI argued that less-developed countries should
initially domestically produce previously imported, simple
consumer goods and then domestically produce a wider range of
more sophisticated manufactured items.
78 In other words, advo -
cates of ISI promoted an economic strategy predicated on
self-sufficiency. Variously understood within broader theories of
dependency or underdevelopment, the argument follows: for
decades, if not centuries, the economies of colonies were held in
check by unfair trade arrangements and production processes
that consigned the colonies to subservience within the global
economy. Colonies and former colonies historically were forced
to import most of their manufactured goods in return for the
export of primary products, such as sugar, bananas, coffee, tea,
and cotton. Under ISI, these unequal relations were to be inverted.
Governments of former colonies would protect their domestic
industries and, by extension, encourage the production of
domestic consumer goods. Revenue saved from not having to
import these goods could then be used to purchase other manu -
factured commodities that could not be domestically produced
given the country’s overall level of industrialization.
A CPK document from May 8, 1976, for example, specified that
“We will decrease importing items next year, including cotton and
jute, because we are working hard to produce ours. We will import
only some important items such as chemical fertilizer, plastic, acid,
. . . and other raw materials.”
79 According to this document, such a
strategy was deemed most appropriate. Indeed, to solve the currency
problem, it was determined that solutions were not to be found “by
taking loans from the West or Eastern Europe,” for in so doing the
CPK would lose their “self-reliant stance.”
A Tale of Two Lists
Having adopted a policy of import substitution, the CPK con-
centrated on items that could be effectively produced, both for
mestic consumption and foreign trade. On the home front, plans
called for the production of items necessary to facilitate the people’s
livelihood: plates, pots, spoons, mosquito nets, shovels, hoes, and so
on. In practice, most of these industries never materialized,
although textile factories and some machine shops were in opera -
tion. Archived documents indicate also that the CPK was receptive
t o a
ny number of imported goods, but that a combination of
economic and political considerations would determine the condi -
tions of foreign trade. As s
pecified in Party documents, CPK officials premised
Democratic Kampuchea as replete with “such things as land, live -
stock, natural resources, water sources such as lakes, rivers and
nds,” and that these “natural characteristics have given
[Democratic Kampuchea] great advantages compared with China,
Vietnam, or Africa.”
81 However, the Khmer Rouge leadership deter -
mined that agriculture, primarily rice, was to be the country’s
mparative advantage. During a speech delivered in June 1976 at
an assembly of cadres of the Western Zone, the speaker (most likely
Pol Pot) discussed the importance of rapid agricultural develop -
ment. The speaker explains, “National construction proceeds along
e lines laid down by the Party. The important point of this is
building up our agriculture, which is backward, into modern agri -
culture within ten to fifteen years.”
82 Consequently, as detailed in
the Four-Year Plan, “We stand on agriculture as the basis, so as to
collect agricultural capital with which to strengthen and expand
industry.” This was no desire to construct an agrarian utopia, but
instead a pragmatic course of action based on capitalist principles.
Indeed, it was simply a continuation of policies advocated by the
former French colonial government and that of Sihanouk. From a
competitive standpoint, rice was the clear choice. And while other
agricultural products were identified, including rubber, corn,
beans, fish, and forest products, these were largely gratis. The CPK
argument was profit-based: “For 100,000 tons of milled rice, we
would get [U.S.] $20 million; if we had 500,000 tons we’d get $100
million. . . . We must increase rice production in order to obtain
capital. Other products, which are only complimentary[,] will be
increased in the future.”
Policy decisions were based on calculations of expected
economic productivity. Foremost was the proposed increase in rice
production, an objective that was pivotal to the CPK’s overall
strategy of state-building. This is vividly illustrated in a series of
remarks prepared and delivered by Pol Pot at a special meeting of
the CPK center, held August 21–23, 1976. Here, Pol Pot considers
the production of rice as it relates to Democratic Kampuchea’s
physical geography. He explains:
We have greater resources than other countries in terms of
rice fields. Furthermore, the strength of our rice fields is that
we have more of them than others do. The strength of our
agriculture is greater than that of other countries in this
respect. . . . It is the Party’s wish to transform agriculture
from a backward type to a modern type in ten to fifteen years.
A long-term strategy must be worked out. We are working
(here) on a Four-Year Plan in order to set off in the direction
of achieving this 10–15 year target.
It was determined by the CPK that Democratic Kampuchea
would need to triple rice productivity to a national average yield of
three tons per hectare per year. Only by obtaining such a surplus
could the CPK raise sufficient revenues to import necessary goods
and commodities, notably ammunition. The strategy for increased
rice production was predicated on the introduction of more rational
and efficient agricultural techniques. Thus, the CPK classified rice
fields into two categories: those harvested once a year and those
harvested twice. Calculations provided by the CPK indicate that in
1977 there would be an anticipated 2.4 million hectares of land
suitable for rice production; of these, 1.4 million hectares could
sustain a single harvest per year; the remaining would be conducive
to two harvests. Over the next four years, according to Pol Pot, the
land devoted to single harvests would remain constant, while the
amount of double-cropped lands would progressively increase from
A Tale of Two Lists
200,000 hectares in 1977 to 500,000 in 1980. However, it was deter-
mined that all new agricultural lands would generate two harvests
r yea r. 85
For the CPK, an overriding difficulty associated with increased
rice production and, by extension, the economic development and
defense of Democratic Kampuchea, was that of water. According to
the Four-Year Plan, it was necessary to “increase the degree of
mastery over the water problem from one year to another until it
reaches 100 percent by 1980 for first-class rice land and reaches
40–50% for ordinary rice land.”
86 Following a table of calculations
indicating the annual percentage increase projected between 1977
and 1980, the text continues: “In order to gain mastery over water
there must be a network of dikes and canals as the basis. There must
also be canals, reservoirs, and irrigation pumps stationed in accor -
dance with our strategy.”
87 The rapid and massive development of
irrigation was thus paramount, necessitating the completion of
thousands of dikes, dams, canals, and reservoirs throughout the
country. This necessitated in turn the constant resettlement of men
and women through forced movements to satisfy ever-changing
88 In time, railroads would emerge as the principle
means of resettling populations from areas of labor surplus to areas
of labor shortage.
To achieve these operational objectives, on October 9, 1975, the
Standing Committee began delegating key members to specific
tasks. Koy Thuon was appointed to oversee domestic and interna -
tional commerce, and Vorn Vet was responsible for industry,
railroads, and fisheries.
90 On the surface, these committees seem
arbitrary and perhaps devoid of internal logic. Indeed, Boraden
Nhem concludes that Democratic Kampuchea comprised an
“empty government,” noting that the CPK established ministries
for specific and ad hoc tasks.
91 This is partially accurate, but
carries an important caveat. Closer inspection begins to shine
light on the consonance between CPK operational objectives and
the resultant bureaucratic structure. These ministries, while
seemingly disparate, did align with an overall economic strategy
predicated on the production and distribution of rice that would,
in principle, facilitate the overall industrialization of Democratic
Kampuchea. To achieve this goal required the management of a
host of related activities, including the expansion of irrigation to
provide water for agriculture, improvements in transportation to
facilitate the movement of labor and commodities, and financial
institutions to assist in the international exchange of commodi-
ties. Thus, through the course of CPK rule, countless committees
and ministries would form and reform in response to changing
political-economic conditions but also to the ongoing purges that
decimated the bureaucracy.
Five bureaucracies comprised the core production apparatus.
These included three ministries—the Ministry of Commerce,
Ministry of Industry, and Ministry of Public Works—and two
separate, but related, institutions: the State Warehouse and the
Transportation Committee. The Ministry of Commerce, referred to
as K-51 and initially headed by Koy Thuon, was responsible for the
coordination of economic production and trade. Operationally,
K-51 was divided into two sections, domestic and foreign. On the
domestic side, the Ministry of Commerce was charged with the
oversight of various production facilities, while on the foreign side,
it was tasked with handling foreign banking matters. To accom -
plish these tasks, a number of subunits were established, including
TRA and FORTRA, devoted to foreign trade; IMEX, to coordi -
nate foreign exchange; the Ren Fung Corporation, responsible for a
riety of financial arrangements, especially as these related to
China; and the Poipet Gate, in charge of governing trade with
The Ministry of Industry, headed by Vorn Vet, was responsible
for a variety of economic functions that spanned industry, agri -
culture, electricity, public works, and railroads. Paramount was
the oversight of countless factories, Logistical Units, and Technical
Units that operated throughout Democratic Kampuchea. Within
Phnom Penh there were at least two dozen factories, although
some estimates place this figure as high as seventy.
94 These facto -
ries produced everything from thread to plastics, soap to soy
sauce; however, the precise industries to be developed were to
A Tale of Two Lists
align with the overall operational objectives of facilitating agricul-
tural and industry within a context of import substitution. The
factory code-named A-1, for example, produced thread; wooden
bobbins were manufactured by at least six lathe factories; and
these semifinished goods were combined at the various textile and
The spatial distribution of production facilities indicates
considerable continuity with economic activities in existence
during the previous regime. Elsewhere colleagues and I refer to the
socio-spatial organization of production along two factors:
conversion and continuity. On the one hand, it was CPK practice to
convert preexisting structures for new uses. For example, the
Khmer Rouge frequently converted wats (temples) into warehouses
and granaries. On the other hand, the CPK retained preexisting
uses—a practice of continuity. Many pre-1975 warehouses, for
example, continued to be used as warehouses; sawmills continued
to function as sawmills; and textile factories continued to produce
textiles. By way of illustration, Khmer Rouge garment factories
located in Phnom Penh were concentrated in the areas of Chak
Angre, Tuol Kok, Stung Mean Chey, and the O’Russei Market.
Historically, these locations were the sites of various textile factories
and they remain so today.
To facilitate the distribution of goods both within and beyond
Democratic Kampuchea, it was necessary to repair and, if possible,
expand the country’s physical infrastructure. To a large extent this
fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Public Works (S-8),
headed first by Tauch Pheuan. Early on, this ministry employed
upward of three thousand workers—testimony to its importance.
Key operations included bridge construction, dam building, roads,
transport, and water. An exceptionally nebulous bureaucracy, the
Ministry of Public Works apparently aligned with the Energy
Committee (under the supervision of Vorn Vet) to coordinate three
power plants and an oil refinery.
97 After several purges, however,
the Ministry of Public Works, like many other bureaucracies within
Democratic Kampuchea, effectively ceased to function. Craig
Etcheson finds that the equipment needed to build, maintain, and
repair infrastructure, such as power stations and the electrical
power grid, did not exist within Democratic Kampuchea, thus
making it difficult to carry out many projects. Moreover, without
the ability to adequately maintain those systems that were in opera-
tion, it was inevitable that more and more problems would arise.
r example, the electrical system steadily deteriorated, leading
CPK’s senior leaders to accuse the Public Works employees of
All commodities produced or repaired in the many factories
throughout Democratic Kampuchea, as well as goods imported
into the country, or scheduled to be exported, required warehous -
ing at some point. Most warehouses were located near major
ansportation arteries (e.g., riverfronts, railroad stations, and
highways). Especially important was an area known as Kilometer
6, located at the intersection of a major rail line and the riverfront
along National Highway 5, just outside Phnom Penh. A sprawling
complex of steel and cement warehouses, Kilometer 6 warehoused
any number of goods, including textiles, rubber, and cement. Other
warehouses were of a more specific nature. Surrounding any given
hospital, for example, were various warehouses used to store both
raw materials used in pharmaceutical factories as well as medicines
and medical equipment imported from China and other
The State Warehouse, located in Phnom Penh, was responsible
for the overall distribution of commodities. Supervised by Ta
Reoung, the State Warehouse contained several subunits, each
accountable for particular tasks or commodities. Andre Mertha
details that the distribution of goods between and within adminis -
trative zones followed specific procedures. He writes, “For everyday
ods and commodities, amounts were calculated based on the
number of people in a zone. Zone commanders would send their
requests for non-regular items directly to 870, which would consider
the request and then issue a letter to the State Warehouse, which
would coordinate with the zone ‘commerce’ office in Phnom Penh
and the central transportation unit.”
10 0 These procedures highlight
A Tale of Two Lists
a final component of the broader production apparatus of
Democratic Kampuchea, namely, transportation.Throughout late 1975 and 1976, transportation-related issues
were apparently conducted on an ad hoc basis. It was not until 1977,
according to Mertha, that a Transportation Committee was
formally established, itself subdivided into river, land, and rail
sections. The Water Transportation Unit, for example, oversaw
ship-assembly factories, a fuel-transportation section, a printing
house, a Marine Transportation Unit, and a ship-piloting company;
the land transportation section was tasked with the repair and
expansion of roads; and the railroad branch was responsible for
rebuilding and expanding the country’s railroad network. This
latter unit was assisted greatly by Chinese engineers; over time,
they would complain about the difficulties of accomplishing any
project, given the lack of personnel following repeated purges in the
The Integrative Apparatus
In an ideal setting, the integrative apparatus includes (but is not
limited to) those functions related to health and education. 102
Accordingly, specific bureaucracies oversee the establishment of
hospitals and schools, the provision of medicines and textbooks,
and the staffing of doctors, nurses, and teachers. Also included
are media-related bureaucracies, including newspapers, television
studios, and radio stations. These latter institutions may, in
theory, be either public or state-run. In authoritarian states such
as Democratic Kampuchea, there is no difference.
For some readers, it may seem incongruous that specific bureau -
cracies charged with education and health existed in Democratic
mpuchea. It is commonplace, for example, to describe the Khmer
Rouge as anti-intellectual and antiprofessional and to believe that
anyone who was literate or trained in Western forms of education
was summarily executed. In actuality, the CPK forwarded an inte -
grative apparatus that conformed to their Leninist understanding
of a socialist state. This does not lessen the brutality evinced by the
Khmer Rouge, for many professionals were murdered. Rather, this
accentuates the pragmatism forwarded by the CPK in their attempt
to reintroduce schools, hospitals, and pharmacies.
Education, even for revolutionary parties, is vital in that it
provides support and legitimacy for associated political and
economic programs. That the Standing Committee of the CPK
understood this necessity is evident in the Party’s Four-Year Plan.
However, the Standing Committee was equally clear that it would
not simply resume the preexisting structure but instead transform
education in conformance with Party dictates. “Continue the
struggle,” it is reported in the Four-Year Plan, “to abolish, uproot,
and disperse the cultural, literary, and artistic remnants of the
imperialists, colonialists, and all of the other oppressor classes. . . .
Continue to strengthen and expand the building of revolutionary
culture, literature and art of the worker-peasant class in accordance
with the Party’s proletarian standpoint.”
Prior to the CPK’s rise to power, Cambodia was home to 5,276
primary schools, 146 secondary schools, and 9 institutes of higher
105 However, Prince Sihanouk perceived education as an
important step to break the chains of neocolonial dependency and,
accordingly, promoted professional and technical skills.
the CPK, this infrastructure was violently demolished. According
to Thomas Clayton, the Khmer Rouge destroyed 90 percent of all
school buildings, emptied libraries, burned their contents, and
destroyed nearly all school laboratory equipment.
107 Those build-
ings left standing were often converted into other uses, such as
rehouses or security centers. Apart from destroying much of the
physical infrastructure, teachers were also targeted for elimination.
It is estimated that upward of 90 percent of all teachers at all levels
died throughout the CPK regime. As one example, of the one
thousand academics employed at the Royal University of Phnom
Penh prior to 1975, only eighty-seven are known to have survived.
From 1976 onward, the CPK planned but never completely
implemented a sweeping overhaul of the country’s educational
system. As detailed in the Four-Year Plan, the CPK proposed
A Tale of Two Lists
curricula that would provide a system of learning that would
nurture culture, political awareness, and socialist consciousness.
Three years of primary education were to be offered, followed by
three years of secondary education composed of general and tech-
nical subjects, and three years of tertiary education. Details for
imary education are conspicuously vague, apart from the intona -
tion to “give attention to abolishing illiteracy among the
pulation.” At the secondary level, however, subjects were to
include reading and writing, arithmetic, geography, natural
sciences (e.g., physics and chemistry), the history of the revolution -
ary struggle, and the Party’s politics, consciousness, and
ganization. There were to be no examinations and no certificates;
the system of education proposed by the CPK was to be concrete
rather than abstract, learned through participation within the
cooperatives, factories, and military units. Educational methods
accordingly were to include equal time spent on academic study
and material production, for example, agricultural-related
There was no overarching system in place to train teachers. Nor
was access to education guaranteed for the children of Democratic
Kampuchea. Rather, teachers were recruited among the most loyal
Party members; most, in fact, had either very little or no training.
And for those students who did participate in education activities—
that is, when they were not tending cattle or collecting
manure—lessons were held in improvised classrooms, in stables, or
in the fields. Educational materials were largely nonexistent, with
lessons consisting mostly of rote memorization of war-related songs
The CPK leadership professed a concern with the overall health
and well-being of its citizenry. Throughout 1975 and 1976, for
example, numerous documents call attention to the living condi -
tions of base people, new people, and Khmer Rouge cadre.
cording to a report of conditions in the Northwest prepared by
the Standing Committee in August 20–24, 1975, it was noted that
overall “shelters have been prepared for the people everywhere” and
that the “base people are stable. There are not yet shortages of
livelihood.” However, “remote districts are still in need and many
[base] people are also suffering from disease.” Conversely, the “new
people are experiencing shortages, shortages of food supplies as
well as shortages of medications.”
111 In a telegram sent to Office 870
in November 1975, the secretary of Region 23 described a situation
in which many fish had died and were found floating in the lakes
and streams. Subsequently, people from the region gathered,
cooked, and ate the fish. Soon thereafter, many people suffered from
diarrhea, with some dying. The secretary explained that people
were therefore informed that they were not permitted to gather
dead fish and were instructed to eat only cooked food and to drink
boiled water. Men and women were also to report to the medical
staff any ailment they experienced. In concluding his report, the
secretary did note that sufficient medicines were not available in his
region to treat people, and that they were especially lacking the
means to treat malaria and intestinal diseases.
In general, the Standing Committee was aware of the appalling
conditions experienced by men, women, and children throughout
Democratic Kampuchea. The Party was also aware of the inequality
of conditions experienced between base people and new people.
However, the provision of adequate food and medicine was
tempered by the broader operational objectives of economic
growth. Perhaps most telling is a document dated March 8, 1976.
The agenda of the meeting was twofold: to address the forthcoming
elections of March and the situation in the North Zone. With
respect to the latter, Comrade Sot reported that Sector 106 was
beset with numerous health-related issues. He explained that there
were many sick people and that this resulted in a loss of approxi -
mately 40 percent of the labor force. Outbreaks of chicken pox and
olera were also reported. Comrade Hang, reporting on the situa -
tion in Sector 103, likewise informed the Standing Committee of
despread illnesses. In response, Angkar offered the following
opinion: “Today, we think much about the livelihood of the people,
but expenditures for material purchases to solve the livelihood of
the people are limited because we must purchase many other things
as well, and our funds are few. Therefore, we must understand
A Tale of Two Lists
concentrating on solving the livelihood of the people at the base to
the maximum extent.” 113
Angkar’s response evinces a peculiarly utilitarian attitude
toward the people of Democratic Kampuchea. The hardships expe -
rienced by the people, notably the prevalence of diseases, were duly
ted, but any redress would require an investment of resources.
The Standing Committee did not say that resources were unavail -
able, but rather intimated that materials were needed elsewhere. In
her words, villages, communes, districts, and regions would have
to fend for themselves. This often meant making do with locally
produced medicines and treatment by locally recruited medics. Prior to 1975, Cambodia had two coexisting medical systems:
traditional forms of medicine were widely practiced, and Western-
based medical practices were also available. The indigenous system
centered on the role of
kru khmae (Khmer-style teacher) and the
healing process consisted of a diagnosis dialogue. The
and the patient would enter into a mutual relationship that covered
physical, social, and cosmological components. Specifically, diag -
nosis and therapy were derived from a consensus between the
, the patient, his or her relatives, and the spirits. 114
The arrival of French colonialism brought with it Western-based
medical practices. Initially, these were coordinated by the French
military and focused on curative aspects and some preventive prac -
tices. As civilian authorities assumed principle responsibility for
e health of their colony, medical practices shifted. Preventive
health care—principally for French citizens—assumed center stage,
as officials were more concerned with preventing the spread of
infectious diseases such as cholera, smallpox, and the plague. In
time, these preventive practices, albeit on a limited scale, were
extended to the Cambodians. Concurrently, throughout the
colonial period French authorities viewed indigenous medical prac -
tices mostly with indifference. In effect, as long as traditional
actices did not negatively impact French policy or practice, they
were tolerated. Following independence, Western-based medicines were
actively promoted through the establishment of hospitals, clinics,
medical-related schools, and pharmaceutical companies. Between
1955 and 1969, for example, the number of hospitals and district
clinics increased from 16 to 69 and the number of community dis-
pensaries increased from 103 to 587. More specifically, in 1959 the
ench opened the Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh; this was
followed by the opening of the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital
(also known as the Russian Hospital) in 1960. Domestic production
of pharmaceuticals began in 1963 with the establishment of the
Khmer Pharmaceutical Factory. Similar to their approach to education, the Standing Committee
of the CPK sought to replace the preexisting health-care system
with their own. During the evacuation of Phnom Penh in April
1975, all hospitals, including doctors, nurses, and patients, were
forced to leave; so too were medical practitioners throughout the
country. Most (but not all) would never return. Some estimates
indicate that by 1979, fewer than fifty medical doctors who had
practiced in Cambodia prior to 1975 remained alive. To fill the
void, the CPK recruited and trained, often with the assistance of
Chinese doctors, their own medical personnel. A Khmer Rouge slogan held that “Daughters should grow up to
be medical staff, while sons, to be soldiers.”
115 In part, there is a
kernel of truth to this sentiment. Many young girls, mostly between
twelve and fifteen years of age, volunteered or were recruited among
the base population to train as nurses or to serve in other medical-
116 Moreover, many senior positions within the
medical sector were filled by the daughters of high-ranking CPK
officials. The four daughters of Ta Mok, for example, became
117 That being said, Democratic Kampuchea’s gendered
division of labor was slightly more complex and, in fact, often
conformed with that of more traditional patriarchal societies. On
the one hand, men frequently served as medics and women served
as soldiers. On the other hand, most senior positions were occupied
by men. Indeed, no woman served on the Standing Committee or
occupied the position of zone secretary. Only two women, Ieng
Thirith and Yun Yat, served on the Central Committee.
A Tale of Two Lists
Most of those women and men who worked as medical staff
were uneducated; medical training was hurried and rudimentary,
lasting at most a matter of weeks. Nurses were taught how to give
injections and to administer pills and other medicines. And since
most of the trainees could not read, they were instructed in how to
recognize the words printed on the bottles.
118 Collectively, these
medical personnel were known as pet padevat or revolutionary
Medicines and pharmaceuticals were available throughout
Democratic Kampuchea, as the CPK continued to import supplies
from other countries. Thus, alongside the importation of axes,
knives, sickles, and plows, sizable quantities of penicillin, quinine,
serum, and vitamins were brought into the country. The aforemen -
tioned Ren Fung Company, for example, facilitated the shipment of
nicillin, nivaquine, quinine, and chloroquine. The CPK likewise
accepted so-called gifts from abroad, including approximately
US$12,000 worth of antimalarial drugs provided in 1976 by the
American Friends Service Committee, with Washington’s approval,
119 Upon arrival, imported medicines and medical equip -
ment, dental equipment and dental supplies, and pharmaceuticals
o f a
ll sorts were generally stored in warehouses in Phnom Penh, the
port at Kompong Som, or around the town of Poipet. Later, these
would be distributed to the various zones, sectors, districts, and
communes, according to procedures adopted by the Standing
Committee and the State Warehouse Committee. The CPK also established factories to produce their own medi -
cines and pharmaceuticals. Many of these were located throughout
nom Penh and produced penicillin, serum, setropharine, and
vitamins B1, B6, and B12. The former Pasteur Institute, located in
the Chroy Changvar area of Phnom Penh, was reopened to manu -
120 The efficacy of these medicines was dubious at
best. Often Chinese doctors monitored the production of Western-
based medicines. These were produced from raw materials imported
from Thailand, Hong Kong, and elsewhere. Other indigenous med -
icines were produced. Manufactured also under the supervision of
Chinese doctors, but with the assistance of local kru khmae , these
medicines were used to treat fever, headaches, stomachaches, and
fainting spells. Raw materials included plant roots, tree bark, sap,
and other natural compounds. Young girls would mix these materi -
als together and shape them into small pills, which became widely
own as rabbit-dropping medicine, both because of their appear -
ance and effectiveness.
The health system of Democratic Kampuchea was administered
by Ieng Thirith, wife of Ieng Sary, through the Ministry of Social
Affairs. Identified by the code K-2, the ministry also coordinated
and managed a hierarchy of hospitals, clinics, and other health
facilities throughout the country. Within Phnom Penh, both the
Calmette Hospital and Russian Hospital, although initially evacu -
ated and ransacked, were put into operation. These hospitals were
tter supplied and better staffed; accessibility was also restricted,
as these hospitals catered predominantly to senior officials and
their families. Provincial hospitals existed outside the capital; these
generally had a few fully trained doctors, at times Chinese advisers,
and some Western-based medical supplies. Conditions deterio -
rated as one proceeded down the hierarchy. At the district level,
alth clinics were rarely staffed by trained medical practitioners
and medicines consisted mostly of domestically produced pharma -
ceuticals—the rabbit-dropping medicines. The lowest level of
alth care was the munti pet (small clinics). Most often, these were
converted school buildings, wats , or even someone’s house. Munti
pet were staffed by pet padevat and were poorly provisioned.
According to Mertha, the Ministry of Social Affairs had no direct
authority over medical services in the country beyond those
located in Phnom Penh.
Beyond the functions of health and education, the integrative
apparatus consists of those bureaucracies responsible for media and
the dissemination of information. Within Democratic Kampuchea,
these were also to align with the overall operational objectives of
promoting economic growth and the political task of building
socialism. As enumerated in the Four-Year Plan, media technolo -
gies, including radios, films, and magazines, were to facilitate the
A Tale of Two Lists
dissemination of propaganda and information. Because of the low
levels of literacy, the first two media assumed great importance; as
to the latter, pictorial magazines were preferred. Caution, however,
was necessary in the propagation of information. The Four-Year
Plan warned to “Be careful in building, strengthening and
expanding the ranks by choosing [people of ] backgrounds close
to the revolutionary movement [who] can apply the Party’s policy
to instruct the people and disseminate propaganda and
The salience of propaganda long preceded the establishment of
Democratic Kampuchea, however. Throughout their long revolu -
tionary struggle, the CPK routinely engaged in propaganda
tivities. As detailed in Chapter 2, the Khmer Rouge capitalized
on both the United States–led bombing campaign and the coup
against Sihanouk. To this end, the institutionalization of the media
had a strong foundation upon which to build. Prior to 1975, for
example, two journals had already been established:
(tung padevat ) and Revolutionary Youth (youveak chon
youveak neary padevat
). These would, until the fall of Democratic
Kampuchea, serve as important conduits through which the CPK
disseminated official and operative objectives.
At a meeting held on January 9, 1976, members of the Standing
Committee discussed Party propaganda and reeducation goals. It
was asserted that propaganda and reeducation practices had, and
would continue, to serve the revolution. Key advances, it was
claimed, had been made in all communication sectors: radio, the
arts, and magazines. Collectively, these efforts had “incited the
spirit of national defense and the restoration of the economy” and
had contributed to “the spirit of solving the livelihood of the
people.” However, several “deficiencies” were also documented.
Performances, for example, did “not yet reflect the heroism of the
people” or of “the Revolutionary Army.” Nor did these channels
of communication “demonstrate for all to see [the] great force of
solidarity between the workers and the peasants, between the
people and the Army, and [did] not yet reflect in a lively way their
d a i ly l ive s .”
Two months later, on March 8, 1976, the Standing Committee
met again to discuss ongoing propaganda work. The occasion of
this meeting was the forthcoming elections scheduled for March
20, 1976. It is clear from the discussion that the Standing
Committee perceived the radio broadcasting of the elections not
only as salient for the citizens of Democratic Kampuchea, but also
for the international community. Indeed, it was imperative that
the elections be broadcast lest other countries, notably France and
Vietnam, might see the CPK as “dictators” and that “there is no
democracy” in Democratic Kampuchea. It was important,
however, that “content” be broadcast, but that it must not be too
strong on explanation. It would be necessary to praise their
accomplishments, but not excessively brag, thereby generating
Beyond monitoring its own content, the Standing Committee
determined that foreign news be monitored so as to keep Angkar
informed. Following the meeting of March 8, 1976, for example, it
was decided that news would be sent to Angkar every day, but that
news should be reported in summary outline, together with some
opinion and analysis. In general, these reports would be collected
by messenger daily, at 5:15 p.m. In the event of something “espe -
cially important,” the Standing Committee should be telephoned
By mid-1976, the Ministry of Information and Propaganda,
headed by longtime revolutionary Hu Nim, was in operation. 127 A
complex bureaucracy, Office K-33 (as it was designated) consisted
of more than a dozen subunits. Office K-25, for example, produced
the journals Revolutionary Flag and Revolutionary Youth, while
K-26, K-27, and K-28 were printing houses responsible for various
newspapers, magazines, or official documents. Radio broadcasts
were administered through Office K-33, and K-34 oversaw the
production of propaganda films. Functionally, therefore, the
Ministry of Information and Propaganda was a key conduit
between CPK policy and implementation at lower levels.
A Tale of Two Lists
In this chapter I have sketched the broad coordinates of the Khmer
Rouge bureaucracy. My objective has not been to provide an
exhaustive historiography of any particular apparatus, a task that
is needed, but rather to provide a necessary context within which
we may better understand the materiality of power as it was
administered behind the scenes. Democratic Kampuchea was not
an empty government, but instead comprised a particular form of
bureaucratic rule heavily informed by Leninist principles.
Accordingly, our attention must consider more concretely how the
administrative structure of Democratic Kampuchea facilitated the
production of biopolitical knowledge, manifest materially in
invoices and inventories, memos and meeting minutes, and how
this knowledge was subsequently made actionable in the form of
arrests, interrogations, and executions. In short, through an
engagement with the complexities of administrative functions,
this chapter provides an institutional grounding for a more sus-
tained engagement with the necropolitics of bureaucratic rule.
Power, following Foucault, circulates, but it does so through the
inscription and transmission of knowledge in the form of bureau -
cratic writing. As Gupta suggests, “Writing is one of the chief
tivities of bureaucrats; it is not secondary or subsequent to
129 Indeed, the voluminous materials archived
by the Khmer Rouge and later collected at the Documentation
Center of Cambodia provide insight into the functions of a govern -
ment that was anything but empty. To this end, the documentary
cord is itself reflective of the power of rule by desk. “Interpreting
the act of writing as functioning merely to record or commemorate
real bureaucratic activity,” Gupta elaborates, “prevents one from
seeing that writing is not just a by-product of the routes of state
officials but is constitutive of states.”
The implications of such an approach are far-reaching. As illus -
trated by the two lists that opened this chapter, we begin to grasp
e salience of bureaucratic procedures on day-to-day life within
Democratic Kampuchea. Issues of trade relations and foreign
policies interact in complex ways with the physical labor involved
in agriculture, and both presented immediate security concerns for
the CPK. Hence, invoices of peanuts and coffee beans, when juxta-
posed with lists of suspected malcontents, call attention to the
eryday scalar politics that connect bureaucracies both within and
beyond Democratic Kampuchea. Without this contextual under -
standing, particular institutions that comprise the Khmer Rouge
curity apparatus, such as S-21, appear indeed as ad hoc organiza -
tions within a chaotic political environment. Conversely, by
positioning the nascent ministries and departments of
Democratic Kampuchea within a materialist framework—as
understood by the CPK—it becomes possible to more fully articu -
late the calculative power of bureaucratic rule.
Into the Darkness
When the Khmer Rouge stood victorious on the streets of Phnom
Penh in April 1975, they constituted neither a centralized, efficient
political party nor military force. Their victory was the haphazard
by-product of the culmination of a series of concurrent revolutions,
armed conflicts, and geopolitical machinations. The leadership of
the CPK understood their tenuous hold on power and lack of wide-
spread popular support, let alone loyalty. More to the point, after five
ars of struggle, not only was the Party still a formal secret, but
most of the population was unaware of the main leaders or overar -
ching objectives of the Khmer Rouge.
1 To this was added a pervasive
layer of mistrust among senior leaders of the CPK with respect to the
Cambodian citizenry. This is seen most clearly in the fundamental
distinction between so-called new people and base people put
forward by the Khmer Rouge. In a series of meetings held August 20–24, 1975, members of the
CPK discussed the status and future of their socialist revolution.
Minutes of the meetings reveal four broad topics of discussion,
followed by a series of recommendations. First, it was noted that
unequal living conditions between base and new people were clearly
apparent. For the base people, shelters had been prepared and, for
the most part, there was no shortage of food or medicine, except for
those living in outlying districts. Here, it was noted, many base
people were suffering from diseases. For the new people, conversely,
there was a lack of both food and medicine. Overall, the minutes
conclude: “Most people feel warmth being with the revolution and
are active in [the] country’s building movement and crops diversifi -
3 Second, regarding the enemy situation, it was
noted that there had not yet been any military action on behalf of
Thailand, although some “Thais illegally came about 3 kilometers
into our territory to cultivate rice.” 4 To this, an unnamed cadre
stated, “We are seeking to smash them.” More pressing were
possible internal activities, as the report explains: “They have their
secret connections contacting each other from one place to another.
. . . There are still some persons in our line who have not been com -
pletely screened. And they use those individuals to lead people to
cape. We have successfully arrested some of them and are
carrying out more searches.” Third, an update on the Khmer
Rouge’s military situation is provided. It was noted, for example,
that from a political standpoint, consciousness and solidarity of the
soldiers was not a problem, but there was a lack of hammocks and
mosquito nets. Fourth, the economic condition is discussed. Rice
was actively being planted, both on old land (meaning existing rice
fields) and on new land. Water management remained a concern, as
fields around Pursat were badly short of water while the area around
Sisophon was receiving too much water. Beyond rice cultivation,
cotton and hemp were planted and hemp-weaving factories were
established. Tractor-repair factories were also becoming opera -
tional in Mongkul Borei and Thmar Kol. An
gkar’s guiding opinions are presented in the second half of
the minutes. With respect to national defense, the resolution of the
political situation of people is deemed crucial. Echoing Lenin’s
remarks that “our task is not to degrade the revolutionaries to the
level of an amateur, but to exalt the amateur to the level of a revolu -
t ion a r y,”
5 the CPK determined that “the importance is to settle [the]
political situation of people by making them stable-minded and
become united with revolutionary authorities.”
6 The meeting
minutes continue that “The revolutionary authorities must . . .
control people in all areas—politics, consciousness, and assign -
7 The means to this end was through the continued use of
collectives: “People are strong only when collectives are strong.” 8
Accordingly, “the issue of people’s living standards within collec -
tives must be resolved. Even with new people, we have to help
prove their living conditions so that they will be satisfied with
9 The building of socialism, in other words, was to
Into the Darkness
be an ongoing process. Recommendations were provided also for
economic activities, ranging from the need to relocate workers to
areas suffering from labor shortages to the continued need to
manage water more effectively.
The meeting minutes of August 20–24, 1975, provide insight
into the CPK’s day-to-day concerns and practice, but especially the
prevailing security concerns about two interrelated threats.
Externally, CPK officials worried about armed intervention by
outside powers, notably Vietnam or the United States, and inter -
nally by suspected traitors and saboteurs. The security fears
ticulated by the CPK were viewed as mutually reinforcing, in
that the CPK leadership feared the presence of spies working from
within. To a certain extent, these concerns are understandable,
although not necessarily justifiable. The long years of revolution
were marked by repeated instances of betrayal. The Vietnamese
Communists continually expected their Khmer counterparts to
work with Sihanouk; Sihanouk, in turn, supported Lon Nol in the
targeting and killing of Khmer revolutionaries. It is perhaps
expected, therefore, that treasonous activities would emerge as the
most dreaded security threat facing the fledgling CPK. What is
remarkable are the methods employed by key officials within the
CPK in their pursuit of traitors, for behind the massive death toll is
a rudimentary bureaucracy that systematized the arrest, detain -
ment, torture, and execution of hundreds of thousands of men,
men, and children. It is this bureaucratic element that warrants
In this chapter I consider broadly the Khmer Rouge security
apparatus and, in so doing, accentuate the necropolitics of bureau -
cratic governance that came to typify Democratic Kampuchea. I do
s o w
ith a particular purpose in mind: to articulate more precisely
the CPK legal order as a mode of governance buttressed by the
practice of lethal surveillance.
10 Following Katherine Kindervater,
lethal surveillance marks the imbrication of myriad surveillance
techniques with the sovereign right to kill. Practices of lethal sur -
veillance thus appear at the intersection of knowledge
oduction—of monitoring, classifying, and codifying suspected
enemies—and the practice of law enforcement, that is, the arrest,
detainment, interrogation, and execution of enemies.
Law, Legal Orders, and the CPK
What distinguishes legal order from spontaneous social order? 11
Many scholars of Democratic Kampuchea have formed a consen -
sus that the country had no law or legal system. Helen Fein, for
example, states that when the CPK came to power, “they imposed
totalitarian rule without law.”
12 Anthony Barnett concludes that
“there was no public law or Party regulation to safeguard, even by
process let alone appeal, the lives of ordinary Cambodians from
the authority of their local rulers.”
13 These assessments are not
necessarily mistaken as they are incomplete. To be certain, there
were no judges, juries, or lawyers. Nor did the CPK establish
courts of law or even lawbooks. The absence of these, however,
does not necessarily correspond with the conclusion that the
country was lawless. Consequently, our interpretation of the
Khmer Rouge security apparatus must necessarily grapple with
our understanding of law and the legal order.
Such an approach is not a gratuitous exercise in semantics; labels
matter. Thus, we may agree on the aforementioned observable
facts—that throughout Democratic Kampuchea, there were no
judges or juries, no lawyers or courts of law; and that people were
arrested without due cause, were not put on trial, and had no chance
for appeal. For some, the conclusion is straightforward. There was
no law in Democratic Kampuchea and, by extension, we surmise
that the country experienced a condition of lawlessness. Stated
thusly, we are obliged to evaluate and interpret all activities, for
example, the arrests, tortures, forced confessions, and executions
from this vantage point. Other observers point to Democratic Kampuchea’s Constitution,
written between December 15 and 19, 1975, and promulgated on
January 5, 1976. Likewise, one might identify the CPK’s Statutes,
also promulgated in January 1976. From this vantage point, a differ -
ent legal landscape begins to appear. Here, an incipient legal order
Into the Darkness
is perceptible, thereby altering our subsequent analysis. Indeed,
rather than conceding that chaos reigned throughout Democratic
Kampuchea, one is forced to ask why the legal system was not fully
developed and why the fundamental rights, however minimal,
established throughout the Constitution and Statutes, were not
upheld.How we define the Khmer Rouge legal order matters greatly. For
many scholars, a “legal order is defined by the existence of the insti -
tutions that characterize modern western democracies; namely,
ntralized production of legal rules by legislatures and courts
combined with centralized coercive enforcement of those rules by
duly constituted governments.”
14 However, following Gillian
Hadfield and Barry Weingast, it is possible “to develop an account
of legal order that does not presume that legal order is character -
ized, necessarily, by the types of institutions we see today in modern
veloped nation states: courts, legislatures, police, and so on.” 15
The benefits of doing so include a more robust analysis of both
policy and practice. Accordingly, I begin with the presumption that
an operational objective of the CPK was to establish a legal order.
By extension, this legal order was, from the position of the CPK, to
be derived dialectically with the overall materialist grounding of
Democratic Kampuchea’s political economy. In effect, Democratic
Kampuchea’s legal order must be contextualized within a frame -
work of historical materialism.
There is no singular Marxist legal theory. That being said, certain
commonalities exist, especially among those theories informed by
Lenin. Both law and the legal order are held as epiphenomena of a
capitalist society; accordingly, the legal order—much like the
state—is a bourgeois institution that represents the class rule of
society. The Soviet Marxist theorist Evgeny Pashukanis, for
example, held that law was the codification of capitalist social rela -
tions in legal form. Law was thus distinct from administration,
ich, under socialism, emphasizes duties rather than rights, the
common good rather than formal equality, the collective rather
than individuals, and unity of purpose rather than resolution of
conflicts of interests.
17 Notable also is the assertion among certain
Marxist legal theorists that law itself will cease to be necessary fol-
lowing the collapse of the capitalist state. The C
onstitution as drafted by members of the CPK included
both duties and rights. Article 12, for example, declares that “Every
citizen of Kampuchea enjoys full rights to a constantly improving
material, spiritual, and cultural life.”
18 It continues that “Every
citizen of Democratic Kampuchea is guaranteed a living. All
workers are the masters of their factories. All peasants are the
masters of the rice paddies and fields. All other laborers have the
right to work. There is absolutely no unemployment in Democratic
K a mpuche a .”
19 Inalienable rights were apparently guaranteed also
in Article 13: “There must be complete equality among all
Kampuchean people in an equal, just, democratic, harmonious,
and happy society within the great national solidarity for defending
and building the country together.”
20 The question of religious
rights was ambiguously stated in the Constitution. Article 20 states
that “Every citizen of Kampuchea has the right to worship accord -
ing to any religion and the right not to worship according to any
igion.” However, the article continues that “Reactionary religions
which are detrimental to Democratic Kampuchea and Kampuchean
people are absolutely forbidden.”
21 It is perhaps no surprise that the
phrase “reactionary religions” was undefined in the Constitution.
In practice, it is clear that any religion, including Buddhism and
Islam, were considered reactionary and therefore prohibited. Justus
van der Kroef writes that “Yun Yat reportedly told a group of
visiting Yugoslav journalists in April 1978 that ‘Buddhism is incom -
patible with revolution’ because it was an instrument of
ploitation.” 22 Particular duties were also specified in the
Constitution. Article 14 declares that “It is the duty of all to defend
and build the country together in accordance with individual
ability and potential.”
Two articles pertain specifically to justice or what we may term
the legal order. Article 9 states that “Justice is administered by
people’s courts, representing and defending the people’s justice,
defending the democratic rights and liberties of the people, and
condemning any activities directed against the people’s State or
Into the Darkness
violating the laws of the people’s State. The judges at all levels will be
chosen and appointed by the People’s Representative Assembly.” 24
At least two issues related to Article 9 are problematic. First, the
PRA never met following its initial establishment in April 1976.
Whether the CPK intended the PRA to be purely symbolic, or that
when the Constitution was drafted in December 1975, it was the
CPK’s intent to hold elections is not known with any degree of cer -
tainty. Article 5 of the Constitution did affirm that legislative power
uld be invested in the representative assembly of the people, the
PRA, and that members of the assembly would be “elected by the
people through direct and prompt general elections by secret ballot
to be held throughout the country every five years.”
Kampuchea, of course, collapsed in less than four years. Second,
there is no indication that people’s courts were established or that
judges were appointed throughout the administrative hierarchy of
Democratic Kampuchea. Again, it is unclear if the CPK ever
intended for these procedures to be followed or if the purges that
transpired especially from 1976 onward negated an initial commit -
ment to a people’s democracy. In effect, one is left unsure as to how
e Constitution should be assessed: Is this document illustrative of
an operational objective or an official objective? Does the
Constitution give weight to the argument that an embryonic legal
order was developing, or that the leadership of the CPK drafted the
document as an elaborate form of propaganda? Article 9 condemns activities that are directed against the
people’s state and in violation of the laws of the people’s state.
Article 10, curiously, does not specify what these activities may be,
although certain forms of punishment are indicated: “Dangerous
activities in opposition to the people’s State must be condemned to
the highest degree,” and “Other cases are subject to constructive
re-education in the framework of the State’s or people’s organiza -
t ion s .”
26 Article 10, in other words, provides the clearest exposition
of the CPK’s approach to justice. Those activities determined to be
in opposition to the state are to be “condemned to the highest
degree.” The Constitution is conspicuously silent as to the form of
such opposition; however, regardless of how opposition is defined,
one can only interpret Article 10 as a codification of capital punish-
ment. The second clause indicates that punishment beyond the
ghest degree involves constructive reeducation that would take
place at some undetermined level of authority. Taken together, it is possible to see the coordinates of a particu -
lar legal order emerging, namely, we see evidence that the CPK
ught to utilize the legal system to facilitate a productive and effi -
cient economic system; implement an effective system of governance
sed on democratic centralism; and ensure the protection of the
rights of individuals and groups to decent treatment, security, and
27 No doubt these elements were tinged with a draco -
nian sense of fairness and equality. However, it is this budding legal
der, and its bureaucratic manifestation, that underscore the
purges that transpired. This is made clear through an investigation
of the CPK Statutes developed concurrently with the drafting and
adoption of the Constitution. The Statutes reaffirm and elaborate on the ideas expressed in the
Constitution. Statute 6, for example, holds that “The Party must
have high-level revolutionary vigilance toward all enemy activities
and trickery, direct or indirect, overt or secret, which have the
intent to destroy the Party by every means. All Party organizations
and every Party member, must always be good and clean and be
pure politically, ideologically, and organizationally, by building a
clear, clean, and pure personal history, consecutively and con -
s t a nt l y.”
28 This Statute is informative in that it provides greater
detail as to the form of dangerous activities and accentuates the
importance of personal biographies. Indeed, the direct reference to
one’s personal history indicates that biopolitical data would serve as
prima facie evidence. In practice, of course, there was no opportu -
nity for those men and women arrested to establish their innocence.
A s t
o the dangerous activities, Statute 6 clarifies that “The Party
absolutely opposes any political, ideological, or organizational vio -
lation of organizational discipline through independentism,
beralism, sectarianism, or nepotism, which destroys Party soli -
darity and unity, and absolutely opposes any creation of cliques to
eak up the Party.” 29 A cursory reading of this statement leaves one
Into the Darkness
with the impression that any disagreement, however slight, of the
Party would be construed as a grave violation. Security for
Democratic Kampuchea was predicated thusly on an extreme form
of either being for or against the Party. There was no middle ground.
If any word spoken or action taken was determined to be in contra-
diction to the Party, swift punishment to the highest degree would
b e m
There is also a subtler significance to Statute 6. The clue is found
in the phrase that the CPK “absolutely opposes any creation of
cliques to break up the Party.” 30 I read in this statement an explicit
admission that even as of January 1976, the CPK feared the exis -
tence of organized social networks. To be so clearly articulated in
e Statutes provides insight into the conspiratorial fears expressed
by certain members of the CPK. When read in concert with the
need to establish clear, clean, and pure personal histories, the
administrative dimensions of the CPK’s legal order are further
Hadfield and Weingast suggest that, at a minimum, a legal
order exists if (1) there is an identifiable entity that deliberately
supplies a normative classification scheme that designates some
actions as wrongful (punishable, undesirable); and (2) actors, as a
consequence of the classification scheme, forego wrongful actions
to a significant extent.
31 Both the Constitution and the Statutes
establish to a limited degree a normative classification scheme that
designates acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. To what extent
and how were these norms transmitted throughout Democratic
Kampuchea? The answers are embedded within the territorial
structure of CPK administration. As detailed in the previous
chapter, governance in Democratic Kampuchea was premised on
democratic centralism and organized hierarchically. Both of these
parameters are spelled out in the Statutes. The aforementioned
Statute 6 explains that “The Party absolutely respects and imple -
ments democratic centralism. The Party has a single firm
organizational discipline, with each individual being self-aware,
aiming to incite the combat spirit of the Party members and
aiming to well-maintain Party solidarity and internal unity
absolutely and firmly, politically, ideologically, and organization-
a l l y.” 32 In other words, each Party member was to adhere in strict
obedience to the Party line. Such an approach, theoretically,
departs from more traditional understandings of democratic cen -
tralism, in which workers within society, for example, are to have
equal input into decision-making processes. For the CPK, demo -
cratic centralism translated into the dissemination of decisions
made predominantly (but not always exclusively) by the Central
(or, more precisely, the Standing) Committee.
The transmission of Party policy and planning documents—in
short, the circulation of information materialized—occurred
through the hierarchy of branches, communes, district, sectors,
and zones. Each territorially based division had, according to CPK
Statutes, its own operational objectives and bureaucratic functions.
Article 9 of the Statutes stipulates that “Each revolutionary cooper -
ative, factory, military company-level unit, worksite, and
nistry-Office may organize a Party Branch.” 33 Branch-level units
were important as these entities had the most direct contact with
the populace of Democratic Kampuchea. For that reason, the tasks
of any branch-level unit was first to “Proselytize the popular masses
with specific plans and programs in its areas, in the unions and
cooperatives and in the Revolutionary Army, regarding political
lines, ideological principles and stances, and organizational lines,
according to the task of national defense and the construction of
Democratic Kampuchea, in the Party stance of class struggle of
socialist revolution and in building socialism.”
34 Effectively, branch-
level units were to transmit Party policy to base people, new people,
and Party members; crucial also to this function was to situate
political education within the broader political economy and
security of the Party, the revolution, and the state. In this manner
the legal order was in principle to be disseminated throughout the
country. In this manner all men, women, and children were again,
in principle, to be informed of normative behaviors, of actions
deemed right or wrong. Operationally, officials at the branch level
were to continually screen Party members, maintain a system of
Into the Darkness
reporting to upper echelons, and hold regular meetings in order to
attend to their tasks.District-level units were given similar responsibilities. Officials
from the district level were to make regular visits to the branch-
level units, provide guidance as to the implementation of policy,
and remain vigilant in their pursuit of national defense and building
socialism. Article 13 states also that district-level officials were to
“Constantly and tightly grasp the Branches, cadres, and Party
members along with all the core organizations of the District in
regards to personal histories. . . .”
35 From this we see the deepening
of the CPK’s legal order, but especially how biographies were inter -
woven throughout society. Branch-level units were to observe,
nitor, and evaluate those people under their jurisdiction.
Information on suspicious behaviors, conceived as anything in
opposition to the Party line, was to be documented in telegrams
and letters, to be sent up the chain of command. These procedures
of information transmission, of relaying decisions from officials
above to subordinates below, and of reporting on conditions below
to superiors above, were replicated at both the sector level and zone
level. Sector-level committee members were to regularly visit
district and branch units, facilitate in the implementation of tasks,
and monitor and report on security risks through the compilation
and evaluation of personal biographies. Zone-level committees
were to regularly visit sector-, district-, and branch-level units for
the same reasons. The socio-material organization of Democratic Kampuchea was
a direct reflection of democratic centralism.
36 As Herbert
Schurmann explains, “The operation of the principle of centralism
has seen the creation of a web of organization with vertical chains
of command which ultimately merge, like the apex of a pyramid, at
the very top.”
37 In theory, throughout Democratic Kampuchea, each
political division, including cooperatives, was to be self-reliant and
autonomous—a structure colleagues and I identify elsewhere as
38 In practice, flows of information, supplies,
and so on were channeled hierarchically through respective
three-person committees, with ultimate control overseen by the
Standing Committee of the CPK. Lower-level cadre—for example,
those governing at the district level—were required to channel all
requests via messenger or telegram to their immediate supervisors
at the regional level; these cadres, in turn, would forward the
requests to the zone level, where they would then be routed (often
via telegram) to the relevant ministries of the CPK. In broad strokes,
zone-level committees communicated with the Central Party by
telegraph and courier; face-to-face meetings also occurred, as zone-
level officials were required to engage in various meetings in Phnom
Penh. As one moved down the chain of command, however, forms
of communication became more interpersonal. Telegraphs and
couriers were still employed, especially between zone-level and
tor-level members; below this, however, communication was
conducted mostly face to face. Indeed, Etcheson notes that relatively
few examples of written communications between the district level
and lower echelons exist. Particularly at the branch level, commu -
nication was largely oral. On the one hand, officials working at the
anch levels were generally in close proximity; on the other hand,
there was a high degree of illiteracy among these officials, making
written communication difficult. Written communication, trans -
mitted usually by messenger, did take place, however, including the
rwarding of biographies or queries regarding the disposition of
detained enemies. One may speculate, therefore, that information
deemed most crucial to the security of the Party and the state was
inscribed in written form.
There were to be no horizontal relations. For example, a district
secretary in the Northwest Zone was not permitted to request
supplies from a neighboring district secretary, also located in the
Northwest Zone. He or she would (in theory) have to route the
request through the Zone Committee (and hence to the Standing
Committee) before it would be rerouted to the other district cadre.
This form of socio-spatial organization appears exceptionally
inefficient and cumbersome, but also belies the common misper -
ception that the CPK disdained bureaucratic procedures. The
importance, both in practice and in theory, should not be
Into the Darkness
overlooked or discounted. On a practical side, the Standing
Committee of the CPK was able to keep tabs on almost everything
that happened throughout the country. This enabled the top
echelon to more effectively centralize its authority and to enact
sweeping transformations of the country, for the centralism of
democratic centralism “arises from the fact that decisions of a
higher-level party organization are always binding on lower party
bodies and every party member.”
As in the Soviet Union and China, leaders of the CPK recog-
nized the inherent problems and contradictions of democratic
ntralism, notably the disconnect between democracy (under -
stood as free and full participation of the masses) and centralism
hat is, the concentration of decision-making power by those at the
apex of the political hierarchy). How, for example, are disagree -
ments between levels resolved? What democratic or participatory
les are provided for the majority of citizens who are not Party
The CPK’s awareness of these problems is evidenced in various
documents, notably a December 20, 1976, report on activities of the
Party Center. In reference to efforts to build political consciousness,
the report reads: “We have nourished political consciousness, pro -
letarian patriotism and proletarian internationalism. We have also
urished dialectical materialism as a basis. . . . Proletarian patri -
otic consciousness and proletarian internationalism can transform
ople’s nature into something new. As for the problem of nurtur -
ing a Marxist-Leninist viewpoint, we should allow this to seep in
cording to our chosen methods.” 42 The report indicates, however,
that “complete mastery” was not yet attained, as “We have strug -
gled to institute a leadership stance consistent with democratic
tralism.” 43 What was the cause of these struggles? The report
clarifies that “We have purified the surface of the Party and the key
organizations to a large extent”—a clear reference to the ongoing
purges that had taken place over the previous twenty months. The
problem was that the Party was unable to “expand key organiza -
tions or . . . only expand them slightly.”
44 Party leaders, as evidenced
by this report, expressed concern with the expansion of members
who exhibited the proper political consciousness. The concern was
that insufficient numbers of citizens had attained the political
maturity necessary, from the CPK’s vantage point, to fully partici-
pate in governance. Solutions proposed included the widespread
e of life histories and mandatory study sessions. According to the
report, it was thought that membership could expand by 40 percent
within the first half of 1977; however, the report cautioned that “If
someone’s life history isn’t good, don’t enroll him in the Party, no
matter what size [is in his favor].”
The enforcement of the law, so to speak, assumed a decidedly
more nebulous process. Andrew Mertha finds that zone leaders
appear to have significant control over their jurisdictions. Indeed,
these officials “were extraordinarily powerful right up until the
moment they were not.”
46 Mertha concludes that administrative
levels below the zone were more akin to implementing bodies than
47 Arguably, the most important decision
was that of capital punishment: the right to execute an individual
deemed guilty of the most serious crimes. Here, caution must be
taken. We know what the documents indicate; we are less sure
when it comes to actual practice. The Constitution, for example,
specifies that judges were to be nominated and appointed at all
levels of governance; presumably, these judges would have deter -
mined the guilt or innocence of those accused. This did not
ppen. Indeed, no concrete evidence exists that any judges were
ever appointed. Rather, decision-making power remained in the
hands of the tripartite committees that were in place at all levels.
Evidence suggests, furthermore, that zone-level officials were con -
siderably more autonomous in their ability to make decisions, and
at officials occupying the lower echelons implemented the deci -
sions rendered from above.
It is apparent that the Central Committee was well aware of the
problem—especially as it related to capital punishment. On March
30, 1976, the Central Committee authorized “The right to smash,
inside and outside the ranks.”
48 This document is generally
considered to be the clearest example of a smoking gun in that it
purports to establish the bureaucratic hierarchy by which people
Into the Darkness
could be executed. Accordingly, the ability to smash—that is, to
execute people—was “to be decided by the Zone Standing
49 In other words, targeted killings were to be
determined by the three-person committee at the zone level.
Significantly, no specific protocols are provided that might shed
insight into the decision-making process. The accused person was
not to stand before the committee, nor was there any form of legal
representation. It appears that decisions were made primarily (if
not exclusively) on the paper trail that accrued and circulated
throughout the various bureaucratic levels.
The March 30, 1976, memo thus indicates but does not readily
explicate myriad protocols for the sanctioned killing of suspected
enemies. For those accused men and women who staffed the
various units, offices, and ministries in support of the Party
Center, decisions were to be rendered by the Central Office
Committee. Conversely, those accused who worked in other
sectors were to be judged by the Standing Committee. Lastly, the
fate of those in the military accused of crimes was to be decided
upon by the General Staff.
Documentary evidence indicates that members of the zone level
had the authority to smash people. Further evidence details that
those members holding office in the upper echelon, notably the
Standing Committee, were kept abreast of these actions. On July 18,
1976, for example, the secretary of Sector 103, Bu Phat (alias Hang),
sent a telegram to “Beloved and Missed Brother,” and copied it to
Nuon Chea, Son Sen, and Ieng Sary. The telegram states that ten
men “were already smashed” based on a preliminary investigation,
and that sector leaders would be conducting “a further detailed
investigation.” The telegram also details the activities of a man
named Yeuang, who was allegedly part of a larger conspiratorial
network, all of whom were themselves suspected of traitorous
activities and trickery.
51 Relatedly, Etcheson cites a weekly report
from “401” (an alias for West Zone Secretary Chou Chet) to Angkar
dated August 4, 1978, whereupon “100 Vietnamese people—small
and big, young and old—have been smashed” along with 60 other
ordinary people who have been smashed. And as a final example,
on May 11, 1978, Moul Sambath (alias Ros Nhim), secretary of the
Northwest Zone, reported to Office 870 that numerous enemies
suspected of assorted offenses had been smashed, and that other
problems had been “solved.” Several measures were in place to
combat the criminal elements, including ongoing investigations
and the additional smashing of even more enemies.
52 In total, these
documents confirm that the zone leadership had the authority to
carry out mass executions, and that the zone kept the upper echelon
informed of these decisions.
53 Evidence further reveals that officials
at lower levels of governance, including both district-level and
commune-level members, were given, or assumed, the authority to
smash people, in violation of the memo of March 30, 1976. In June
1977, for example, a
chhlop unit in the East Zone’s Sector 22
detained a man accused of being a former military officer under
Lon Nol and arrested his wife. The telegram reports that the man
was “taken out” and presumably smashed.
Secrecy and Surveillance
The political economy of Democratic Kampuchea placed the
majority of the population between the grasp of two powerful
forces: a demand for surplus rice and agricultural inputs that jus -
tified draconian labor policies on the one hand and a rationing
system that winnowed away every excess grain of rice on the
55 For workers, the result was an institutional arrangement
that could not (and would not) respond to deteriorating condi -
tions as these became more pronounced. As people became
weakened through malnutrition, starvation, and disease, their
work productivity declined. When productivity declined, local
cadres were forced to appropriate ever greater quantities of rice to
satisfy quotas established by officials at the upper echelons.
Cooperative chiefs had to answer to district superiors; district
secretaries had to answer to sector secretaries; and sector secre -
taries had to answer to zone secretaries. It was inevitable that
perceived failures occurring at one level would reverberate up and
down the administrative hierarchy. The subsequent uneven
Into the Darkness
conditions and mortality rates across Democratic Kampuchea
reflect in part the varied responses of zone-, sector-, district-, and
While members of the Standing Committee made statements of
abundance, militias and members of the Santebal (secret police)
arrested, tortured, and executed those who complained about lack
57 Documents describe people being arrested for stealing
food or merely complaining about insufficient rations. Such pun -
ishment was not confined to the masses. CPK leaders purged local
cials who admitted that starvation was occurring in their areas.
As the food crises deepened, the CPK blamed traitorous and inept
cadres across the hierarchy of undermining the food production
apparatus. This security discourse of internal enemies and traitors
and saboteurs seemingly justified the CPK’s intensification and
expansion of surveillance, imprisonment, and execution.
As surveillance practices became entrenched throughout
Democratic Kampuchea, so too did paranoia and the circulation
of conspiracy theories among the upper echelons of the CPK.
Chapter 1 I introduced Anne McClintock ’s analytical usage of
paranoia as “a way of seeing and being attentive to contradictions
within power, a way of making visible . . . the contradictory flash -
points of violence that the state tries to conceal.”
60 Thus, while it is
commonly understood that paranoid fantasies form a constant
marker of the urge of absolute power, the paradox is that such
paranoia emanates from a position of insecurity.
61 Jonathan Bach
explains that the “archetype of the ruler is . . . also always an
archetype of a survivor. Practically speaking, the ruler is always
more vulnerable if left exposed, and thus must constantly create
the conditions that forestall a likely death at the hands of enemies,
rival, and troublemakers.”
62 It is no small leap to see how the
survival of the ruler may be transferred to the survival of the
Party, the revolution, and the state. Indeed, a common refrain
among members of the Standing Committee was to ensure the
continuance of revolution and the security of the Party. While
addressing a meeting of secretaries and deputy secretaries of
military divisions on August 30, 1976, for example, Son Sen
explained that it was necessary to “Give additional education
about the spirit of vigilance. Do not allow pacifism. Give educa-
tion about the enemies’ tricks so that brothers and sisters will be
informed thereof and will not be fooled by them.” He continued
that “it is imperative to take further educational measures and to
administer and organize well. Enemy situations will exist one
after the other but they won’t be at all powerful; as long as we are
vigilant we will certainly be able to fend them off.”
63 Later, when
meeting with officials of Division 703 and staff from S-21 on
September 9, 1976, Son Sen warned that it was necessary to
“Heighten the outlook of revolutionary vigilance in view of the
increasingly very sharp contradictions and the ever strong class
hatred of the enemies of the Kampuchean revolution.”
Organizationally, comrades were to “firmly grasp biographies and
ideologies” and to increase “surveillance of enemy situations.”
A series of meeting minutes between division and regiment
secretaries and members of the upper echelon of Angkar illus -
trate not only the deepening suspicion of Party cadre but also the
vigilance by which cadre performed their duties. Overall, the
minutes present an overview of “enemy activities” and subsequent
opinions and directives issued by Son Sen. On September 16,
1976, for example, Comrade Voeung reports that three days
earlier, a female cadre named Moeun was arrested for committing
a “moral offense with a guard.” Comrade Pin likewise informs the
leadership that eight people suspected of attempting to flee were
captured. Comrade Nat recounts that three soldiers from Division
502 had been detained and requested they be sent to Phnom Penh.
Comrade Tat, lastly, confirms that a man named Neou was
arrested. In response, Son Sen provides his own assessment and
interpretation of various enemy activities, including the existence
of traitorous networks, many of which had connections with
Soviet, Vietnamese, and American intelligence agencies. He notes
that during the war, the Party did not always “select good people.”
The deputy prime minister for defense then implores the division
secretaries to “Investigate soldiers’ biography carefully, especially
the new members.”
65 On that same day Son Sen met with other
Into the Darkness
cadres, including Duch, commandant of S-21; Ieng Sary, deputy
prime minister of foreign affairs; and Sam Huoy (alias Meas Tall),
secretary of Division 290. Comrade Sam Huoy opened the
meeting with a report on enemy activities. He notes that near the
village of Neak Loeung, a person “coming to steal rice” was
detained. Later that night the prisoner attempted to escape and
was shot and killed. And while Sam Huoy laments that they were
unable to interrogate the prisoner beforehand, he is pleased to
provide updated information on additional arrests and of people
under observation. Son Sen replies that these activities were con-
nected to the existence of various suspected traitorous networks.
Accordingly, Son Sen provides a list of four names to Sam Huoy,
who was instructed to conduct additional investigations. Duch
also provides a list of twenty-nine men and two women, all of
whom were to be arrested and sent to S-21. These named individ -
uals were in addition to another eleven people, whose fate had
been determined at a meeting held the day before. Secrecy was
essential, Duch reminded everyone, explaining that it is neces -
sary to “Do whatever to take these people without making their
unit fall into chaotic situation, learn and understand about the
situation, and do it secretly.” On a practical note, Duch concludes
that guards from S-21 and Division 690 would “collaborate and
arrest those [forty] people from their unit and load them onto the
truck.” Almost as an afterthought, Duch mentions that “As for the
two women, we can deal with them later on.”
These documents are telling in that they demonstrate the delib -
erations that took place behind the purges. Key officials throughout
e bureaucratic hierarchy met and discussed events, exchanged
lists, and made decisions as to the fate of suspected men and women.
Orders would subsequently be issued and disseminated, possibly
through telegram or courier, or, perhaps more likely, face to face.
These orders would specify which unit was responsible for coordi -
nating arrests and how precisely the moment of capture would take
ace. Collectively it becomes apparent how the materiality of infor -
mation facilitated subsequent actions and, in principle, would
able lower-level functionaries to claim later that they were simply
following orders. However, many of these ordinary bureaucrats
would also find themselves at the mercy of the same documents
they prepared, filed, and circulated.Over time, fear would permeate the CPK’s governmental hierar -
chy: zone-level committees would watch sector-level committees;
ctor-level committees would watch district-level committees; and
so on down the chain of command. In this manner paranoia
diffused spatially throughout society, contributing to a peculiar
geography of suspicion and mistrust. As Harper explains, “When
suspicion is a condition of surveillance, any comment on that sur -
veillance embroils the speaker in suspicion—their own—and they
e thus positioned as paranoid.” This is fatally revealed in the testi -
mony of Kim Vun. During the period of Democratic Kampuchea
le, Kim Vun worked in various subunits associated with the
Ministry of Propaganda and Information. His wife, Chim Nary,
also occupied many positions that placed her in regular contact
with high-ranking officials, including Yun Yat, then deputy secre -
tary of the Ministry of Education. At some point, in late 1977 or
rly 1978, a number of associates, including three men named
Pang, Kat, and Chhay, disappeared. Kim Vun recalls telling his
wife, “You need to be careful because you worked with them; be
careful not to get involved.” He also told her, perhaps naively, that
because both of them worked with members close to the Party
Center and were known by so many senior officials, she could never
be taken away and killed. Kim Vun was wrong in his assessment of
Party loyalty, and his optimism that the Khmer Rouge bureaucracy
would look after its own was gravely misplaced. Chim Nary and
their twelve-month-old daughter were approached by a man on a
motorbike. Kim Vun remembers waiting throughout the night for
his wife and daughter to return, but when morning arrived, his
family was still missing. At the Ministry of Propaganda and
Education offices, Kim Vun asked about his wife and child, and was
informed that they had been taken to attend a study session.
Dissatisfied with the vague response, Kim Vun went up the chain of
command to Yun Yat. She replied simply that he had “No need to
know about that now.” Perhaps because of his questioning, Kim
Into the Darkness
Vun was himself sent to attend a political study session for two
weeks. It was only after this period of bureaucratic purgatory that
Yun Yat informed him that his wife had been arrested because she
was linked to a CIA network. Kim Vun would never see his wife or
Secrecy, surveillance, and violent enforcement of the Party and
revolution predated the CPK’s victory on April 17, 1975. However,
documentary evidence illustrates a deepening of biopolitical
concerns, especially throughout 1976. My sense is that having
attained victory, the CPK leadership became even more insecure in
not wanting to lose what they had already achieved. Consequently,
we witness an expansion of the scale and scope of direct violence.
As Bach suggests, “power as survival consists not only of forestall -
ing death, but of creating it.”
68 It was incumbent upon the upper
echelon to be vigilant in the compilation of personal biographies, in
the education of proper political ideology, and in the surveillance of
its population for indications of betrayal or sabotage. Those holding
positions of authority were to be anticipatory in their outlook, in
order to forestall any possible enemy activity before it took place. The ability to command the death of others enhances the effect
69 In Democratic Kampuchea, the public display of
torture and execution at the branch level served to reify the author -
ity of Angkar. This is succinctly described by Haing Ngor: “The
ldiers took captives morning and afternoon. Instead of marching
them away immediately, the soldiers made public examples of them,
tying them to trees and shouting to anyone who would listen what
they had done wrong.”
70 However, not all acts were visible. Many, in
fact, took place in secrecy—a procedure that elevated a sense of fear
and insecurity among the populace. Indeed, it was commonplace
that men, women, and children simply disappeared. Sreytouch
Svay-Ryser was only seven years old when the Khmer Rouge came
to power. Forced to leave Phnom Penh and move to a collective in
Battambang, Svay-Ryser recalls the constant fear that Angkar
would discover her brother had previously served in the Lon Nol
army. She writes: “We knew that any time or at any hour Angkar
could come to get him. Angkar usually came and took people away
during the night. So when it got dark, we couldn’t sleep.” 71 Roeun
Sam was a teenager; she recalls the terror: “When night came I
always worried. I stayed up even when they told us to go to sleep.
Angkar walked around with a flashlight at night to see who was
asleep and who wasn’t. I was afraid that maybe next time it would
be me. I would die before I saw the sun rise. I had little rest, and
then I heard the whistle and inside I sighed, ‘Oh, I’m alive!’ I got up
and got in line. From one night to the next it was the same.”
“In a system of ubiquitous spying,” Hannah Arendt writes,
“everybody may be a police agent and each individual feels himself
under constant surveillance.”
73 Indeed, throughout Democratic
Kampuchea, an inescapable paranoia operated at multiple levels, as
those who were watching themselves became increasingly paranoid
of being watched. As Ngor writes, “People carried within them an
unspoken fear. They worried about their own survival, and they
didn’t trust anyone else, even their spouses.”
74 Ngor’s experiences
relate to what Mark Andrejevic describes as lateral surveillance: not
the top-down monitoring of employees by employers, or of citizens
by the state, but rather the peer-to-peer surveillance of spouses,
friends, and relatives.
75 At this point, the policing of society and
securing the state is off-loaded onto the citizenry. Such lateral sur -
veillance, however, continues to be tied to the monitoring of
thorities, who establish the bureaucratic guidelines for subjects
responsible for their own security, a responsibility that includes
keeping an eye on those around them.
One consequence of feeling watched is to render the subject
self-conscious and fearful. Knowledge of an omnipresent system of
surveillance is to induce paranoia whereby individuals begin to
monitor themselves. Hence, the paranoia evinced by those in posi -
tions of authorities permeates society, but it is a decidedly unequal
ranoia. In effect, those individuals who are subjected to practices
of surveillance engage in what Michel Foucault called “technologies
of the self.”
77 Here, technologies of the self include those practices
“which permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the
help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies
and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being.”
Into the Darkness
It is beyond the scope of this section to fully explicate the
nuances of Foucault’s argument. For our present purposes, I
consider the implications of Foucault’s argument within the context
of the bureaucratic governance of a surveillance society. In such an
environment, prison walls are not necessary to enforce discipline.
Rather, the threat of being watched, or of maintaining social
contacts with others, may be sufficient to induce a sense of personal
paranoia. Democratic Kampuchea was, in this sense, a terror
society. It was a society in which no one, including the senior leaders
of the CPK, felt secure. In short, the massive scale of state surveil -
lance meant that not only were all people aware of the possibility of
hers being informers, but also that others would view them as
79 In the beginning, men and women like Kim
Vun may have expressed optimism that Angkar would protect
them. In the end, few (if any) people would feel that way. With their
lives inscribed on paper, form-based prisoners to the ever-present
compilation of even more information on daily behaviors or social
relationships, they all came under suspicion and were subjected to
the possibility of arrest and execution. If Democratic Kampuchea was a terror society, it is not simply
because of the specter of physical violence, of random killings, rape,
and torture. It was also because Democratic Kampuchea was very
much a bureaucratic society. And it was this administrative compo -
nent that conditioned everyday life. According to Foucault, the
velopment of administrative structures and bureaucracies
increased the amount and role of writing in the political sphere.
Foucault elaborates that “Taking care of oneself became linked to
constant writing activity. The self is something to write about, a
theme or object (subject) of writing activity.”
80 Viewed from this
perspective, the obligation of everyone throughout Democratic
Kampuchea to prepare, on a repeated basis, personal biographies
assumes an added element of significance. For it was through the
composition and compilation of biographies that bureaucrats
throughout the governance structure maintained tabs on those
people under their jurisdiction. There was a legal order throughout
Democratic Kampuchea predicated upon a particular technology
of the self whereby all men and women were to divulge not only the
social networks in which they were allegedly embedded, but also
their thoughts and attitudes.In the next chapter I discuss in greater detail the torture-induced
confessions extracted from detainees at S-21 and other security
centers throughout Democratic Kampuchea. Before doing so,
however, it is necessary to emphasize that confessions were but one
form of documentary evidence the Khmer Rouge produced in
support of their conspiracy theories of traitorous networks. For
before any man or woman was arrested, tortured, and forced to
confess to crimes they did not commit, they were pressed to cast
suspicion upon themselves and others through acts of self-
incrimination. Drawing on Foucault, Ian Burkitt explains that the
experience of the self becomes intensified and widened in writing,
which is a technique for more detailed introspection. Through the
act of writing (or, in the case of illiteracy, transcription), the self can
become objectified in a different way than in speech, for the act of
writing sets down on paper one’s self. Burkitt concludes that
“writing is a technique of the self in which the self becomes more
stabilized as an object that can be set out in detail before oneself
and others and, in such an objective form, studied and analyzed.”
To summarize my argument thus far: through displacement,
forced labor, the imposition of inadequate food rations, and other
deprivations, the CPK negatively affected the material conditions of
the population and reduced their potential to survive. These tactics
of social reorganization established a structure of violence and a
condition of rule that contributed to the deaths of upward of two
million people. This systematic coproduction of violence—through
technologies like the food ration, the reorganization of Cambodia’s
space economy, and the instantiation of a security apparatus—sub -
jugated life to the threat of death, an expression of what Achille
necropower : “The generalized instrumentalization
of human existence and the material destruction of human bodies
82 The CPK implemented these policies not out of
insanity or impulsive cruelty, but because such policies were
rational to the imperatives of their particular political economy
Into the Darkness
based on the expansion and intensification of agricultural produc-
tivity and import substitution industrialization. 83 In the process,
the bureaucratic structure of governance throughout Democratic
Kampuchea induced myriad strategies of surveillance: a manage -
rial strategy, whereby superiors monitored the actions of their
ordinates; a lateral form of surveillance, whereby spouses,
friends, relatives, and coworkers monitored each other; and a form
of auto-surveillance, a technology of self, whereby men and women
self-surveilled through the writing of personal biographies.
Consequently, the structure of rule came to imitate the symptoms
of paranoia, which included a slowly developing mistrust, suspicion
of others, theories of a highly organized system that appears as a
conspiracy, fear of loss of autonomy, projective thinking, and
84 It is now possible to consider in greater detail the infra -
structure of the Khmer Rouge security apparatus.
The CPK’s Security Apparatus
In conventional accounts of CPK security, including but not
limited to those of S-21, scholars draw heavily on the writings of
Erving Goffman. In his influential study on asylums, for example,
Goffman defines a total institution as “a place of residence and
work where a large number of like-situated individuals, cut off
from the wider society for an appreciable period of time, together
lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life.”
Operationally, the concept of a total institution speaks to a condi -
tion where one’s life is dominated by faceless bureaucracies: an
isolated, dehumanized existence whereby one is subjected to
myriad rules and regulations.
Goffman’s work has been widely applied in the social sciences,
including studies not only on asylums, but also schools, the
military, and prisons. It is not surprising, therefore, that scholars
of Democratic Kampuchea would do likewise.
86 Most well known
is the pioneering work of David Chandler, who describes
Democratic Kampuchea as “a total institution par excellence” and
S-21 as “an extreme example of a total institution.”
87 The problem,
conceptually, is that the documentary evidence reveals a more
nuanced understanding. Indeed, given the plethora of archived
meeting minutes, telegrams, reports, and letters, the concept of a
total institution as heuristic device rapidly breaks down.
Democratic Kampuchea was not a closed society. Nor did the CPK
attempt to impose complete isolation throughout society.
Adhering to the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement, for
example, the CPK selectively engaged with foreign governments,
as senior leaders cautiously participated in trade relations or
accepted foreign aid. To be sure, accessibility to the so-called
outside world was limited, but it is simply not the case that the
CPK leadership attempted to wall off Democratic Kampuchea and
become entirely self-reliant.
Is it possible, though, to conceive more narrowly of the Khmer
Rouge security apparatus as a total institution? Certainly S-21 and
the many other security centers throughout Democratic Kampuchea
were walled off, surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire.
Secrecy was of the utmost importance. Such banal statements, of
course, can be applied to almost any prison throughout, say, the
United States. To avoid such platitudes, it is necessary to consider
more precisely, and supported by documentary evidence, the form
and functions of the Khmer Rouge security apparatus within the
broader context of CPK bureaucracy. It is essential, in other words,
to resituate the socio-materiality of security centers within the hier -
archical and territorial parameters of the Khmer Rouge bureaucracy.
I t i
s for this reason that I turn to recent developments in carceral
geographies. Broadly conceived, the field of carceral geography, on the one
hand, is concerned with the spaces and practices of incarceration
but, on the other hand, seeks to critique the carceral as something
more than the spaces in which individuals are confined, that is, to
conceive of the carceral as a social and material construction
relevant both within and beyond the physical sites of incarcera -
88 Carceral geographies, in effect, move beyond the limitations
of the total institution to address the totality of institutions in all
their complexity. To this end, geographers, criminologists,
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sociologists, and other social scientists have challenged two funda-
mental aspects of Goffman’s conception of a total institution as it
plies to prisons. First, scholars have stressed the need to place
prisons and other sites of detention within a wider political
economic context. Prisons are more than simply sites of incarcera -
tion or places designed to impose discipline and punishment on
mates. Rather, prisons are being reevaluated as crucial nodes in
the functioning of political and economic processes. Building on
this, a second challenge is the caution against promoting an uncrit -
ical understanding of prisons as “impervious, closed-in on
emselves and cut-off from the wider world.” 89 Keith Farrington,
for example, calls attention to “diverse transactions, exchanges and
relationships, which connect and bind together (a) the prison insti -
tution, (b) its immediate host community, and (c) society more
nerally.” He elaborates that “When looked at from this perspec -
tive, it appears that Goffman’s notion of the prison as a total
stitution might best be rejected in favor of a somewhat different
theoretical conception—that of the prison as a ‘not-so-total’ institu -
tion, enclosed within an identifiable-yet-permeable membrane of
ructures, mechanisms and policies, all of which maintain, at
most, a selective and imperfect degree of separation between what
exists inside of and what lies beyond prison walls.”
90 Jennifer Turner
agrees, writing that “Despite their often secluded physical locations,
which position them in geographically outlying or isolated sites, the
inter-linkages between prisons and society are numerous and
Security centers within Democratic Kampuchea were physically
barricaded and heavily guarded, and visitors most definitely were
not admitted. But this is not the same as implying there was no con -
nection between any given center and the broader society. Telegrams
d reports were circulated within and between security centers;
other written documents entered and left via couriers and messen -
gers; and key members of the CPK would personally visit various
curity centers that fell under their jurisdiction. Indeed, if these
institutions had been so completely shut off, the purges throughout
Democratic Kampuchea would not have happened. Simply put, it
was the circulation of information through a bureaucratic chain of
command that was essential to the administration of violence
enacted by the CPK. Accordingly, a conception of the porosity of
security centers provides a more accurate accounting of the Khmer
Rouge security apparatus than that of Goffman’s total institution. We need to rethink Khmer Rouge security centers not as walled
enclosures sealed off from the rest of Democratic Kampuchea, but
instead as key nodes in the transmission of information. For
example, as discussed in Chapter 4, confessions obtained through
interrogation were crucial for the manufacturing of strings of
traitors whom the CPK perceived were infiltrating society.
Confessions were used not only or even necessarily predominantly
to establish guilt of the detainee but rather as biopolitical data to
identify other suspected traitors for subsequent arrest, interroga -
tion, and, most likely, execution. As Heder elaborates, “It appears
at the confessions were produced for a larger purpose: to convince
some skeptical individuals in the CPK leadership, and to confirm
the suspicions of others, that the ‘conspiracies’ alleged by the Party
existed, that these conspiracies explained the regime’s failures, and
that further arrests were required in order to give proper effect to
the regime’s policies.”
A hierarchical network of approximately two hundred security
centers, mirroring the overall bureaucratic structure of Democratic
Kampuchea, was established throughout the country. Each zone in
theory was to maintain a zone-level security center, each sector a
sector-level security center, and so on.
93 In practice, the resultant
security apparatus proved exceptionally adept at introducing the
myriad techniques of surveillance throughout society. As Meng-Try
Ea concludes, the “operational methods of these centers were
uniform and employed widely.” Moreover, “there was coordination
among all levels of security centers, with communications going
both up and down the chain of command.”
The lowest level of CPK governance, as explained earlier, was
composed of branch-level entities, including villages, communes,
cooperatives, and mobile work brigades. The salience of this level is
that cadre had immediate access to the general population. The
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compilation and review of personal biographies was vitally import-
ant. Information in this way routinely circulated throughout the
ministrative structures. Local officials would inform their supe -
riors at the district level on the enemy situation; they would also
plement directives sent from above, such as requests to investi -
gate suspected networks of traitors. Commune-level officials also
re responsible for deciding who should be refashioned, in other
words, deciding who would be sent for harsh labor and political
education in special work camps. This was generally punishment
for failing to achieve work quotas, committing minor infractions
such as stealing food, or, in some cases, simply behaving strangely.
A youth named Kap, for example, was arrested on July 8, 1978.
According to the accompanying letter, sent by Thuok, a member of
the Committee of the Cooperative of the Trapeang Thom North
Commune, Kap had become insane and, during a period of hospi -
talization, began singing a traitorous song.
A crucial function of the security apparatus at this level was the
provision of concrete observations of suspected enemy activity,
notably the presence of traitorous networks. One local official
named San, for example, arrested two men—Hul and Sean. These
men were subsequently transferred to a higher-level security center,
along with a letter with the request to “Interrogate the contemptible
Hul, Second-Lieutenant, and ask him to find out his network. When
he fled Phnom Chruos Chrey . . . , whether he had his network in
Chamcar Sieng or not? What are their names? Concerning the
named Sean, who was sent there yesterday, I would like to also ask
Comrade elder brother to interrogate to find out his network of
assignment, and ask him who else has been assigned?”
Branch-level security centers were normally small structures,
perhaps a wooden shack or converted building. Generally, these
would hold only a few prisoners at a time, most of whom would be
released after a period of detainment. Those detained were most
often accused of minor crimes, perhaps stealing food. More import -
ant prisoners would be transferred to higher-level security centers.
ecutions at the branch level did take place, although written doc -
umentation is scarce.
98 It is also known that local officials would
directly order the execution of detainees. On some occasions,
however, officials would request guidance from officials higher up
the chain of command. Policing functions were most often con-
ducted by the armed militias known as
chhlop . These cadres would
guard the forced labor units, spy on people, make arrests, and, if
needed, execute dissidents.
To a certain extent, higher-level security centers functioned as
collection points for those accused of more serious crimes, such as
theft or immoral sexual relations. Frequently, soldiers and civil
servants of the former Lon Nol regime, arrested at lower levels,
would be detained at district- and sector-level security centers.
For example, on July 6, 1978, a man named Nun was arrested from
Trapeang Thom North Commune. He was accused of serving in the
Lon Nol army. This was “according to the statement of his wife who
was sent over . . . by the Trapeang Thom North Commune’s base,
because his wife had also committed activities to destroy the
One step removed from the branch level, district-level security
centers served an important function in the initial gathering and
evaluation of information collected from the disparate units within
their jurisdiction. For example, one document indicates that a
woman was to be arrested and sent to the district-level security
center. She was a farmer and wife of a military officer and had three
children. According to the report, the woman in question allegedly
said, “Doing the revolution is very difficult, we have to do the works
days and nights, and are given gruel to eat; we cannot bear this sort
of living. During the old regime, I had never been working, but still
I had a car to take me when going down from my house, wherever I
went, I always had a car to take me. But now, I have to do rice
farming, it’s very difficult!” The report further specified that the
accused “had many more conflicts.”
In effect, district-level bureaucrats provided the fundamental
material link between agricultural cooperatives and work projects
and the wider governmental bureaucracy.
103 District-level officials
“were responsible for ensuring that every Cooperative continuously
identified and eliminated enemies in order to build socialism
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qu ic k l y.” 104 Officials at this level were also required to keep the
upper echelon informed of ongoing work efforts, and prepare and
transmit situation reports on the progress of work activities and
enemy activity. District Committees were also required to draw up
lists of those to be executed. These lists were subsequently transmit -
ted up the chain of command. Etcheson concludes that “CPK
adership at the District echelon had broad authority over person -
nel and organizational matters, security, and economic matters
thin their respective Districts.” 105
Illustrative of a district-level security center is the Kraing Ta
Chan security center, a fenced-in compound composed of several
wooden buildings. Located in District 105, Sector 13, Southwest
Zone, the site was first established as a meeting place for Khmer
Rouge officials during the revolution. In mid-1973 it was converted
by the Sector Committee into a detention office under the control of
the District 105 Committee; it remained in operation until the
collapse of Democratic Kampuchea. It is not known precisely how
many people were detained throughout the existence of Kraing Ta
106 Archived documentation indicates a capacity of approxi -
mately 100 detainees per month. One document from July 1977, for
ample, indicates that 18 new prisoners arrived that month,
bringing the total to 81; however, 39 were executed and 2 others
died from diseases, thus dropping to just 40 detainees at the end of
the month. A similar report for November 1977 specifies that 75
people were admitted to the security center; 92 were purged; 6 died
of illness; and 1 was transferred to another location. Overall, by
month’s end, the prison population stood at 85. Also included in
the report was a tally sheet of “food production” and “economic
expenditures.” Thus, on the one hand, the security center planted 7
cabbage plots, 2 garlic plots, 200 tobacco plants, 270 tomatoes, and
various other fruits and vegetables. The security center used 860
cans of paddy rice, 34 gasoline cans, 80 cans of salt. An additional
95 bags of rice were issued to Samrong Subdistrict, 1.5 bags of
manioc to Toteung Thngai Village, and 2 bags of seed rice and 2
horse carts of manioc plants were sent in support of District 106.
This tally sheet added to the list of detainees is significant in that it
highlights an additional material flow that bridged security centers
and the broader society. Many security centers were designed to be
places of production. And while not rising to the level of the
slave-labor camps of Nazi Germany, the security centers of
Democratic Kampuchea were expected to produce much of their
own foodstuffs and indeed produce sufficient surpluses for distri-
bution. It is important to acknowledge, therefore, that more than
st prisoners entered the security centers. Other products, includ -
ing clothes and tools, were also brought in. This illustrates that
curity centers were very much connected within the larger
circuits of Democratic Kampuchea’s political economy. Kraing Ta Chan demonstrates many of the security functions of
district-level security centers. For example, confessions were often
the fundamental building blocks of CPK conspiracy theories. At
Kraing Ta Chan, confessions were obtained as a means of identify -
ing subsequent traitors, and this information was subsequently
ansmitted up and down the chain of command. Customarily, the
chairman of Kraing Ta Chan would report and send confessions to
the District Committee; they, in turn, would transmit these to the
Sector Committee. At the end of the month, the district secretary
would send a written report on its activities to the sector. Some wit -
nesses recall that if the matter concerned only the sector,
formation was possibly sent directly to the zone level or Central
Party, bypassing the District Committee.
Unlike branch-level security centers, district-level security
centers, such as Kraing Ta Chan, were more permanent in structure
and often located in or near larger towns and cities. Operationally,
prisoners would arrive night and day, either individually or in
groups. Some of these prisoners were transfers from branch-level
security centers while others were sent directly. Men, women, and
children were detained at Kraing Ta Chan. Most were new people,
but base people, former Khmer Republic soldiers, CPK cadre,
Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cham were also imprisoned at the
facility. Men and women were shackled together in large cells,
usually comprising two rows of twenty to twenty-five people each.
Children under ten years of age were not shackled, but kept near
Into the Darkness
their mothers. 109 Conditions were horrific, with detainees dying of
disease, starvation-related conditions, and maltreatment. There is
no record of medical facilities being present on-site.
Detainees were tortured, with both physical and psychological
forms applied to extract confessions. Physical forms of torture
included beatings and suffocation. Eyewitness accounts suggest
that water boarding was also used. There is also evidence that acid
may have been thrown on people.
111 Initial confessions were hand-
written. These were subsequently typed and used as a basis for
ditional rounds of interrogation. Once completed, confessions
were channeled to the district secretary, who would, after reviewing
the document, forward it to the sector secretary. In turn, the sector
secretary would advise the District Committee of which individu -
als were to be killed and those who were to be released. These names
uld subsequently be forwarded to Kraing Ta Chan for imple -
112 For example, on August 25, 1977, a report was filed
summarizing the conclusions of three men, all former military
officers, who had been interrogated. They were allegedly “against
the cooperative” and “were not happy with labor work.” All three
confessed to being “upset in the cooperative . . . because they had
always been in the positions of ordering people; and with their
[former] titles, they had money and fancy life.” An annotation on
the report, dated August 27, 1977, reads: “As to these three traitors,
the Party decided to have them smashed.”
113 This and other docu -
mentation suggest that the Sector Committee was primarily
sponsible for determining who was to be executed. 114 The Central
Party, in turn, was informed of these actions. In total, these proce -
dures illustrate how notations written by senior leaders grant the
nfession official status. Confessions as documents are “accepted
as evidence that a designate official saw and touched the paper” and
that this “is read to verify that the official has knowledge of the
information the document conveys, that it is information that he or
she knows to be true.”
Those prisoners scheduled for execution were usually taken at
night to one of the many mass graves in the surrounding area. Here,
deceptive practices were used, in part to ensure docility among the
prisoners. For example, it was not uncommon that Khmer Rouge
guards would tell the condemned men and women that they were
being returned to their former unit. In reality, they were blind-
folded and transported to the execution site by foot, oxcart, or
uck, depending on the distances involved and the number of pris -
oners taken at any given time. Oral testimonies indicate that some
isoners were forced to dig their own burial pits while other
accounts indicate that the pits had already been excavated by
guards. The moment of execution was swift. Prisoners were forced
to kneel in front of the pit. From behind they were struck by a blow
to the back of the neck with a cart axle, a digging hoe, or some other
blunt object. This was followed by a slash of the throat. Murder was
rudimentary and brutal. Estimates as to the total number of victims
vary, with upward of fifteen thousand men, women, and children
thought to have died at Kraing Ta Chan.
The Sang security center provides another example of a district-
level security center. This facility was located in District 145, Sector
25, Southwest Zone, and came into operation around 1976 or
1 9 7 7.
117 It too remained in operation until the collapse of Democratic
Kampuchea. The Sang security center was formerly a teacher
training center. Having been converted to a prison, it consisted of
several concrete structures, including special detention cells for
CPK cadres who had committed serious offenses. Other buildings
included a kitchen, guardhouse, and a blacksmith.
Similar to Kraing Ta Chan, the Sang security center detained
men, women, and children. Most detainees were local, having been
arrested from the surrounding area. Prisoners included CPK cadre,
new people, base people, and former Khmer Republic soldiers.
Consequently, most crimes for which people were arrested included
expressing loyalty toward or sympathy for the former regime,
engaging in traitorous activities, or sabotage. This latter crime
could include not following orders, breaking shovels or plows, or
stealing food. Countless others were arrested simply because their
names appeared in other prisoners’ confessions.
119 Torture was also
used to extract confessions, and the attendant information was cir -
culated up and down the chain of command. Indeed, it was very
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important that information derived from confessions was trans-
mitted to the cooperative or mobile unit where the detained was
eviously assigned. In this way, branch-level officials could conduct
further investigations into alleged enemy networks.
Sector Committee members who held jurisdiction over the Sang
facility would decide on the fate of detainees. And similar to the
procedures at Kraing Ta Chan, prisoners at Sang were taken away at
night, often under false pretenses. Some were released, others trans -
ferred to neighboring district-level security centers because of
riodic overcrowding, and still others were transferred to higher-
level prisons. Many were simply killed. For the Sang security center,
e main execution site was a grove of bamboo, located approxi -
mately one kilometer away. Accordingly, most condemned
walked to the killing grounds, where they were blind-
folded, stripped of clothing, and forced to kneel by the edge of a pit
t o a
wait the fatal blow. It is estimated that upward of five thousand
people processed through the Sang facility were executed.
Sector-level facilities operated much as district-level security
centers. Prisoners by and large were either sent to these security
centers directly on the orders of zone-level or sector-level officials,
or were transferred from lower-level facilities, most often regionally
based district-level prisons. Also prevalent were sector-level reedu -
cation centers. In the Southwest Zone, for example, the Region 33
curity center functioned more as a forced labor camp than the
prototypical security center. At Region 33, prisoners, many of
whom were arrested for having committed theft or for not meeting
production quotas, were by and large not shackled. Rather, they
lived in six cooperatives, one each for the elderly, widows with or
without children, male and female youth, and children. In general,
detainees were forced to perform physical labor, such as working in
nearby agricultural fields. That being said, detainees could be sub -
jected to torture and interrogation and even execution.
Region 33 illustrates the exception to the rule. In general, sector-
level security centers were for men and women deemed to be guilty
of the most serious offenses, such as traitorous activities or their
association with traitors. Prisoners arrived at sector-level security
centers via one of two main pathways. Detainees could be
transferred from district-level or perhaps even branch-level
facilities. It appears as if the precise route of transfer depended on
geography. Prisoners, for example, could be transferred directly
from a branch-level to a sector-level facility, bypassing the district
level altogether. Or prisoners could be arrested and sent initially to
a sector-level security center.Sector-level committees, including those who ran the security
centers, had a high degree of autonomy in their decision-making.
Documentary evidence indicates that sector-level officials could
and did execute prisoners on their own volition, provided
(ostensibly) that the upper echelon was kept informed. Earlier, I
made reference to a telegram sent on July 18, 1976, by Bu Phat (alias
Hang) informing the Standing Committee of recent traitorous
activities and that ten men had been smashed.
123 Likewise, in a
telegram dated March 21, 1976, Suas Nau (alias Suas Son alias
Chhouk), secretary of Sector 24, reported to the East Zone secretary,
So Phim (alias Chhon), that a number of Vietnamese had been
captured in recent days. Suas Nau explained that at least one man
had been beaten during his interrogation in an attempt to learn
more about “his organizational links.” So Phim, in turn, forwarded
the telegram to Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Son Sen, and Ieng Sary.
other cases, especially if the accused was an important Party
member, sector-level officials would specifically request from the
zone or Party permission to execute people under their control.
Another example of a sector-level facility is the Phnom Kraol
security center, a multifaceted complex that included the Phnom
Kraol Prison, Sector 105 Office K-11, and the Sector 105 secretary,
headquartered at Office K-17. In existence since before 1975, the
security center was initially under the command of the Northeast
Zone until, at the end of 1976, it became autonomous and thereafter
reported directly to the CPK Center. The prison proper was a
one-room wooden structure, although prisoners were occasionally
detained at K-17.
126 Executions took place at Trapeang Pring (also
known as Tuol Khmaoch), located about 4 kilometers from the
Into the Darkness
More than simply a place of detainment and execution, the
security center, but especially K-17, was an important conduit of
information. Evidence reveals a constant flow of communications
between the Party Center and this facility. K-17, for example, would
regularly send information to the District Committees under its
jurisdiction. It would also report directly to the Party Center.
Surviving documents establish a chain of information between the
Phnom Kraol security center and both Office 870 and K-3 (Khieu
Samphan’s residence). Monthly meetings with high-ranking Party
officials were also held at K-11 (medical affairs).
Witness testimony suggests that the majority of prisoners at
Phnom Kraol were accused of treasonous activities. Party members
would be arrested directly by Khmer Rouge cadre after having been
called to a meeting. Others were arrested at their home units,
usually under order of the sector secretary. Still others were trans -
ferred from district- or branch-level facilities following an earlier
riod of detainment, torture, and interrogation. Procedures were
similar to those found at other sector-level and district-level prisons.
Upon arrival, prisoners were required to write down their personal
biographies and these documents would, subsequently, be used to
identify contradictions in the accused person’s background.
Detainees were shackled and held in large communal cells. Those
criminals considered more serious, or those holding more senior-
level positions, were often kept in isolation. The Phnom Kraol
security center, similar to other sector-level facilities, had a capacity
of approximately four hundred.
Given that sector-level security centers most often held prison -
ers accused of the most serious crimes, interrogation procedures,
including torture, were widely employed. Center 15, a sector-level
security center located in Sector 25, Southwest Zone, is instruc -
tive. First established sometime in 1973, during the revolution,
Center 15 was initially located at Rokakroam Village, Sa-ang
District. It was then relocated sometime in 1974 to Khbal Chroy
Village, Koh Thom District, before it was moved to Koh Thmei
Island sometime in 1975. A converted wat was used to detain male
prisoners while female prisoners were detained at the former Koh
Thmei elementary school. A nearby house was converted into a
residence for prison guards, and another structure was used for
interrogation. Condemned prisoners were executed in the nearby
Center 15 is notable in that it sits at the center of a major conspir-
acy network that was purged by the CPK. Meng-Try Ea, in his book
The Chains of Terror , reconstructs what happened. 130 I n m id-19 76
a Khmer Rouge cadre exploded a grenade near the Royal Palace in
Phnom Penh. He was subsequently arrested and interrogated. In
his confession he implicated his superiors, So Phim and Suas Nau
(alias Suas Son alias Chhouk). This was a remarkable revelation. So
Phim was secretary of the East Zone and member of the Central
Committee; Sous Nau was secretary of Sector 24. Confronted with
this information, Pol Pot and other members of the Standing
Committee began to suspect their associates of plotting a coup
against the CPK leadership. Soon, Party officials from Sector 25
came under suspicion. In due course, Chan Chakrei, chief of military Division 170, was
arrested and sent to S-21. His confession implicated several other
sector officials, including Huot Se, security chief, and Riel Lenh,
district chief. Arrested and dispatched to S-21, these officials impli -
cated still other people.
131 On August 30, 1976, at a meeting of
secretaries and deputy secretaries, Son Sen explained that “more
than 100 persons” thought to be connected with Chan Chakrei had
been arrested; this came on the heels of the previous arrest of “more
than 60 persons.” Son Sen warned that these individuals “had been
getting ready for [a] major unrest.” It was necessary, therefore, to
“Be conscientious about patrolling and do not allow enemies to
make contact with one another.” More specific measures included
ongoing examination of “no-good elements” and the physical sepa -
ration of people under suspicion.
132 On September 9, 1976, Son Sen
explained further that “A lot of the links are connected to Division
170, either in that unit of organization currently or 170s that were
sent to the [Ministry of ] Industry.” He also identified that linkages
existed between members of Division 170 and divisions 180, 220,
and 703. Son Sen admonished those in attendance to “Heighten the
Into the Darkness
outlook of revolutionary vigilance” because “these activities are
part of an overall enemy plan.” He declared, “We have to be on
guard against an enemy assassination of the Organization.” To this
end, Son Sen stated that it was necessary for division leaders to be
“constant [in promoting] political and ideological education,” but
also to “firmly grasp biographies and ideologies.” To ensure security,
it was necessary to increase “surveillance of enemy situations.” He
concluded with the foreboding pronouncement: “The 170s should
be rounded up in one place.”
133 Eight days later, on September 17,
1976, 42 members of Division 170 were arrested. All would be
executed by the end of the year. So “successful” was the operation
that Son Sen could announce, on October 11, 1976, “We clearly see
the conflict now. The leaders have been basically smashed.” This
was followed with a warning, though, that “their hands and arms
Perhaps more than any other level, zone-level security centers
were tasked with the function of smashing those considered most
treasonous. Torture was the order of the day, and eventual execu -
tion all but a certainty. Similar to facilities administered at the
ctor level, reeducation camps were also in operation at the zone
level. However, the ultimate security function at this level was to
identify and punish criminal networks. Seated atop the administra -
tive hierarchy and just below the Central Party, zone-level officials
re required to disseminate operational objectives to the lower
echelons while gathering and summarizing information from
below. Zone Committees, coupled with their respective zone-level
security-center commanders, had explicit authority to smash
enemies, including Party members, prisoners of war, Khmer Rouge
cadre, and both base and new people. And they did so with consid -
Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, and Nuon Chea, among others, believed in
their own infallibility. Revolution was achieved against all odds
because they alone, as members of a vanguard party, followed the
correct line. The subsequent transformation would likewise be
accomplished if and only if their operational objectives were con-
ducted properly. Any deviation, any setback, could only be
interpreted as betrayal by traitorous elements. In this way, the
specific coordinates of the revolution contributed to the deepen-
ing of a conspiracy culture. Past betrayals were projected forward,
demonstrating an expansionary logic to mundane reason brought
about by the assumption that objects and events are characterized
by qualities of coherence, consistency, and determinateness.
the Khmer Communist revolution was betrayed in the past, so
also it might be betrayed in the future. If once-loyal associates
betrayed the Party in the past, so might others become disloyal in
the future. Bureaucratic violence does not stand outside of more spectacu -
lar forms of genocidal violence. Rather, the power of pens, paper,
and filing cabinets facilitates violence of all forms to become
manifest. And it is this twist, as Ian Shaw and Majed Akhter
write, that “complicates our understanding of what a bureaucracy
is: no longer the ‘pen arm’ of the sovereign as opposed to the
‘sword arm.’ Rather, both act in concert to fuel a deadly and alien -
ated rule by Nobody.”
136 The Khmer Rouge bureaucracy engaged
in a low-tech practice of lethal surveillance, whereby mechanisms
of surveillance and knowledge production and decisions of life
and death became one and the same.
137 Certainly, real-time infor -
mation was not assembled through the collection of digital
information. Biopolitical information was, however, collected
through the routine collection and compilation of revolutionary
biographies, prisoner biographies, and forced confessions
extracted through torture. To date, very little scholarly attention
has been directed toward the production of these documents, that
is, the biographies and confessions, by the Khmer Rouge. Such a
conceptual shift, however, provides a radical way forward in
understanding the security apparatus of Democratic Kampuchea.
In an effort to resituate these data collection procedures as an
early form of data mining, it becomes possible to accentuate the
Into the Darkness
underlying bureaucracy that enabled purges to take place. For as
Amoore and de Goede explain, “it is not the collection, monitor-
ing or ‘sight’ of data that is significant, so much as the way
decisions are made on the basis of a risk analysis that ‘foresees.’”
In the end, before Kim Ham Bin and Chhim Sak were brutally
murdered, they were killed by executive fiat.
All that remains of Kiet Sophal is a photograph (Photograph 4.1).
We know little about her death and even less about her life. Prison
records indicate that she was arrested on April 13, 1977. Five other
men and women were arrested on the same day: Mao Hok, a com-
batant assigned to the Ministry of Energy; Nuon Prang, a member of
ision 920 and wife of Khun; Ping Chun, a combatant from the
Ministry of Energy; Prakk Nat, squad member of Division 920; and
Seam Ho, squad chief of the Ministry of Energy. The entry for Kiet Sophal indicates that her alias was Phal; she
was female, but no age is recorded. She was arrested from the
Ministry of Public Works, where her job was to take care of children.
There has been no information about her family or what she did
prior to the revolution. We do not know why she was arrested. Was
she accused of traitorous activities or found delinquent in her
duties? Or was she arrested simply because she was associated with
someone else charged with a crime? It is also not known if Kiet
Sophal was interrogated. Perhaps she was tortured. Perhaps she was
raped. All that is known is that Kiet Sophal was detained for ninety-
nine days and was scheduled to be executed, along with eighty-one
her men and women, on July 22, 1977. 1 None of the other five
prisoners who entered S-21 were killed on this date. 2
Since the fall of the Khmer Rouge, a surfeit of materials has
been collected, archived, and analyzed. Many of these documents
originated from S-21 and afford considerable opportunities for
scholars, lawyers, and other concerned people to engage in fine-
scaled and aggregate study of Khmer Rouge activities. Equally, if
not more important, these documents have facilitated the efforts
of staff members at the Documentation Center of Cambodia to
help provide closure to countless men and women seeking infor-
mation on friends and relatives who disappeared at the hands of
the Khmer Rouge.
Records are incomplete, however, as the story of Kiet Sophal
illustrates. Nevertheless, the documents provide an invaluable
glimpse into the day-to-day bureaucracies of a genocidal regime.
Any analysis of these records, though, must be firmly grounded in
the concrete procedures by which they were originally produced
and compiled. In this chapter I document the bureaucratization of
Photograph 4.1: Mug shot of Kiet Sophal (Courtesy of Tuol Sleng
violence. In so doing, I partially redress a lacuna surrounding the
scholarly analysis of the Khmer Rouge security apparatus.
Innumerable studies have focused on S-21 with much work
concentrated on the memorialization of genocide as reflected by the
conversion of the security center into a museum. 3As well, a
voluminous amount of scholarship has addressed the mug-shot
photographs associated with S-21. This research, in particular, has
explored the afterlife of S-21 photographs, that is, how we are to
receive and perceive photographs of men, women, and children
about to be murdered.
4 Apart from David Chandler’s pioneering
work, minimal empirical analysis of S-21 documents has been
5 In this chapter I step inside the S-21 security center. My
intent is twofold: first, to interpret S-21 not as a total institution but
instead as a bureaucratic center of calculation within a broader
carceral geography of lethal surveillance; and second, to analyze
the patterns of arrests and executions, thereby providing insight
into the corporeal manifestation of administrative violence.
S-21 Security Center
Prior to assuming power in April 1975, the CPK had established a
security apparatus known as santebal. The term itself is a contrac -
tion of the Khmer words santesokh (security) and nokorbal
(police). According to Chandler, the santebal functioned similarly
to the East German Stasi and even the American Federal Bureau
of Investigation (FBI) and Britain’s MI5, in that it was a national
6 However, unlike these other security forces, the
santebal had no central policy-making office and did little in the
way of primary investigations. Rather, the primary function was
simply to arrest, detain, and execute both external and internal
enemies of the state.
From 1971 onward, security centers were established in those
areas liberated by the armed forces of the Khmer Rouge. In July of
that year, for example, a facility code-named M-13 was set up in
Kampong Speu Province. Chaired by a former mathematician
named Kaing Guek Eav (alias Duch), M-13 was divided into two
parts: M-13A and M-13B. Prisoners detained at the former site were
interrogated, tortured, and executed, while those at the latter were
reeducated and released. In August 1975 high-ranking officials of
the CPK determined that a security center was necessary to detain
suspected Khmer Rouge cadre. Son Sen appointed In Lorn (alias
Nat) as chairman of S-21 and Duch as deputy.The overarching Khmer Rouge security apparatus was tasked
with three functions: to reeducate, refashion, or purge men and
women determined to be guilty of having committed, or likely to
commit, criminal activities. Within the broader administrative
structure, S-21 was unique in that it was established not to reform
or rehabilitate but to specifically document and punish perceived
criminal offenses against the Party. In other words, S-21 was
administratively a state-level security center designed to eliminate
principally those who allegedly committed treason or otherwise
betrayed the Party, the revolution, and Democratic Kampuchea. In
this way, S-21 was to function not as a concentration camp or exter -
mination camp, such as those found throughout Nazi Germany, but
stead as an integral component of the overall Khmer Rouge
bureaucracy. Consequently, the targeted groups for S-21 were
neither base people nor new people but instead Khmer Rouge
soldiers, cadres, Party members, and their relatives. Effectively,
S-21 was established by the Communist Party of Kampuchea to
surveil and punish its own members—men and women such as Kiet
Sophal. Initially S-21 was located in Boeng Keng Kang 3 Subdistrict,
Chamkar Mon District, Phnom Penh, and was composed of a series
of buildings used for detention and interrogation. In late November
1975 the facility was moved to the building of the former National
Police Headquarters, the Police Judiciaire compound on Street 51,
located near the Central Market. However, due to concerns that
visiting Chinese visitors might witness activities associated with
the security center, it was relocated back to its original site. In
March 1976 Nat was transferred and Duch was appointed chair and
secretary of S-21 (Photograph 4.2). One month later, Duch ordered
S-21 to be moved to the site of a former high school (Ponhea Yat
Lycée), located between streets 113, 131, 320, and 350. S-21 remained
at that location until the fall of Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979. 7
The central compound of S-21 was surrounded by an outer
barrier consisting of a 2 meter-high zinc wall, topped with barbed
wire; an inner wall, also 2 meters in height, was formed of concrete
and wrought iron. It too was lined with barbed wire. Two separate
guard units were responsible for patrolling the perimeter. Within
the main compound were five buildings. Building A functioned as
the special prison for important prisoners, where they were most
often tortured and interrogated in their individual cells. Buildings
B, C, and D contained both common cells, where upward of twenty
to forty prisoners might be detained, and individual cells, measur -
ing about 2 meters by 1 meter (Photograph 4.3). These latter cells,
Photograph 4.2: Communal dining of S-21 staff. Duch is standing
at the right. (Courtesy of the Documentation Center of Cambodia
Arc hive s)
constructed of brick or wood, were used primarily for important
prisoners awaiting interrogation. Building E, a one-story wooden
structure, occupied the center of the compound and was used for
registration and documentation purposes. Various other buildings
outside the main compound were also used throughout the
Photograph 4.3: Single prisoner cell at S-21 (Courtesy of James A.
Ty n e r)
existence of S-21; these included former residences used for admin-
istrative purposes, political education classes, reception of
isoners, communal cooking and dining, interrogation, execution,
medical facilities, S-21 staff housing, developing of photographs,
Coupled with S-21 was a facility designated as S-24 (also known
as S-21Kh). Located in Prey Sar Subdistrict, Dangkao District,
Phnom Penh, S-24 was established to reeducate and rehabilitate
those men, women, and children who came under suspicion but
whose activities did not (yet) rise to a sufficient level of security
risk. For example, those who exhibited dubious backgrounds or
enemy tendencies might be sent to the Prey Say facility instead of
9 Detainees were divided into three groups: those considered
to be better elements; those classified as fair elements; and those
determined to be bad elements. Prisoners designated as fair or bad
received comparatively harsher treatment and were subjected to
more severe penalties.
10 Regardless of classification, all detainees
at S-24 were forced to perform physical labor in an effort to correct
them of their perceived offenses. Forced labor included the
growing of food to support S-21 and other units. Detainees were
also required to attend political training sessions and to provide
Prey Sar was supervised by Nun Huy (alias Huy Sre), who
reported to the chairman at S-21. Immediate responsibilities
included the oversight of food production, policy implementation,
and investigations of prisoners. Huy Sre did not apparently have
full authority to determine whether detainees were to be executed.
Rather, Huy Sre would solicit advice from his superiors regarding
the disposition of prisoners, as he did on January 19, 1976, when
he forwarded a report regarding three combatants: “These youths
are carefree and lazy; they are not doing any work. Two combat -
ants of Unit 13 were detained, while the other one was kept in the
Key officials of the Standing Committee of the CPK retained
oversight of S-21 and S-24. From its inception in 1975 to August
1977, S-21 was directly supervised by Son Sen (minister of defense),
who, in turn, reported to Nuon Chea (deputy secretary of the CPK)
and other members of the Standing Committee. During this period,
Son Sen and Nuon Chea received confessions extracted at S-21,
reviewed and commented on the confessions, and conveyed orders
back to Duch. Such instructions might include specific avenues of
questioning to pursue, or a determination that the confession was
s at i s f a c tor y.
13 They would also hold regular meetings with secretar-
ies and deputy secretaries of various units. During these meetings,
nior officials, notably Son Sen and Nuon Chea, would evaluate
specific situations and recommend specific courses of action. In
response to reports of enemy activity, on October 9, 1976, Son Sen
surmised that the “traitorous links we have arrested one after the
other compromised three networks, but at the end of the day, there
is but a single network.” Overall, Son Sen concluded that cadres
needed to understand that “trivial activities attacking the
Revolution such as stealing and speaking” are “all issues that stem
from such traitorous links.” Consequently, it was necessary to
“solidly grasp our duties.” Son Sen clarified that grasping meant
“Grasping the Party, grasping core organizations, grasping male
and female combatants, grasping their biographies clearly, and
grasping their standpoints and ideology clearly. This is the main
problem, the core problem, the key link in measures to defend our
country.” National security, in other words, was predicated on
concrete assessments of all people, male or female, through contin -
ual evaluation of their political stance as inscribed on their personal
ographies. Son Sen continued that “Continuous education is
imperative” and that “It is imperative to purge no-good elements
absolutely in the sense of an absolute class struggle.” To this end, for
the minister of defense, purges are premised on three principles: (1)
the dangerous category, who must be absolutely purged; (2) the
ordinary liberal category, who must be reeducated; and (3) the
category of those who were merely incited by the enemy and who
should undergo refashioning.
On August 15, 1977, Son Sen was reassigned to administer the
growing conflict with Vietnam. From that point onward, Duch
reported directly to Nuon Chea. The two men met regularly, usually
every three to five days, to discuss matters related to S-21. In
addition, Nuon Chea would send written communiqués to Duch by
messenger. These were usually short letters containing “brief,
15 Nuon Chea would also communicate with Duch
through various intermediaries, including Chhim Sam Aok (alias
Pang), secretary of S-71, or his deputy, Khan Lin (alias Ken). As a
key component of the greater Khmer Rouge security apparatus,
S-71 was responsible for the arrest and transfer of prisoners to S-21
or possibly to S-24. These logistics were often coordinated through
Office K-7. Significantly, S-71 was also responsible for monitoring
suspected CPK members.
Procedural Operations at S-21
S-21 was a complex bureaucracy that, over its life-span, had a staff
of approximately twenty-three hundred men and women. 17
Collectively, staff members at S-21 kept meticulous records of
their activities. Surviving documents include arrest forms of indi -
vidual prisoners; personal biographies of prisoners; day-by-day
arrest schedules; mug-shot arrest photographs; daily charts on
the prison population; handwritten or typewritten confessions;
typed summaries of confessions; daily schedules for interroga -
tion; summaries of torture methods used; photographs of tortured
prisoners; postmortem photographs of prisoners who died or
were executed during torture; reports on medicines administered
to prisoners; signed execution orders; signed daily execution
schedules; elaborate diagnostic flow charts of conspiratorial
networks; and summaries of suspected plots uncovered to over -
throw the Party. Various other documents include photographs
and personal biographies of S-21; notebooks indicating proce -
dures for conducting interrogations; notebooks from political
education sessions; work schedules for guards; and correspon -
dence between S-21 and the Standing Committee.
Overall, a Supervisory Committee, composed initially of Nat,
Duch, and Khim Vat (alias Hor), oversaw activities at S-21. Upon
Nat’s transfer, Duch was appointed secretary, Hor promoted to
deputy secretary, and Huy Sre appointed as a third member. As
supervisor of S-24, Huy Sre was not present at S-21 on a day-to-day
basis. Consequently, most operational decisions at S-21 were made
by Duch or Hor. Functionally, S-21 was composed of nine primary
units. The Defense Unit was the largest subunit at S-21. Supervised
by Hor and assisted by Phal, the Defense Unit was subdivided into
three subunits. First were those guards responsible for outer
security. This group was initially headed by a cadre known as Him
Huy. It was their duty to restrict all access to the compound.
Second were the inner guards, supervised by Peng. These men were
responsible for guarding prisoners and preventing them from
escaping or committing suicide. A third subunit, known as the
Special Unit, was responsible for traveling outside of Phnom Penh
to make arrests, guarding the special prison cells used to detain
high-ranking cadre, transporting prisoners from S-21 to the exe-
cution site at Choeung Ek, and carrying out executions. This
unit was initially led by Peng, then by Poch, and finally by Him
Huy. These supervisors would report directly to Hor, although
Duch would also intervene when deemed necessary.
At S-21 staff routinely performed a number of essential tasks.
Arguably, no task was as critical as that performed by those assigned
to the Interrogation Unit. Tellingly, as with any bureaucratic func -
tionary, these men and women received training, followed
tablished procedures, worked according to daily schedules, were
supervised in their tasks, and, if found wanting in their perfor -
mance, subject to disciplinary action. The Interrogation Unit,
ervised by Duch and managed by Mam Nai (alias Chan alias
Pon), consisted of two main subunits, with further divisions based
on type of interrogative methods. One was the special subunit of
interrogators; these men were responsible for interrogating
high-ranking Party members and other important prisoners. The
second was the general subunit. These men were responsible for
extracting confessions from so-called ordinary prisoners. The
general subunit was further divided into three groups, classified by
torture methods used. These included a Cool (
trocheak ) Unit,
which used verbal and psychological methods of interrogation; a
Hot ( kdau ) Unit, which beat and tortured prisoners; and a Chewing
angkiem ) Unit, which conducted longer interrogations and utilized
various forms of interrogative and torture methods. 20 Each subunit
was composed of four to six people. 21
At some point in 1977, Duch requested and received permission
from his superiors to establish an all-female team of interrogators.
In 2009 Duch testified at his trial that the idea of forming an all-
female team of interrogators came about after a female prisoner was
sexually abused by a male interrogator. 22 Five women were selected
as interrogators; all were wives of male interrogators serving at S-21.
And all would be executed before the fall of the Khmer Rouge.
Duch acknowledged that these women had not committed any
offenses but were smashed only because their husbands had come
under suspicion and were also arrested and executed.
Perhaps no department epitomizes the bureaucratic nature of
S-21 as does the Documentation Unit. Supervised by Suos Thy, this
unit was responsible for transcribing tape-recorded confessions,
typing handwritten notes, preparing summaries of confessions,
and maintaining the prison’s files.
24 The unit was also responsible
for the compilation of both prisoner biographies and staff biogra -
phies. Within this unit was the photography subunit. Also under
e supervision of Suos Thy, but on a day-to-day basis headed by
Nim Kimsreang, the photography subunit was tasked primarily
with photographing prisoners upon their arrival (Photograph 4.4).
Photographers were also required to take photographs of prisoners
who died in captivity and of “important” prisoners after they were
executed (Photograph 4.5). The subunit also took identification
photographs that were included in the files of all staff members.
Many other subunits ensured the day-to-day functioning of
S-21. These included the Medical Unit (headed by Try), tasked with
keeping prisoners alive—at least until they were scheduled to be
executed; a Messenger Unit, responsible for transmitting informa -
tion between S-21 and other bureaucratic entities, including the
anding Committee, zone-level secretaries, and the heads of
various ministries; the Economics Unit, responsible for the prepa -
ration of food for S-21; and the Logistics Unit, whose function was
to oversee telephones, telegrams, vehicles for prisoner transporta-
tion, and water and electricity. 26
How did S-21 function day to day? How did the various units
and subunits administer the arrest, transportation, interrogation,
and execution of more than twelve thousand men, women, and
children? Michelle Caswell suggests that the “ bureaucratic records
that order and document mass murder are what, in part, enabled
Khmer Rouge bureaucrats to authorize mass murder by isolating
them from the consequences of their actions.”
27 She elaborates that
“through recordkeeping, Khmer Rouge bureaucrats like Son Sen
Photograph 4.4: Mug shot of Char Kem (Courtesy of Tuol Sleng
and Duch were alienated from the murderous fruit of their labors
in that the orders they issued would designate someone further
down the chain of command to torture and kill prisoners.”
this, I am in partial agreement. Throughout his trial, Duch repeat -
edly made the case that he was simply following orders; that Nuon
ea or Son Sen were ultimately responsible for the decision to
execute any prisoner; that he personally never killed anyone; and
that he tortured only one person—and even then, it was not too
29 As Caswell concludes, “Such documents allowed Duch
to efficiently monitor the daily operations of Tuol Sleng, while dis -
tancing and ultimately alienating him from the gruesome acts he
dere d .” 30
Documentary evidence complicates this interpretation, includ -
ing Duch’s own defense. In particular, archived materials illustrate
at neither senior leaders nor lower-level functionaries saw them -
selves as distanced or alienated from the task at hand. More to the
int, documents indicate a concerted effort among participants to
amass sufficient materials to justify (in their minds) the guilt of
suspects. Annotated comments scrawled on copied confessions,
telegrams sent between members of the Standing Committee and
S-21 staff, and other written records linking myriad other units
expose an exceptionally engaged bureaucracy, not an alienated one.
Often it would begin with inscribing a name on a list or the record -
ing of suspicious behavior. Be
fore any decision to arrest an individual was rendered, there
needed to be some form of actionable evidence and there were all
too many Khmer Rouge bureaucrats ready to provide documenta -
tion. And regardless of how flimsy that evidence may appear now, it
es not belie the observation that from the CPK’s point of view,
biopolitical information was essential. For example, considerable
evidence was derived from the compilation of firsthand observa -
tions: a man may have been overheard complaining of inadequate
od rations; a woman may have been seen stealing a coconut. Often
branch-level cadres would evaluate this evidence and make an
initial decision regarding punishment. Rudimentary interrogative
techniques may be applied, and following some level of physical or
psychological abuse, a list of suspects may be forwarded to the
upper echelon for additional interrogation. Furthermore, cadres at
various levels would generate lists of associates through these con-
fessions. Any person whose name appeared on a list immediately
me under suspicion and was subsequently observed, questioned,
and possibly arrested. For example, on October 30, 1977, Ren, a staff
member of the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea, informed S-21
that thirty-six “bad elements” were removed. Of these, ten people
were named specifically. A female comrade named Yean was
accused of committing moral offenses and encouraging other cadre
to steal; a man named Saroeun was listed as a militiaman, but
“worked in a liberal manner”; while another man, Hok, was consid -
ered a “malingerer” and considered “very liberal.” Both Makara and
u Ly were deemed “dishonest and slothful.” Twenty-six others
went unnamed but were to be sent to S-24. The letter stated: “We are
Photograph 4.5: Postmortem photograph of prisoner at S-21
(Courtesy of Documentation Center of Cambodia Archives)
tracing them. Their offenses have not yet been categorized.” In
signing off, Ren requested further comments to help determine
how to proceed.
Evidence was also gained through the gathering, compiling, and
evaluation of personal biographies. Personal biographies, especially
at the branch level, were written on sheets of paper. If the person in
question was illiterate or could not write, a cadre would transcribe
the relevant information. Other institutions, such as the Ministry
of Commerce or S-21, would provide prepared forms that would be
filled out either by the man or woman or a staff member. For
example, a brief biography of Khim Met was prepared when she was
transferred to S-21 as a staff member. The document indicates that
she was twenty years old and was born in Chonlus Village, Tuol
Kreul Subdistrict, Kampong Svay District, Kampong Thom
Province. Prior to the revolution, she worked as a farmer and was
classified as a “middle class peasant.” She joined the revolution on
November 3, 1974, introduced by a person named Den. Her father,
Khim Chin, was deceased and her mother, Pen Morn, worked at a
cooperative. Khim Met was not married and had no children. She
was transferred to S-21 on October 12, 1977.
The biography of Khim Met is telling in that it reveals how the
bureaucratic procedures initiated by the CPK facilitated the con -
struction of social networks that were so vital to the purges. Precise
formation was requested not only of family members but also of
other individuals with whom one may have been associated.
Information was routinely gathered on previous units in which one
served, thus establishing potential guilt when other units came
under suspicion. Prior to her transfer to S-21, for example, Khim
Met had served in both Unit 450 and Unit 17. If either of these two
units came under suspicion, so too would Khim Met. Personal biographies were material documents that became
actionable objects. Authorities who held jurisdiction over the com -
pilation of biographies, such as district- or sector-level secretaries,
uld review these documents for contradictions. If, for example, a
cadre preparing his biography in 1976 specified his prerevolution -
ary occupation as farmer, but while preparing a biography in 1977
specified his former occupation as a factory worker, he would come
under suspicion. If a cadre listed her birthplace as Phnom Penh on
one document but indicated Battambang on another, she would
come under suspicion. Authorities could also use biographies to
identify social networks. Lists of known associates, for example,
could be compiled and matched with other lists, including those
provided by cadre serving at either higher or lower echelons.Confessions of detainees at lower-level security centers were
used to initiate additional investigations. On August 10, 1977, Sou
Met, secretary of Division 502, wrote to Duch requesting informa -
tion on the confession of a man from Battalion 512 named Sem.
m had previously been sent to S-21 for interrogation. Sou Met
writes: “I sent this person, whose name had been extracted from the
confession of A Sa Um to you for a long time. I would like to have
his confession shortly because in the confession of A Sa Um this
person was alleged to have betrayed the party, with the instruction
from a political assistant, Phal. Phal is working with me. I would
like to know whether A Sa Um has provided thorough and precise
answer, or we need to take Sem confession into further consider -
33 This letter highlights not only the crucial role of confessions
and how these were used to construct elaborate theories of conspir -
atorial strings of traitors but also the iterative component of
vestigations throughout the bureaucratic hierarchy.The decision to arrest and ultimately send a person to S-21 was a
multifaceted process that included innumerable individuals.
According to Duch, the “right to arrest was vested with the people
who had the right to smash.” These guidelines, it will be recalled
from Chapter 3, were detailed in a meeting held on March 30, 1976.
Duch elaborates that “if the people made such a decision then the
subordinates had to arrest them, and also arrest them in order not
to allow them to fight back and also to keep the arrests secret.”
procedure was not simply a decision rendered by members of the
Standing Committee. Senior cadres, most notably those serving on
the Standing Committee, did not develop a priori lists of people to
be executed. The scale and scope of purges required the active
involvement of functionaries from the branch level through the
highest echelons of governance. On October 9, 1976, a division sec-
retary reported to Son Sen that a thirteen-year-old girl in the
cinity of Toek Sap was seized, and that she confessed to being a
member of a group of three staying at Ou Phos. Another cadre
reported that a man named Pring had been arrest by the local
militia. When confronted, Pring allegedly admitted that he had left
the Prateah Lang Commune without permission to participate with
other confederates in a subversive demonstration.
To be sure, the authority to decide the fate of any person was
held largely by Nuon Chea, Son Sen, and other senior leaders of
the Standing Committee, often in conjunction with considerable
input from Duch and Hor. Testimony provided by Duch indicates
that if the Standing Committee had made a decision to arrest a
person, anyone who failed to respect such an order would in turn
be subject to punishment, quite possibly even arrest and execu -
36 Members of the Standing Committee, but most especially
Nuon Chea and Son Sen, reviewed confessions or summaries of
confessions provided by Duch. These officials would assess the
compiled names of suspected traitors and request follow-up
information. Frequently, information derived from confessions
would be forwarded to the relevant ministries, military units
(such as Unit 703), or administrative committees to inform them
of “enemy activities within that unit” and to allow them to “con -
template the arrest of the implicated persons.” Consequently,
information gathered by these lower-level functionaries would
then be sent back to the Standing Committee and, often in con -
sultation with Duch, a final decision was rendered as to who
would be arrested.
37 Mok Sam Ol (alias Hong), chairman of the
Ph-5 Anti-Malaria Hospital, for example, implicated cadres from
both the Ministry of Social Affairs and the East Zone. Copies of
the confession were sent to the relevant committees for further
A picture emerges whereby there was not a single, unidirectional
chain of command or kill chain that extended from the Standing
Committee to the lower echelons. Rather, significant input could be
provided by, for example, a district-level secretary or a zone-level
committee member. Undoubtedly, members would be mindful and
tread cautiously so as not to call unwarranted attention upon them-
selves. That being said, the procedures involved in calling for the
rest of someone illustrate a complex bureaucratic system that
required input and evaluation at multiple levels of governance. It would be unfair to conclude that the Khmer Rouge security
apparatus was a well-oiled machine. It is not the case that all
villages, communes, or cooperatives routinely compiled and
analyzed personal biographies or similar documents. Many units,
especially those in remote locations, did not always have paper, so
the documentation of suspicious activities was communicated
orally. Furthermore, many cadres at the lower echelons were illiter -
ate. And lastly, as the purges swept through the country, many
ministrative procedures, including both the documentation of
men and women and the invoicing of goods produced, became
increasingly sporadic. As the purges progressed throughout
Democratic Kampuchea, the entire Khmer Rouge bureaucracy pro -
gressively began to implode because of the lack of personnel. To b
e implicated in a confession did not always mean that arrest
was certain. For example, of the twenty people named in Mok Sam
Ol’s confession, archived records of which I am aware indicate that
only six were eventually sent to S-21.
39 This is not to minimize those
six people who were killed because of the confession. Rather, it is to
highlight that key functionaries did engage in evaluative proce -
dures. From the CPK’s perspective, there was a legal order in place
d that evidence, however loosely defined we understand this
term, was assessed. The most important decision was that of arrest,
for once a decision was made that someone was to be arrested and
sent to S-21, his or her fate was effectively sealed. It was then simply
a matter of transporting that person to the security center. On paper, the logistics of prisoner transport seems straightfor -
ward: an order is issued to arrest someone; guards are dispatched to
ke the arrest; and the prisoner is subsequently transported to
S-21. In practice, the administration of prisoner transport to S-21
was more complex and varied, depending in part on the prisoner in
question. Senior officials would often be summoned to a particular
location, where an arrest would be made. Nuon Chea, for example,
would send a telegram or letter to a district- or sector-level cadre
requesting that they travel to Phnom Penh for political studies or
some other meeting. Vin, chairwoman of the Ministry of Industry
Hospital and wife of Vorn Vet, along with Phoas, wife of Vorn Vet’s
deputy, Chim An, were both summoned to Nuon Chea’s office
under false pretenses. Upon their arrival they were immediately
arrested and transferred to S-21. Likewise, Ney Saran (alias Men
San alias Ya), secretary of the Northeast Zone, was told he was
being taken for medical care.
For so-called less important prisoners, secrecy and deception
were still utilized, if only to minimize potential disruption. In
Chapter 3 I detailed a meeting that took place on September 16,
1976, when twenty-nine men and two women were to be arrested.
Duch expressed considerable concern that secrecy be maintained to
avoid any potential disruption from the unit in question. The
arresting guards, Duch explained, were to “consult and discuss
with S-21 as regards operational methods for taking them and
making assignments to administer the unit of organization while
these guys are being removed.” Duch cautioned that the “Division
must have men in hand and have a solid grip on warehouse and
weapons in order to be on guard against the enemy seizing weapons
f rom u s .”
Members of the Special Guard Unit were sometimes required to
collect and transfer prisoners from lower-level security centers to
S-21. Duch recalled that these guards would travel either along
National Road 5 toward Pursat and Battambang; alternatively, they
would take National Road 1 to Prey Vang and Svay Rieng.
suggests the possibility of standardized procedures to arrest and
transport prisoners, perhaps even a system whereby prisoners
would be assembled at a collection point prior to the arrival of
guards from S-21. At this point these procedures remains somewhat
conjectural. Apart from those special prisoners who were arrested after
having been summoned to Phnom Penh under false pretenses, pris -
oners were probably most often transported by truck or some other
vehicle. They would be handcuffed and blindfolded; some were
shackled together. It was the guards’ responsibility to make sure
that no one escaped, but also to keep the prisoners docile. Guards
were required to report any incident.
Documentation workers at S-21 were responsible for recording
daily the number of prisoners entering the facility. On November
24, 1977, for example, a total of 151 prisoners were recorded as
having entered S-21 the previous day. The vast majority of these
men and women were taken from either Division 920 or Sector
44 This information was important in that it provided a gauge to
the overall scope of operations and would inform the upper admin -
istration of both the size and composition of the prison population.
art from this aggregated accounting, staff also processed indi -
vidually the entering prisoners. Normally, prisoners were first
gistered at a building outside the main compound, located on
Street 360, before being bound together in a human chain and
escorted to Building E within the central compound.
45 There, a
member of the Documentation Unit would prepare a personal biog -
raphy for each of the prisoners, a member of the photography
unit would take mug-shot pictures of the detainees to be
included in their files, and another cadre would assign each prisoner
either to a communal room or individual cell. Those prisoners con -
sidered important, such as higher-ranking Party members, would
b e a
ssigned to individual cells; more ordinary prisoners would be
assigned to one of many communal rooms. The most important
prisoners—for example, zone-level secretaries or members of the
Central Committee—would be held in buildings outside the main
46 As the purges intensified, many prisoners were imme -
diately processed for execution. On May 31, 1978, for example,
ven women and one man entered S-21, only to be smashed that
same day; of these individuals, all were listed as spouse, daughter,
or son of other prisoners.
47 Innumerable other prisoners were never
recorded, especially if they were associated with mass executions,
which became more prevalent throughout 1977 and 1978. Detainees endured considerable privation while in captivity.
Male prisoners were required to remove all their clothes, save their
underwear. This was done ostensibly to prevent suicide attempts.
Prisoners assigned to communal rooms were kept shackled
together, lying prostrate in rows. Diseases were rampant and
hygiene lacking. Only when the stench became unbearable would
guards hose out the room while prisoners remained chained to the
floors. Food consisted of watery gruel and medical care was virtu-
ally nonexistent. Prisoners were kept alive only until they were to be
ken away for execution. Those confined to single cells fared no
48 Female prisoners, according to Duch, were detained sepa -
rately from male prisoners. They were also apparently not shackled
ntinuously but rather required to perform work around the
49 Information is limited and I have been unable to
confirm specific tasks that they may have been assigned. The registration of prisoners was a vital part of the administra -
tive function of S-21. Duch and Hor would usually classify arriving
tainees into two broad groups: those to be taken away immedi -
ately for execution and those to be kept for interrogation. Duch
uld regularly receive updated prisoner lists. These reports would
often include the detainee’s name, alias, title, unit, and place of
arrest. Armed with this information, Duch would make annota -
tions, specifying the fate of the prisoner. When Sie Mien was
rested, for example, her position was described as “wife of con -
temptible Hong.” An annotation next to her name simply said
ake away for execution.” Heng Vy (alias Kha) likewise appeared
on a prisoner list. She was described as “Female combatant at the
Cement Factory, wife of Pan Chhan.” Noted next to her name was
“Daughter of contemptible Hong. Keep her for interrogation.”
Other examples of annotations on prisoner lists include “Keep for a
while” or “Do not take outside.” It was not uncommon that prelim -
inary interrogation questions were suggested, as in the annotated
marks next to Chab Saren (alias Rem). Identified as a “New person
from Sambour Commune, Pursot District, wife of Srei Ung,
[former] municipality policeman,” annotated instructions were to
“Keep for interrogation. Ask [her] for former civil servants who
lived near her.”
Why would Duch decide that some prisoners were to be kept
and not taken for immediate execution or interrogation? During
his trial, Duch explained that “at S-21, and probably at other
security offices across the country, the committee of the office could
make a decision to keep someone for helping the work at the office.
. . . [W]e kept them to use them to help in our offices, we were liable
for the life and death of those people, so we would be accountable
for anything that happened by way of keeping those people alive
and use them at our location.”
51 Duch’s testimony is important in
that it provides further clarification of the bureaucratic functions of
S-21 and other security centers. Staffing was an ongoing problem,
especially as various units began to cannibalize their own members.
The initial compilation of personal biographies upon entry was
an important part of the process. These documents could inform
the decision whether to hold a prisoner for interrogation or to be
sent directly to be executed. Furthermore, if interrogation was
deemed necessary, such documents could provide an entry point
for questioning. For example, Phal Va (alias Nat), a thirty-five-
year-old woman, was arrested and sent to S-21 on December 30,
1978. Her prison biography reveals that prior to her arrest, she
was a member of the Committee of State Commerce stationed in
Hong Kong; that her parents were Hor Lim (father) and Phal Van
(mother); that she was married to San Sok and had one son and
two daughters. The report indicates also that Phal Va was 1.6
meters in height.
52 Lim Kimari was a thirty-eight-year-old man
arrested on October 25, 1975. Prior to the revolution he was
employed at a commerce bank. After April 1975, he was evacu -
ated to Tuol Trea Village, Kandal Province, where he was arrested.
His wife’s name was Tioulong Rainsy and they had one son and
If it was determined that interrogative procedures were to be
utilized, Duch and Hor would often consult with the Standing
Committee to establish the broad contours for subsequent interro -
gations, including the line of questioning, the particular
terrogative techniques to be applied, and when the interrogation
could be concluded. It was up to Hor to coordinate the precise
workload, that is, who was to be interrogated on any given day, the
interrogator assigned to the detainee, and the type of interrogative
methods to be used. By way of illustration, on April 27, 1978, Hor
compiled a list of prisoners to be interrogated. Prisoners were spec-
ified by position and date of arrest and were further classified by
pe of torture to be applied (e.g., cold, hot, or chewing) and who
was to conduct the interrogation. Sao Saron (alias Saran), for
example, was secretary of the 115th Regiment, Sector 23, East Zone;
he had been arrested on March 26, 1978, and was to be interrogated
by Ros Ouen using cold methods. Conversely, Yin Vorn (alias Lun),
deputy hospital chairman of Sector 23, was to be interrogated by
Phan Khon using hot methods.
54 A list from February 2, 1978, spec -
ifies fifteen prisoners who were to be interrogated; this list also
ovides some insight into the workload of S-21 in that Comrade
Chhin was scheduled to interrogate three separate prisoners, while
Comrade Ly was responsible for three prisoners and was to assist in
the interrogation of two others.
55 Interrogation lists might also
indicate the status of ongoing investigations. On April 11, 1978, for
example, Khoeun provided updates on thirty-one prisoners. The
confession of Im Mon, former chief of the West Zone Office, was
being “recorded” by an interrogator named Chea Vuth; the confes -
sion of Am Sokhon, a member of Office K-33 of the Ministry of
opaganda, was “clear”; and Chung Huy Sean, a female combatant
and translator from Division 502, had provided “no response” yet.
Furthermore, as reported by S-21 staff member Tit, an additional
seventy-two confessions were either being documented or in the
process of being recorded.
Throughout their captivity, prisoners’ names routinely appeared
on various documents. Daily reports of detainees, for example,
were regularly compiled by Hor and his staff working in the
Documentation Unit. In time, these became standardized to the
extent that by 1977, daily logs resembled balance sheets found in
many bureaucracies the world over. These daily logs would indicate
how many prisoners were currently detained, disaggregated by
place of arrest, such as a specific military sector, autonomous
region and zone, or branch of the government, such as the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs or the State Warehouse. A daily report of April
25, 1977, signed by Hor, indicates that 1,203 prisoners were cur-
rently being detained; a footnote at the bottom of this biopolitical
balance sheet remarked that an individual named Khheang Sek
“croaked”; he was killed by torture.
57 Other lists might indicate
individual prisoners who were to be detained for various reasons.
A list from February 1, 1977, for example, provides information on
74 men and women who were to be “put on hold.” Thus, Kim Iem
was “sick ” and had “not yet confessed” while Lem Tith reportedly
had fever and constipation.
58 Another undated report, presumably
from early 1977, provides a list of 56 male and female prisoners
who were to be “kept.” This list provides information on the pris -
oner’s name, alias, position and function, and date of entry at S-21.
It does not indicate when, or if, any of these prisoners had been
interrogated thus far.
The principle objective of S-21 was not to exterminate prisoners,
although this was the eventual result. Rather, it was to extract con -
fessions through interrogative procedures. To what end, though,
d the CPK need confessions? Caswell suggests that
by documenting confessions (obtained through torture),
Duch and his staff at S-21 were able to prove to the upper
echelons that their own top-level decisions regarding arrests
were prudent, thereby reaffirming the omniscience of the
highest-ranking Khmer Rouge leaders; while the use of the
records was to document killings, the purpose was to flatter
the upper echelon. In this tautology, when high-ranking
Khmer Rouge leader suspected someone of being a traitor,
that person had to be tortured so that he would confess, so
that his confession would serve as written proof confirming
the original suspicion.
Documentary evidence, however, does not readily support this
conclusion. Security practices under the CPK were not tautologi -
cal. The administrative process was not driven by initial suspicions
expressed by the Standing Committee, with all lower-level
functionaries down the bureaucratic hierarchy simply following
orders. As noted, the path to S-21 assumed many different forms.
Lower-level officials could, and did, inform their superiors of sus-
pected individuals; requests could be made to enact specific
investigations; confessions were corroborated with other confes -
sions; personal biographies were evaluated at all levels in an effort
to identify individual traitors or conspiratorial networks. It is
simply not the case that members of the Standing Committee
were omnipotent in their actions and that this was the catalyst of
The process of interrogation was not to justify predetermined
decisions rendered by infallible Party leaders but instead instituted
to provide evidence among bureaucrats working from the lowest of
levels through to the highest. The mere observation that not all
people implicated in a confession were ultimately arrested should
give pause to the notion that no evaluative procedure took place.
We may question how so-called evidence was weighed, and we may
certainly take issue with the lack of judicial review. We must
acknowledge, however, that many (most?) decisions to arrest did
not emanate from the upper echelon and, subsequently, confessions
were not used to document the all-knowing power of these individ -
uals. To this point, we should also keep in mind that interrogation
d forced confessions were not unique to S-21 and that informa -
tion circulated constantly throughout S-21 and the myriad other
curity centers throughout Democratic Kampuchea. Prisoners
were arrested at all levels of the administrative hierarchy and they
were interrogated and forced to confess to crimes at all levels. On
this point, an untold number of people would have been arrested,
interrogated, forced to confess, and executed without any input
from the Standing Committee. Moreover, information derived
from these lower-level procedures could and did provide the
impetus for subsequent investigations, thereby bringing to the
attention of the Standing Committee suspicious behaviors and
activities. In other words, the search for traitors, the evaluative use
of confessions and personal biographies, was both a top-down and
bottom-up procedure. The functioning of the Khmer Rouge
bureaucracy is considerably more multifaceted than generally
I do agree with Caswell that certain members of the Standing
Committee—namely, Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, and Son
Sen—viewed their policies and programs as unswervingly correct.
Within the broader administrative apparatus, these men largely
determined the myriad operational objectives that were subse -
quently disseminated throughout Democratic Kampuchea.
Members of the Standing Committee essentially appointed, or at
the very least monitored, the appointment of lower-level apparat -
chiks; they supervised the implementation of Party policy; and
they assessed the effectiveness of these policies. On this account
these members did assume an aura of sagacity that subsequently
permeated the entire administrative hierarchy. Thus, when con -
fronted with evidence of economic or political failings, these
members could only conclude that bad elements throughout the
ranks were conspiring against them. It was on this level that
paranoia marked the search for traitors. The upper echelon did
not necessarily know a priori who those men and women were.
They did presume that turncoats did exist, though, and guided
their subordinates accordingly in the effort to root out the con -
spirators. In this process, fears of betrayal did disseminate in a
top-down process. Once established, however, the actual investi -
gative procedures, including that of interrogation, were a
combination of top-down and bottom-up ways. Duch testified, for
example, that during the early months of S-21, he and Nat met
with Son Sen. A piece of paper was presented, reportedly provid -
ing evidence that cadres at Sector 32 had exposed a network of
CIA agents. Son Sen questioned why the interrogative procedures
at S-21 had not yet uncovered similar evidence of CIA activity.
Upon their return to S-21, both Duch and Nat informed members
of the Interrogation Unit to find evidence of CIA involvement.
Not surprisingly, subsequent confessions revealed extensive CIA
a c t i v it y.
Interrogative procedures at S-21 must be understood as a crucial
node of the larger security apparatus, itself intertwined within an
even greater administrative structure. The circulation of biopoliti-
cal data, manifest in confessions and personal biographies obtained
roughout the entire bureaucracy, was essential for the conduct of
policing practices at S-21. This is a point affirmed by Son Sen.
During a meeting with divisional secretaries and deputy secretar -
ies, Son Sen addressed the “problem of analyzing or discovering the
emy.” He explained that “if phenomena already exist, you must
find the reason, the source, where they come from.” Furthermore,
“Wherever an incident takes place, you must look there” and “If
there is evidence, then you must follow up.” Effort, though, was
required beyond simply responding to reported incidents; instead,
cadres were to take a more active role in ferreting out enemies.
Thus, “all biographies must be grasped again” in an effort to
examine links between named suspects. Investigative procedures,
however, were to be clandestine: “The problem arises of the names
of all these traitors: we do not disseminate them. It is imperative to
maintain absolute secrecy. In educating the brothers and sisters,
educate them only in terms of perspective and standpoint.”
As with other administrative functions within S-21, interroga -
tive procedures appear to have become more sophisticated, more
utinized, and more efficient over time. Indeed, the act of interro -
gation was approached as any other function, so much so that Alex
nton can write that “interrogation . . . apparently sometimes
involved a degree of boredom or aversion.”
63 Hinton finds evidence
that cadre fell into “clock watching” or worked “irregular hours.” 64
Bureaucrats were required to undergo training as would any
other staff member. At S-21, training was conducted largely by
Duch. According to Alex Hinton, Duch’s interrogative techniques
seem to have been inspired by two different but reinforcing moral
underpinnings. Hinton explains that on the one hand, Duch
appeared to have a commitment to truth and knowledge and the
scientific principles by which they might be discerned; and on the
other hand, his approached resonated with Buddhist rationalism,
which emphasized the analysis of evidence to discern truth from
falsehood and moral right from wrong.
65 In total, Hinton con -
cludes that for Duch, S-21 reports, including confessions, were not
merely passive bureaucratic filings but instead helped drive the
Training would normally last from two to four weeks, approxi-
mately two hours per day, with interrogators required to attend
llow-up” training. 67 Ever pragmatic, Duch explained that he
trained interrogators to use politics and to study the prisoners’
backgrounds by way of asking questions instead of simply resorting
to physical means.
68 When torture was permitted, Duch instructed
his staff to employ one of four procedures: beatings and whippings,
electrocution, simulated suffocation, and a variant of water
boarding. The actual technique of applying torture, Duch explained,
was not taught, for “You do not need to teach a crocodile how to
69 More important, for Duch, was to accentuate the political
importance of torture and of how torture would be carried out. He
stressed that detainees were not to be beaten to the point of uncon -
sciousness. This was not done out of humanitarian concerns but
ain reflected the pragmatism by which torture was employed. If
prisoners were beaten until they were too weak to respond, the
interrogative process was prolonged. Thus, out of a desire for effi -
ciency, interrogators were to inflict pain, but not so much as to
pinge the investigation. It was absolutely essential that detainees
were not “accidentally” killed before the interrogation was com -
pleted to Angkar’s satisfaction. If
prisoners did die in captivity, those S-21 staff members respon -
sible were not necessarily subject to swift and severe punishment. It
s necessary, however, that the incident be reported. It was also
not uncommon that postmortem photographs of the prisoners were
taken as confirmation of death (photographs 4.6 and 4.7). Duch
explained that this was done primarily in case members of the
Standing Committee requested additional information from the
prisoner in question. Without proof that the detainee had died in
captivity, suspicion among Angkar might arise, such as the unau -
thorized release or escape of the prisoner.
The day-to-day procedure of interrogation became routinized.
For any given shift, the interrogator would inform the guard on
duty as to which prisoner was to be interrogated. The guard would
blindfold the prisoner and tie his or her hands. The prisoner would
then be escorted to a prearranged room for torture. A variety of
implements would already be on display, such as a knife, clamp, or
electrocution wires. These were not always used, but their display
was to induce both fear and compliance. The actual interrogation of
prisoners became increasingly systematic over time, reflecting an
iterative process with substantial input from staff interrogators,
Duch, Hor, and members of the Standing Committee, notably
Nuon Chea and Son Sen. In general, Duch trained his subordinates
to begin with soft questioning. This was referred to as “doing
politics.” Prisoners would be questioned on their past activities and
asked to admit their crimes. When these cool methods proved inef-
fective, hot methods would be introduced.
71 On one occasion, for
example, Duch was ordered by Nuon Chea (through Son Sen) to
inform one prisoner, Mil Kavin (alias Kdat), that if he confessed, he
would be released. Interrogators were to explain to the detainee that
other prisoners, having already confessed, had been sent home.
Photograph 4.6: Postmortem photograph of tortured prisoner at
S -21 (Courtesy of Documentation Center of Cambodia Archives)
When this deception proved ineffective, however, Nuon Chea
ordered Duch to physically torture the prisoner. 72
Much speculation surrounds the use of torture at S-21. In his
historical account of S-21, Chandler finds no precedent, whether in
precolonial or colonial Cambodia. He does identify superficial
linkages with penal systems in Communist China, Vietnam, and
the Soviet Union, but cannot unequivocally say that any of these
systems provided a model for S-21. My sense is that torture, as an
interrogative technique, evolved on an ad hoc basis. During the
civil war years, for example, the Khmer Rouge captured enemy
soldiers and suspected spies. These individuals would be detained,
usually in makeshift camps, and potentially subjected to torture.
These acts of violence were in part utilized to extract information
on enemy activities; one cannot discount this violence as a form of
retribution. After the victory of April 1975, an unknown number of
Photograph 4.7: Postmortem photograph of possible suicide victim
at S -21 (Courtesy of the Documentation Center of Cambodia Archives)
these camps, such as M-13, were converted and transformed into
more permanent structures while new security centers were estab-
lished as the need arose. When men and women were arrested at
anch-level security centers, physical and psychological abuses
were utilized, but not necessarily for the same reasons as at S-21 or
other zone-level security centers. During the Khmer Rouge period,
people were often arrested for theft or idleness. In these instances,
beatings and whippings may be understood as forms of punish -
ment. The systematic use of torture as practiced at S-21 was
fferent. It was pragmatic, designed to bring to light the supposed
strings of traitors who were conspiring against the Party.
Bureaucrats, such as Duch and Hor, who staffed the various security
apparatuses, were responsible for uncovering these networks. If
detainees would not divulge their criminal activities or name their
traitorous associates, then additional forms of physical and psycho -
logical coercion were deemed necessary. The e
ndpoint of interrogative procedures and torture was the
production of a confession. In practice, these were working docu -
ments, in the sense that confessions were written and rewritten
ny times, depending on the prisoner in question. Thus, when a
detainee finally capitulated to providing a confession, he or she
would be provided with pen and paper. If the prisoner was illiterate,
confessions were tape-recorded and staff working in the
Documentation Unit would transcribe these to paper. There was
initially no standardized form. Prisoners were compelled to provide
a chronology of their traitorous activities.
73 Chandler explains,
however, that by the end of 1976, most confessions assumed a four-
part format. First, prisoners would provide life stories, including
information on relatives, friends, and other social contacts; infor -
mation was also provided on where the prisoner was stationed. A
cond component of the confession would entail a history of trai -
torous activities and other incriminating evidence. Third, prisoners
re required to confess to ongoing plans—criminal activities that
they had not yet carried out, but were preparing. Fourth, a list of
accomplices was enumerated. These lists could include upward of
one hundred people or more.
As working documents, confessions would be read, analyzed,
and annotated by Duch, who would then send the marked-up con -
fession to Nuon Chea and Son Sen for their assessment. A draft
nfession of Khek Bin (alias Sou), for example, indicates that
“Brother Nuon” had already received a copy and “two copies of the
[name] list were submitted to Sou, under secretary of sector.”
Additional annotations specify that the confession “involves
Comrades Khleng, Ren, Ku, Muon and Comrade Pring.” Other
specific comments are directed at individuals listed in the confes -
sion. Thus, for example, comments indicate that “Bunthan had
en arrested” and subsequently committed suicide, but his wife
was “still alive”; that Ing Kim Seng had “already been arrested”;
and that Heng Heu had “already been captured. He had pictures
[and] letters relating to his CIA activities.”
75 Here, it is possible to
gain a sense of evaluative procedures that accompanied the inter -
rogation and torture of prisoners, and how confessions in particular
re analyzed in an attempt to establish the presence of conspira -
torial networks. Through this process the manifestation of power
s materialized. Written confessions, articulated as official docu -
ments, established a connection between text and facts. Paper, in
e form of filed confessions, afforded criminality a material form
that became inseparable from the subject in question. Following
Robertson, we see that the information contained in the written
confession constitutes an administrative identity—that of being a
traitor, for example—and acquires in the process a functional
presence that has been authenticated by the sovereign authority.
Firsthand accounts of torture are exceptionally rare. This stems
from the fact that only seven prisoners are known to have survived
77 Chum Mey was arrested on October 28,
1978. His torture began almost immediately. He writes:
They began to beat me, and they kept on beating me for 12
days and 12 nights. Every morning at 7 o’clock I was brought
out of my cell to the interrogation room and I was returned to
my cell at 11am. Then from 1pm to 5pm, I was interrogated
some more, and again at night from 7pm to 11pm. . . . They
beat me, and sometimes they stopped and asked me ques-
tions and then beat me again. 78
Throughout his interrogation, Chum Mey was asked repeatedly
about his contacts with the CIA and about any conspiratorial
networks with which he was involved. At one point, an interrogator
named Seng informed Chum Mey that he would pull out his toenail
if he did not confess. Chum Mey recalls:
At first he had a hard time getting the nail out. He got a pair
of pliers and he stepped on my foot and tugged on the nail,
but it wouldn’t come off. So he twisted it back and forth. It
took him a long time and I bit my lip to try to bear the pain.
And then he gave a big tug using all his strength and yanked
it out . . . I think he wanted to pull out the other big toenail
too, but maybe because he saw so much blood on the floor he
Chum Mey refused to confess, so other forms of torture were
used. Eventually, the staff members at S-21 decided to use electro -
cution. Chum Mey explains that he could tolerate the pain from
atings, he could tolerate the pain from having his toenail ripped
out, but the pain of electrocution was too much. He remembers:
They attached a wire to my left ear and it was like my head
exploded. . . . My head felt like a machine and my eyes were on
fire. I fell on the floor unconscious two times. When I woke up
I started telling them what they wanted to hear. At that point,
I couldn’t tell what was right or wrong. I was so afraid they
would electrocute me again, so I made up stories. . . .
Duch was kept informed of the progression of torture. His sub -
ordinates would submit reports detailing, for example, the
chniques used and the duration, frequency, and intensity of
torture. Such reports might indicate the number of lashes a prisoner
received, or whether a detainee was suffocated with a plastic bag. In
turn, Duch would provide annotations on the report, specifying
further courses of action. There was no set period of time allocated
for interrogating prisoners; it all depended on the information
provided in the confession. If, after two or three interrogation
sessions, the upper echelon was satisfied with the evidence obtained,
the prisoner would be scheduled to be executed. If further clarifica-
tion was needed, additional interrogative sessions were ordered.
The final administrative function was that of execution. Duch
referred to the process as the activity line (not unlike kill chains) for
it was the activity of the S-21 Committee to follow orders and make
sure the process was smooth, that the prison would not become
overcrowded, and that prisoners were executed at the appropriate
82 As indicated, for those prisoners considered unimportant
and not worthy of interrogation, the process was relatively quick
but no less brutal, ghastly, or deadly. These detainees were held for a
few days or weeks until they were taken to be executed. During
mass purges, prisoners were not even processed and detained, but
taken straight to the killing site. Throughout December 1978,
according to Duch, prisoners from the East Zone were never inter -
rogated but taken away immediately to be smashed.
83 For those
men and women who had been interrogated, it was important that
their execution be confirmed by Duch and his superiors. Indeed,
during his trial, Duch repeatedly mentioned a person who was
smashed by Hor before the interrogation was complete.
84 Duch tes -
tified also that written records were not always kept when the
mmittee reached a decision to execute a prisoner, nor were any
minutes of the meetings recorded. Here, our record remains
occluded, for in these instances, only verbal instructions were
issued by Duch to his subordinates, usually Hor, regarding the exe -
cution. Duch clarified, though, that written orders may be issued if
h e n
eeded to inform a staff member not serving on the committee.
Schedules of those to be executed were compiled, often by Hor or
under his supervision. A prisoner list dated July 1, 1977, for example,
includes the names of 63 women who were scheduled to be smashed
that day. These were mostly women who were wives of male prison -
ers who had already been purged.
85 Another execution schedule,
dated July 2, 1977, lists 85 sons and daughters of previously executed
86 Lists would also be compiled of prisoners who had
already been executed. On June 11, 1977, Hor signed a report indi-
cating that 198 prisoners from Division 310 had been “smashed” the
vious day. 87 One month later, Hor reported that 173 prisoners
from the North Zone had been smashed on July 8. According to an
annotation, Sao Khun (alias Kim) had not yet been removed, as this
individual was “kept for doing documentation work.”
88 Also killed
that day were 18 female prisoners, smashed by Brother Huy Sre’s
89 Later that month, Hor confirmed on July 23, 1977, that
178 people—of whom 160 were unnamed children—were also
90 Apart from these daily recordings, summary reports of
prisoners smashed would be compiled. One document indicates
that 162 prisoners died between March 2 and 30, 1976. Of these
deaths, 153 had been smashed while nine died of sickness.
Executions mostly took place away from the main facility at
S-21, although Duch testified that some bodies, especially of
children, were buried within the compound. Throughout 1975 and
into 1976, however, most executions and burials were conducted at
the Ta Khmau Psychiatric Hospital. Other killings were carried out
in the vicinity of S-21, with bodies buried in the streets of Phnom
Penh, notably along Street 613 near Wat Mohamon Trey.
92 Once in
charge of S-21, Duch worried about the possible outbreak of epi -
demics resulting from the rapidly accumulating and deteriorating
dies. Hence, he decided that executions and burials would take
place at Choeung Ek, a Chinese cemetery located 15 kilometers
southwest of Phnom Penh. Duch confirmed that he did not solicit
advice or seek permission from the Standing Committee to transfer
the killings to Choeung Ek. Having made the decision, he merely
informed his superiors.
Upward of nine thousand skeletal remains have been exhumed
at Choeung Ek, although it is unknown exactly how many men,
women, and children were executed there. As indicated earlier,
although the staff at S-21 kept meticulous records, and many sur -
viving execution schedules have been archived, records are
complete. Moreover, it is known that during the last months of
the purges, many prisoners went unrecorded. It is quite possible
that hundreds, if not thousands, of men, women, and children were
transported directly to Choeung Ek, having never set foot inside
S-21. The temporal pattern of executions—that is, the hour-by-hour
and day-by-day systematic process of killing—is also only margin-
ally understood. On any given day, upward of twenty to more than
e hundred people were executed. During his trial, Duch surmised
that it might take six days for the guards to smash one hundred
prisoners. The transportation of prisoners to the killing fields usually
occurred at night, normally between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. Prior to
being transported to Choeung Ek, prisoners were blindfolded and
handcuffed. Deception was often used to keep the condemned pris -
oners unaware of their ultimate fate. Guards, for example, would
form the prisoners that they were being processed for release or
that they were being transferred to another security center.
members at S-21 would then cross-check the execution lists, con -
cerned more so that no detainee was to be executed prematurely.
om S-21 prisoners were transported by truck. It is unclear how
many prisoners were taken at any time, nor how many trips were
made on any given night. Prisoner lists were again checked upon arrival at Choeung Ek, a
procedure implemented to safeguard against the escape or the
unauthorized release of prisoners. Following this final administra -
tive act, prisoners were then detained in a wooden hut until taken
r execution. As indicated in Chapter 3, execution was brutal but
efficient. One by one, prisoners were marched, blindfolded and
handcuffed, to predug burial pits, whereupon they were ordered to
kneel down and face the grave. A member of the Special Guard Unit
would then apply a blow to the back of the head or neck using a
wagon axle or other blunt instrument. It was also common practice
to slash the prisoner’s neck with a knife to ensure death. Blindfolds,
handcuffs, and often any remaining clothes were then removed.
Procedures for executing important prisoners, such as
high-ranking Party members, were slightly different. Members of
the Standing Committee generally required additional confirma -
tion that these men and women were in fact executed. Thus, Koy
on, Vorn Vet, Hu Nim, and other key officials were taken during
the daytime, somewhere in the vicinity of Mao Tse Tong Boulevard,
to be executed. Postmortem photographs were taken of the corpses
and sent to the Standing Committee as verification.
96 It was also not
uncommon for corpses to be exhumed to provide visual evidence of
their execution. As a case in point, Duch testified that the body of
Ly Phel, who had been dead for three days, was exhumed so that a
postmortem photograph could be taken.
The killing of children was different. When asked about the pro -
tocols for executing children during his trial, Duch answered
untly, “Let me conclude it in one word: they were killed.” Duch
affirmed that very young children were separated from their parents
immediately upon arrival at S-21 and that the longest any child
would remain in detention was one day. Some were killed at
Choeung Ek, while others were probably murdered in and around
Phnom Penh. According to Duch, “They were thrown against the
trees or something at Choeung Ek but in Phnom Penh probably
they were killed quietly in the same way as the adult prisoners were
killed.” Duch could not confirm how many children were killed,
most likely because they were simply not recorded.
Empirical Analysis of Purges
Previous scholarship has considered mass executions from the
standpoint of Khmer Rouge victims. Steve Heder, for example,
has identified three targeted populations within Democratic
Kampuchea: military personnel and civilian administrators of
the Khmer Republic government; non-Party members, especially
April 17 people, who were allegedly guilty of serious crimes
against the revolution; and CPK cadre and Khmer Rouge
99 It remains unclear if the CPK targeted groups based
specifically on class, ethnicity, or religion. 10 0 Certainly Vietnamese
nationals, derogatorily called Yuon, were smashed; such murders
followed CPK members’ long-standing mistrust of the
Vietnamese. Also targeted were people alleged to be part of the
so-called imperialist or capitalist class. And a strong case has
been made that the Cham, a Muslim minority, were singled out
for elimination. 101 However, as Heder explains, “according to the
CPK’s class-based analysis, certain class groups and ethnic and
religious communities were associated with the opposition, and
consequently individuals from these same groups were more
likely to be targeted for execution.”
102 Subsequent analyses,
including those conducted under the auspices of the Extraordinary
Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, may establish that the
CPK did in fact target specific groups.
103 At this point, what is
documented is that “from the day of liberation until the last day
of [Democratic Kampuchea], the security services, assisted by the
chhlop and ‘the people,’ arrested, detained and executed wave
after wave of alleged counter-revolutionaries and spies they iden -
tified in multiple population categories.”
In this penultimate section I provide a different, complementary
analysis of Khmer Rouge purges associated with S-21. 105 Rather
than focusing on the broader coordinates of the purges, that is, how
these transpired over time, my concern lies with the more immedi -
ate period of administrative oversight between the date of arrest
d the date of execution. My intention, therefore, is to evaluate the
duration of detainment, for it is my contention that this variable
provides insight into the bureaucratic functioning of S-21. Before proceeding, it is necessary to express my concerns regard -
ing any empirical analysis of arrests and executions associated with
21. The aforementioned documentary procedures initiated and
carried out at S-21 dehumanized countless men, women, and
children. These people arrived at the compound blindfolded and
bound, terrified and confused. Most were hurriedly processed,
personal details recorded, mug-shot photographs taken, and
shackled in either a communal or isolated cell. Many were subjected
to horrific forms of torture and forced to confess to crimes they did
not commit. All were subjected to deplorable conditions of starva -
tion, disease, and abuse. Detainees were no longer viewed as people
neak tos —those who are already convicted. Moreover, as
David Hawk explains, literal translations of the prison archives
reveal the deliberate dehumanization of the victims. Named indi -
viduals are frequently given the adjectives “contemptible” or
“wicked.” When the death of a prisoner is recorded, the word is
translated as “croak,” the Khmer word used for animal deaths as
opposed to human deaths.
106 Consequently, I am sensitive to the
appearance of reducing the lives of these men, women, and children
to datum: to a postdeath objectification of flesh and blood to that of
the same type of bureaucratic procedures that typified S-21. I do
believe, however, that an evaluation of arrest and execution records
provides insight into the bureaucratic structure and administrative
processes that made widespread purges possible and, in some small
way, gives voice to those who were denied. The duration of detainment was highly dependent on both the
individual detained and the time of arrest. On the one hand, more
important prisoners, such as high-ranking CPK cadre, were forced
to endure long and brutal periods of torture before their eventual
execution. Less important prisoners, from the CPK’s point of view,
were often not interrogated and were frequently executed shortly
following arrest. These people included spouses, children, and other
relatives of people already detained. Also included were members of
the lower echelons, such as rank-and-file combatants. On the other
hand, the duration period was dependent upon the overall time of
arrest. As the purges intensified throughout 1977 and 1978, S-21
functioned less as a bureaucratic facility responsible for the
so-called documentation of crimes as it did a preparatory site for
mass killings. Any semblance of legality steadily evaporated as the
killings quickened in pace. Archival data on arrests and executions are directly related to
the overall documentation practices of S-21 staff. As indicated
earlier, most, but not all, detainees sent to S-21 were registered and
photographed upon arrival. Consequently, prisoner lists form the
bulk of data on the timing of arrests. This information can also be
corroborated with photographs. There are, however, significant
limitations. Recall that spouses and children were often not
recorded. Moreover, countless men, women, and children were
never processed at S-21, although their arrests and executions were
directly associated with decisions rendered by Nuon Chea, Son Sen,
Duch, and Hor as part of the overall administrative functions of
S-21. Two other sources of information have been readily used.
First, for those men and women who were interrogated, confes-
sional records remain. Chandler’s chronology of purges is based on
nfessions. Second, when prisoners were sent for execution, their
names were registered on various execution schedules. These con -
stitute another complementary record of information that may be
ed to corroborate dates of arrest and execution.Caution must be taken, however, when examining prison
records. First, there is the problem of double entries. Some records
contain listings of identical names, and without cross-checking, it
is not known if the same individual was recorded twice, or if in fact
there were two (or more) people with the same name. Second, the
prevalence of aliases compounds the problem, although at times
these may help identify any given person. Third, a not insignificant
number of records have incomplete information, for example, many
prisoner entries provide a name, but no information on sex, age, or
position. Also missing for many records are complete dates for
arrest and/or execution. By way of illustration, compare the records
of Buoy Sreng, Kim Thy, and Chhay Reasey. Records indicate that
Buoy Sreng (alias Peng Sruoy), a forty-year-old man and former
director of the
Khmer Salvation Newspaper , was arrested in Region
25 on February 22, 1976, and executed on May 27, 1976. The record
of Kim Thy, a thirty-two-year-old teacher arrested in Phnom Srok,
is less complete. His date of arrest is listed only as “1976,” but he was
executed on May 23, 1976. Finally, Chhay Reasey was a twenty-six-
year-old woman, with no information provided for her position,
where or when she was arrested, or when she was executed.
During Duch’s trial, researchers associated with the
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia compiled a
master list of 12,273 men, women, and children who were detained
at S-21 and this provides the basis of my analyses.
107 This list was
gathered largely from arrest lists, execution lists, and prisoner
confessions. Cross-examination of all sources enabled staff to
(mostly) eliminate duplication and to verify records. The official
ECCC lists consequently provide a partial but highly informative
overview of the prisoners arrested, detained, and executed at S-21.
Of the total number of prisoners who can be verified and for
whom sufficient information is available, we know the sex of 63
percent of all prisoners: 5,994 men and 1,698 women. Of those
detainees for whom a position is indicated, 5,609 (46 percent) were
members of the Khmer Rouge army; 4,371 (36 percent) were
unspecified Khmer Rouge cadres; 876 (0.07 percent) were relatives
or spouses of other detainees; and 155 (0.01 percent) were former
S-21 staff members. Conversely, only 328 (0.03 percent) were
soldiers of the former government; 279 (0.02 percent) were listed
as teachers, professors, students, or some other professional
position; and 266 (0.02 percent) were listed as Vietnamese soldiers
or spies. This disaggregation is significant in that it accentuates
the uniqueness of S-21 as a facility designed primarily to purge
CPK Party members and Khmer Rouge cadres. Indeed, we may
conclude that upward of 90 percent of all detainees were somehow
affiliated with the Khmer Rouge. S-21 was therefore distinct from
zone-level and other lower-level security centers in that it did not
receive a substantial number of base or new people.
Subsequent analyses are based on the ECCC list. However, addi-
tional checking and revision was required. 108 For example, as
discussed earlier, the record of Buoy Sreng contains a complete
matching record whereas the entries for Kim Thy and Chhay Reasey
do not. Given that the intention is to document the duration of
detainment, incomplete records for dates of arrest and execution
are not included in this analysis. This is in no way meant to disre -
spect those who died or to discount their lives simply because of
complete records. It is also necessary to exclude from analysis
those records with discernable inaccuracies. For example, forty-two
records indicate execution dates as being prior to arrest. Likewise,
analyses revealed noticeable errors, such as the record of Say Kim-
Kheat. Listed as the “wife of Luon,” Say Kim-Khet was, according to
the official list, arrested on February 7, 1975, and executed on May
12, 1977, indicating that she was detained for 825 days. This is (most
likely) incorrect and we know this for two reasons. First, as the wife
of another prisoner, Say Kim-Kheat was probably not (in the eyes of
the staff at S-21) an important prisoner. More pressing, however, is
that her date of arrest is said to have occurred several months prior
to the establishment of S-21. In fact, the date would indicate that she
was arrested two months prior to the fall of Phnom Penh. Most
likely, she was arrested February 7, 1977, but without additional
corroborating information, this cannot be known with certainty.
How long were prisoners detained between date of arrest and
date of execution? It is noteworthy that during the tribunal, David
Chandler was asked precisely this question. In his response,
Chandler could not provide any definitive conclusion, but instead
provided a range of “no time” (that is, immediately transferred for
execution) to “several months.” He concluded that “most of the
people were there between two and three weeks.”
110 My analysis
reveals that for all prisoners for which a complete record is avail -
able, the mean duration of detention is 180 days. This average stay
o f i
nternment, however, belies significant variability. Figure 4.1
illustrates the frequency of detention days, that is, how prevalent
was it that a prisoner was detained for 1, 2, or more days? Of the
8,283 usable records, 206 people were arrested and executed on the
same day, 312 were executed within 1 day of arrest, and 395 were
executed within 2 days of arrest. Keep in mind that countless others
were not recorded. These men, women, and children would obvi -
ously have been killed within a day or two of arrest. It i
s also not known with any degree of certainty who was
imprisoned at S-21 for the longest time. During his trial Duch noted
that a prisoner named Phing Ton was detained for twenty months.
Chandler, in his testimony, could neither corroborate nor refute
this claim. Moreover, Chandler concluded that it seemed “quite
strange” that someone would be imprisoned for such a long period.
The official ECCC prisoner list records ninety-five entries of men
and women detained longer than three hundred days. Even a
cursory examination of this subset indicates numerous recording
errors. Hem Ang Sin, for example, is identified as the “wife of Sok.”
Records indicate that she was arrested on April 26, 1977, and sched -
uled for execution on April 29, 1978. It is most probable that she was
rested and executed within three days, either in 1977 or 1978, as
opposed to being detained for over one year. Without additional
supporting documents and cross-checking, however, the duration
of Hem Ang Sin’s detainment cannot be verified. 111
Figure 4.2 illustrates the cumulative frequency of arrest and exe-
cution. Of those individuals for whom a paired date of arrest and
ecution is possible, 518 men, women, and children were executed
within one day of arrest; 1,720 detainees were executed within one
week, 3,707 were executed within one month, and 5,156 were
executed within two months. In other words, over 80 percent of
detainees were executed within two months of arrest. This overall
pattern, though, does not hold constant throughout the existence of
S-21 (Table 4.1). For the period 1976–78, the interval between arrest
and execution shortened considerably. Of the 8,241 individuals for
whom complete records are available, nearly 63 percent were
executed within two months of arrest. However, disaggregation by
year indicates that the duration of detainment decreased apprecia -
bly. Stated differently, over time the rapidity in which prisoners
re executed increased significantly. This is empirical evidence of
Figure 4.1: Duration of Detainment between Date of Arrest and Date
of Execution (n=8,283)
the transformation of S-21 as it moved from a facility purportedly
investigating criminal activities to an institution geared almost
exclusively to mass murder. By 1978, for example, two-thirds of all
prisoners were executed within one month of arrest; over 90 percent
were executed within two months. Figure 4.3, however, illustrates
even greater complexity to this trend. In May 1975, for example, the
mean length of detainment (for those men and women arrested in
May) was twenty-five days; however, by October of that year, the
length of detainment peaked at forty days. Afterwards, the mean
period of detainment fluctuated, although the overall trend is one
of shorter detainment prior to execution. Figure 4.3 is also notable
in that it reflects three months of exceptionally short detainment
periods: June 1976, June 1978, and December 1978. These months
correspond to a series of intensive purges that took place.
Consequently, most of these detainees would most likely not have
been subjected to intensive interrogations.Geographically, significant variation is also evident. Conclusions,
however, must be tempered with a lack of detailed records.
Figure 4.2: Cumulative Distribution of Duration between Date of
Arrest and Date of Execution (n=8,283)
Although prisoner biographies oft en include information on place
of arrest, this information is oft en incomplete or indeterminate. For
example, many records indicate the place of arrest not according to
administrative divisions (e.g., zone, sector, or district) but rather
the unit to which the individual was assigned (e.g., motor-pool
division or Division 505). For some records, cross-checking with
the known location of specifi c units or division facilitates the iden-
tifi cation of place of arrest. An additional complication results from
the myriad paths to S-21 and the many ambiguities surrounding
the actual recording of information. If a person was initially
arrested at a district-level prison, for example, and subsequently
transferred to a zone-level security center before being transported
to S-21, it is not clear whether that prisoner would be entered (at
S-21) as having been arrested at the district- or zone-level facility.
With these qualifi cations in mind, however, a preliminary
Figure 4.3: Mean Length of Detention by Month (n=8,289)
geographic accounting of detainment suggests that those men and
women arrested from the East and Southwest zones were detained
for shorter periods prior to execution than those people from other
regions (Table 4.2). Sex differences by administrative zone are illus-
trated in tables 4.3 and 4.4. In general, for all zones, women were
ecuted following shorter periods of imprisonment than their
male counterparts. Of those arrested in the North Zone, for
example, over 76 percent of female prisoners were executed within
two weeks of arrest, compared to only 48 percent of male prisoners
from this same zone. It is not surprising that Duch, during his trial,
would state matter-of-factly that “the majority of the female prison -
ers . . . they were not important, so I did not pay much attention to
e female prisoners entering S-21.” 113
In his analysis of prisoner confessions, Chandler calls attention
to two broad periods of purges: September 1975 through September
1976, and November 1976 through January 1979.
114 He explains that
prior to September 1976, the Khmer Rouge targeted mostly people
associated with the previous military and civilian government, but
that after this date, attention was directly primarily toward internal
enemies. An analysis provided by Steve Heder confirms this general
YEAR EXECUTED WITHIN
ONE WEEK ONE MONTH TWO MONTHS
(n=1,4 22) 16%
(n= 4 ,43 4) 18.6%
(n=2 , 385) 2 7. 9 %
66.5% 9 2 .1%
To t a l
(n = 8 , 2 41) 20.9%
Table 4.1: Duration of Detainment Prior to Execution by Year
periodization, although Heder further divides the latter period into
a purge initially of non-Party members of Democratic Kampuchea
followed by a purge of CPK cadre.
115 According to these accounts,
during the first major purge—that of former Lon Nol soldiers and
civilian employees of the previous regime—most victims were
summarily executed and detainment was less common. Conversely,
during the second major purge, as the CPK began targeting senior
Khmer Rouge cadre, many prisoners were detained for longer
periods of time, as important prisoners were forced to undergo
lengthy interrogation sessions. Although informative, Chandler’s two-phase chronology is
limited. Indeed, as Figure 4.3 reveals, a chronology of detainment
derived from arrest and execution dates indicates a series of peaks
and valleys, thereby suggesting a greater complexity both to CPK
ZONE EXECUTED WITHIN
ONE WEEK ONE MONTH TWO MONTHS
16 .4% 25.5%
East (n=881) 34.5%69%9 2 .1%
(n= 69 9) 2 7. 5 %
(n=1, 214) 16%40.8% 62.9%
(n=26 0) 38.8% 52.7%65.4%
We s t
(n=26 0) 016 . 3% 25.6%
Table 4.2: Duration of Detainment Prior to Execution by Zone
ONE WEEK ONE MONTH TWO MONTHS
East (n=50) 4%30% 52%
North (n=99) 28.3%4 7. 5 %5 7. 6 %
(n=24 8) 11.7%
6.9%17. 2 %
We s t (n = 0) n /an /an /a
Table 4.3: Duration of Detainment of Male Prisoners by Zone
ZONE EXECUTED WITHIN
ONE WEEK ONE MONTH TWO MONTHS
Central (n=0) n /an /an /a
East (n=134) 56.7%8 7. 3 %9 7. 8 %
North (n=64) 31. 3%76.6% 81. 3%
(n=7) 28.6% 5 7.1%85.7%
(n=15) 40%46.7% 53.3%
We s t (n = 0) n /an /an /a
Table 4.4: Duration of Detainment of Female Prisoners by Zone
practice and to S-21 functions. In testimony provided during
Duch’s trial, for example, Craig Etcheson calls attention to several
purges of individual units or administrative groupings. Many of
these purges would last for a period of a few months to over a year.
A purge of Division 310 of the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea,
for example, began in earnest in December 1976 and continued
116 Required, therefore, are more refined analyses
of particular purges, with special attention directed to both the
sequence of arrests and the variation in length of detainment. Here,
I can only make some preliminary observations. Figures 4.4 and 4.5 provide a chronology of daily records of
arrests and executions, respectively. Notably, a clustering of arrests
occurred between March 1977 and April 1978. Moreover, a few key
days are remarkable for the intensity of activity. On October 28,
1976, for example, 107 people were arrested. Significantly, most of
those arrested on this date were identified as “wives” of other
detainees. Equally significant is that these women were generally
executed within two days of arrest. Execution records show a
similar waxing and waning and, most importantly, begin to
illustrate a systematic approach to the periodic sweeping clean of
S-21. Here, May 27, 1978, is especially prominent, in that 580 people
are recorded as having been taken away for execution. Of the 564
prisoners for whom complete records exist, the mean length of
detainment prior to execution on May 27, 1978, was just under
forty-three days. Moreover, 306 (54 percent) of these prisoners were
executed following a detainment of two months or less, while 156
(28 percent) were executed within one month of arrest. At least 352
of these victims were from Sector 23 of the East Zone. Ben Kiernan categorizes May 1978 as the month in which East
Zone purges reached a crescendo. And to Kiernan’s point, May 1978
117 However, it is also telling that May 27, 1978, appears as
the last major gasp of recorded CPK purges—in so far as S-21 is
concerned. Again, caution must be taken in interpreting these
records. Numerous purges took place outside the administrative
structure of S-21. Consequently, these records say nothing about the
mass executions that occurred, for instance, at zone-level security
Figure 4.4: Arrests by Date (n=9,394)
Figure 4.5: Executions by Date (n=9,778)
centers. Furthermore, as repeatedly stated, as the purges associated
with S-21 continued, it became more and more the case that prison-
ers were taken straightaway for execution, hence untold numbers of
m en, w
omen, and children were simply never documented. 118 That
being said, documented evidence for the first five months of 1978
indicate that the scheduling of executions was more clustered than
the arrest of individuals. Hence, the majority of executions occurred
on just six days in 1978: February 17, March 10, April 29, May 5,
May 17, and May 27. Moreover, beginning in March, these peak
killings happened roughly every ten to twelve days. Duch, as mentioned earlier, claimed that decisions were made to
periodically empty S-21 so as not to overburden his staff. In other
words, periodic purges of S-21 itself were conducted in response to
overcrowding. Duch, however, was conspicuously vague with
respect to this practice. To what extent is it possible to provide
empirical evidence of these internal purges? In order to provide a
more refined accounting of arrests and executions, Figure 4.6 shows
the relationship between detainment (i.e., the length of time
between arrest and execution) and entry date. For example, of those
men and women who were arrested on, say, January 1, 1976, or on
July 1, 1978, what was the length of detainment? By way of illustra -
tion, consider the aforementioned date of May 27, 1978, on which
0 prisoners were scheduled for execution. Prisoners who were
executed on that day, but arrested on May 17, 1978, would have been
held for ten days; prisoners arrested on May 16, 1978, would have
been imprisoned for nine days; and so on. The resulting pattern is
one of a series of ever-shortening periods of detention as the prison
population increased. Results as indicated in Figure 4.6 show a
clear regularity to patterns of detainment, providing empirical
evidence of a systematic emptying of the prison. At this point, results are preliminary and subsequent research is
necessary to further disaggregate who was being killed and for how
long they were detained. Crucial information not yet currently
available relates to the actual assignment of prisoners to either
solitary or communal cells. For example, if twenty prisoners from
Region 23 and fifteen prisoners from the State Warehouse were
arrested and processed on the same day, would all thirty-five
detainees be sent to one communal cell? Were those prisoners from
Region 23 sent as a group to a specific communal prison cell and
those from the State Warehouse to another? Alternatively, was an
attempt made to separate prisoners from those in their unit? By
extension, when the prison was swept clean, was it done on a cell-
by-cell basis, or were prisoners selected individually from different
cells? And, if the latter, how were these decisions made? At this
point, the day-to-day procedures are unclear and the microgeogra-
phies of S-21 remain frustratingly partial. A general pattern,
wever, is emerging of the broader process. For any given purge,
one or two key people are arrested and detained. These individuals,
subjected to torture and interrogation, confess to innumerable con -
federates. These names are in turn compiled to form a list of traitors.
se men and women are subsequently arrested, as are the spouses
and family members of the original detainees. Given that these
latter individuals are considered less important to the CPK, they are
Figure 4.6: Length of Detainment Days by Date of Arrest (n=8,289)
not held for interrogation but marked by Duch for execution. Hor
and his staff consequently made arrangements to transport these
prisoners to Choeung Ek for execution.This process is illustrated by a purge of S-24 prisoners during
the summer of 1976. Beginning in June 1976, various squad chiefs
and commanders who were initially detained at S-24 were trans -
ferred to S-21. By and large, these individuals (mostly men) were
tained for upward of three to four weeks. Throughout September
1976, an increasing number of men listed simply as combatant
were arrested and, for the most part, were executed within two
days. For example, twenty-one men were arrested on September 22,
1976, and scheduled for execution on September 23, 1976.
Beginning in November 1976, the purge was extended to include
the wives, sisters, and mothers of previous detainees. On November
8, 1976, thirty women were arrested from S-24 and all were sched -
uled for execution on November 9, 1976. With two exceptions, the
sition listed for these women was wife, daughter, mother, or
sister, as in “Yun Sok Im, wife of Un Saravuth” or “Kuong Vann
Than, sister of Kuong Vantha.”
The peaks and valleys of arrests and executions, but especially
the clear sequencing of detainment in Figure 4.6, provide strong
empirical evidence of how S-21 was managed. As strings of traitors
were identified and arrested, and as key bureaucrats such as Nuon
Chea, Son Sen, and Duch processed and evaluated the biopolitical
data derived from personal biographies, confessions, and other
reports, more and more people were arrested and detained.
Subsequently, when any person was considered to have nothing
else of importance to offer, he or she was literally written off as
expendable. Thousands of others were never considered important
enough to be interrogated, and were left to languish in overcrowded
cells, starved of food, water, hygiene, and subject to constant
physical and psychological abuse. They too would be written off,
scheduled to be executed. Unfortunately, we do not yet know with
any level of certainty how this final decision was made, or of how
any given prisoner or prison cell was identified to be smashed on
any given day.
Prisons are not simply institutions that correspond to crime, as
Moran and her colleagues explains, but rather are places that
reflect and mediate social, political, and cultural values.
are, in other words, institutions that provide legitimacy and
validity; they provide the semblance of order within a context of
disorder. At S-21, order was reflected in the bureaucratic banality
of processing, cataloging, photographing, and interrogating those
who were convicted to death. CPK officials’ need to meticulously
record those who were already condemned established the limits
of participation within society. The essence of sovereignty is not the monopoly to sanction but
rather the monopoly to decide: to decide when, or where, or to
whom the law is to apply.
121 Nowhere is this more salient than in
the presumed sovereign right over life and death—and in the legal
practice of capital punishment. Thus, during and in the immediate
aftermath of civil war, the CPK established a system of security
centers; these were deemed necessary in an effort to spatially cen -
tralize governance and to restore legal order to society. At S-21, we
tness the sublimation of law-making violence into law-preserv -
ing violence. Fo
llowing Walter Benjamin, law-making violence is founda -
tional; it is the performative violence of a new constitution or a
claration of independence. 122 For the Khmer Rouge, an original
moment of direct violence was necessary in an attempt to solidify
legitimacy in the aftermath of armed revolution. It is seen in the
initial purge of former Khmer Republic soldiers and civilians of
the previous regime. Consequently, documentary evidence was
necessary, from the vantage point of the CPK, to not only justify
and legitimate their ascension to power, but also to defend their
newly installed regime. Significant here is Benjamin’s observation
that law-making violence is forward-looking. This form of legal -
ized violence is anticipatory in its effect and captures the precrime
licing procedures and preemptive killing established within the
Khmer Rouge security apparatus.
Once established, law-making violence elides with practices of
law-preserving violence, understood here as actions that are
conservative and protective, designed to defend or fortify a
preexisting legal order.
123 As a bureaucratic institution, S-21
emerged as a crucial pivot in this transformation. Laws were not
legislated at S-21, but legal claims were asserted. Likewise, laws were
physically enacted at S-21, as bureaucrats were tasked with the
enforcement of traitorous crimes—crimes threatening to the
emergent political order. Consequently, S-21 was both a means to
an end as well as an end that justified its means. For the tremendous
purchase of Benjamin’s observation of violence is that law-making
and law-preserving practices are not oppositional but dialectic.
Law, in this way, is never fully constituted but always, continually
rearticulated. For Benjamin, “in the exercise of violence over life
and death more than in any other legal act, law reaffirms itself.”
Every investigation conducted, every prisoner registered, every
biography compiled, every photograph taken, every interrogation
performed, and every execution carried out reconstituted the
political authority and legitimacy of the Standing Committee of the
CPK. All of these were documented, as countless bureaucratic
functionaries compiled prisoner dossiers, daily arrest logs,
interrogation work loads, and execution schedules. The direct
physical violence of torture and execution were thus complementary
to the indirect bureaucratic violence of S-21. Both may be
understood as the continuation of the foundation of law—a legal
order that ultimately is embodied, individuated, revealed, and
On October 5, 1977, Son Sen, deputy prime minister for defense,
sent a brief letter to Duch, chairman of the S-21 security center. Son
Sen writes: “Paper must be saved, however, more importantly atten-
tion must be paid to the content.” The topic of the letter, it appears at
t blush, is rather banal, expressing concern as it does for the con -
servation of paper. However, Son Sen continues, “The confessions
st be thorough and responsible. Scribbling or guesswork cannot
be accepted.” Here, the true meaning becomes clear. Son Sen coun -
seled Duch that his office needed to be more efficient in its duties.
r high-ranking prisoners, or those deemed more important, Son
Sen specified that confessions should be tape-recorded and tran -
scribed. Experience showed that tape-recording the forced
essions took less time and were more accurate in the documen -
tation of necessary information. For all other prisoners, Son Sen
ceded that paper records may be sufficient. 1
In his letter Son Sen expresses concern not for the lives of men,
women, and children; he appears nonplussed with respect to wide -
spread torture taking place at S-21. Rather, his anxiety centers on
king the interrogative procedures more efficient and, in the
process, less wasteful of office supplies. How are we to make sense
of this letter? How exactly do Son Sen’s worries inform our under -
standing of mass violence, not only within Democratic Kampuchea
t beyond? For Son Sen’s apparent callousness is not an aberration.
Many thousands of kilometers away from Phnom Penh, in the town
of Alkoven, Austria, sits Hartheim Castle. Between May 1940 and
December 1944, the Nazi state used the castle as a killing center as
part of its broader euthanasia program designed to eliminate
mentally and physically challenged adults. Documents discovered
after the end of the Second World War indicate that administrators
at the castle had calculated that the disinfection—that is, murder—
of 70,273 men and women resulted in a savings of over 245,955
Reichsmarks per day. These calculations, however, were computed
not in currency but on the savings of food items. In other words, the
murder of tens of thousands of people contributed to such savings
as 239,067 kilograms of marmalade and 653,516 kilograms of meats
2 In both instances, human lives were equated with
material products: paper, jams, and frankfurters. In both instances,
the management of human life was calculated according to bureau -
cratic procedures. Mi
chel Foucault postulates that knowledge is inseparable from
power. He explains that power and knowledge directly imply one
another; that there is no power relation without the correlative con -
stitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not
esuppose and constitute power relations at the same time. 3 For
Foucault, power is exercised rather than possessed. Foucault elabo -
rates: “Power must be analyzed as something which circulates, or
ther as something which only functions in the form of a chain. It
is never localized here or there, never in anybody’s hands, never
appropriated as a commodity or piece of wealth.”
Power circulates by means of the materiality of information. For
this reason, geographers, historians, anthropologists, legal scholars,
and other researchers working in the social sciences and human -
ities have turned their attention toward the
work that paper and
other objects perform. 5 As Katharine Meehan and colleagues
explain, “objects enable, disable, and transform state power.” 6 To
this end, they argue that it is necessary to “move beyond the textual
and symbolic realm, where objects are often containers or reflec -
tions of power, and toward an approach that situates objects as
generative of p ower.” 7
Studies of genocide have long recognized the importance of state
functions. Both Zygmunt Bauman and Irving Horowitz explore the
statist character of genocide and the technological methods that
transformed “nightmares into realities.”
8 Recent work has pushed
these earlier studies, calling for a more sustained engagement with
the materiality of statecraft. Stewart Clegg and his coauthors, for
example, call upon scholars to consider “the sociomateriality of
genocide, that is, the way in which objects may help to create the
contexts in which acts of genocide unfold.”
9 An object-oriented
approach provides insight into the salience of the seemingly routine
day-to-day practices of governance beyond a statist framework. An exclusive focus on grand-scale operations of power over -
shadows our appreciation of the more ordinary instances of
vernmental intervention into matters of life and death. 10 In rec -
ognition of this, Joe Painter underscores the “prosaic manifestations
o f s
tate processes” and “the ways in which everyday life is perme -
ated by stateness in various guises.” That is, it is important to
ress the myriad social relations that comprise the state. Thus,
Painter highlights the “mundane practices through which some -
thing we label ‘the state’ becomes present in everyday life.”
11 In so
doing, however, we must not lose sight of the materiality of these
everyday practices. As Meehan et al. explain, “human-centered
accounts of state power are undeniably important, but they leave
out the nonhuman trafficking of power.”
12 To this end, analytic
focus has gravitated toward the “small techniques of notation, of
registration, of constituting files, of arranging facts in columns and
t able s .”
13 In short, scholarship has taken seriously the claim that
bureaucracies matter. This is all the more important when one con -
siders, in the words of Bauman, that “Bureaucracy is intrinsically
capable of genocidal action.” 14
It is necessary to “unpack the bureaucratic processes” and to
“investigate how bureaucracies become socially embedded in par -
ticular places and, conversely, how they constitute places.”
Robertson explains, documents are located in bureaucratic insti -
tutions; the authority of documents is embedded and enacted in
these institutions; and in reciprocal manner, the authority of
institutions is constituted and enacted in documents.
something as ordinary as a letter assumes greater importance
when situated within the circuits of bureaucratic power. For
Jonathan Darling, letters become expressions of governmental
practice in more than discursive ways. Calling for an engagement
with the materiality of letters, with how they are produced, trans-
ported, and interpreted, Darling “approaches letters through
their effects, through the relations they enact and the effects they
17 The letter forwarded by Son Sen had material effects
that extended well beyond its immediate receipt in the form of
revised interrogative techniques and torture.
Files and folders, invoices and inventories, letters and ledgers:
these constitute the material manifestation of authorial power, with
authorial power assuming a dual function, implying both author -
ship and also authoritarianism. In other words, knowledge is
oduced through the act of authoring, broadly conceived, whether
in the form of letters, telegrams, invoices, or any of the other innu -
merable means of transcription. Here, Jason Dittmer foregrounds
he role of materials in shaping political subjectivity and action.” 18
He explains that “In focusing on people to the exclusion of things,
materials and their relations, such a vision can eliminate from view
the paper, wires, cables, gifts, and so on, that serve as the material
infrastructure” of governance.
The Khmer Rouge bureaucracy was not a singular entity but
instead composed of myriad centers of calculation occupied and
served by countless men and women, from the village level to the
Standing Committee. They served as members of commune com -
mittees, security centers, and countless departments and ministries.
llectively, they produced volumes of information that was
codified, classified, and ultimately made operational in the form of
arrests, interrogations, and execution. In crafting
The Politics of
, the ordinary list assumes prominence, for I see in the list a
particular expression of power with immediate, tangible effects of
everyday violence. Lists of men, women, and children to be arrested;
lists of men, women, and children to be interrogated; lists of men,
women, and children to be tortured; and lists of men, women, and
children to be executed. Lists of foodstuffs to be exported, with the
effect of men, women, and children enduring malnutrition and
famine. Lists of medicines to be imported and yet denied to men,
women, and children because they were considered bad elements,
unworthy, or undeserving.
The spectacular violence that materialized in the form of
beatings, torture, rape, starvation, and murder was made possible
by the everyday actions of ordinary men and women—those indi -
viduals who comprised the Khmer Rouge bureaucracy. The
scription of a name on a list, the sending of a list via telegram,
the safekeeping of a written biography in a filing cabinet—
everyday mundane activities that facilitate the writing, the
recording, the storing of information, which, in turn, is compiled,
collated, and interpreted—in a word, it was materialized informa -
tion made actionable.
As Bauman explains in the context of the Holocaust,
“Bureaucracy started from what bureaucracies start with: the
formulation of a precise definition of the object, then registering
those who fitted the definition and opening a file for each.”
Democratic Kampuchea, it started with the collection and com -
pilation of biopolitical information. The term biopolitics i s
idely, albeit inconsistently, used in many academic disciplines. 21
Here, I follow Thomas Lemke, whereby “the notion of biopolitics
refers to the emergence of a specific political knowledge and new
disciplines such as statistics, demography, epidemiology, and
22 Lemke elaborates that these “disciplines make it
possible to analyze processes of life on the level of populations
and to ‘govern’ individuals and collectives by practices of correc -
tion, exclusion, normalization, disciplining, therapeutics, and
imization.” 23 In short, an engagement with biopolitics directs
attention to the myriad ways in which bodies and populations
are governed. As Jeremy Crampton and Stuart Elden write,
“Forms of organizing, conceptualizing and managing the popu -
lation can be seen in technologies such as the census and
resentational discourses, statistics, planning and cartography,
as well as political expressions such as geopolitics, government
and colonial ordering.”
24 These forms of organization, moreover,
are complemented by pervasive information and communication
technologies embedded within the fabric of everyday life: smart
phones, computers, credit cards, e-tickets, and so on. 25 What is
important is that these data increasingly are mined and analyzed
by algorithms that identify patterns and possible deviations to
inform security-related and business-related practices.
Throughout Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge utilized
low-tech forms of biopolitical data collection, such as personal
biographies, handwritten confessions, and forms of lateral surveil -
lance. Nevertheless, Khmer Rouge cadres used these procedures to
at effectiveness. Personal biographies, for example, were mined
for apparent contradictions; networks of traitors were computed
based on the analysis of confessions; and enemy activity was estab -
lished through the pervasive surveillance of society. In short, the
per documents produced by countless men and women through -
out all levels of the Khmer Rouge bureaucracy enabled the Party to
know its citizens and to identify potential enemies. As Robertson
explains, “Paper, in the form of files, documents, and certificates,
gives identity a distinct official shape that allows it to circulate.”
He continues that “identity becomes evidence that can be stored
and moved because of the process of inscription: the people who
mark paper, the techniques they use, and the administrative
location where that information is inscribed on paper.”
“Forms help to enframe and categorize,” Akhil Gupta writes, for
“they are containers for standardization, replicability, anonymity,
and portability. Applicants who have filled in forms can be more
easily compared to each other, and the information contained
therein can be more easily converted into statistics.”
the production and circulation of personal biographies, forced con -
fessions, and even the mundane list of names compiled at a work
te, facilitated the discursive construction of traitors, saboteurs,
and enemies. By extension, everyday social relations were transfig -
ured into the existence of subversive networks of traitors that
uired preemptive forms of violence.
That these documents were both written and archived by the
Khmer Rouge is not inconsequential. The utilization and standard -
ization of forms, for example, “allows writing to be stored and
retrieved under appropriate conditions.” 30 Not surprisingly, the
compilation of biographies, confessions, and records of suspicious
activities afforded a veneer of legitimacy and authority to the CPK,
as these documents provided the material basis upon which a legal
order was established. Archives, as Francis Blouin and William
Rosenberg write, appear as repositories of truth and authenticity.
Thus, within Democratic Kampuchea, the collection of meeting
minutes, telegrams, memos, and other material statements enabled
Khmer Rouge cadres to make “evaluative, descriptive, prescriptive,
or advisory decisions.”
32 The bureaucratic procedures of classifying,
listing, filing, and transmitting of knowledge established a struc -
ture of governance that determined greatly the resultant purges of
-called traitors and enemies of the state. Bureaucratic invocations
of guilt brought security fears into existence and made possible pre -
emptive intervention. It was through this process that the seemingly
nal compilation of biopolitical data, of one’s life history and
network of friends, colleagues, and even distant acquaintances,
mutated into a form of necropolitical bureaucracy.
Biometrics beyond Democratic Kampuchea
Necropolitical bureaucracies, or more simply necrobureaucracies,
function through the knowing of political subjects, whereby the
compilation of embodied knowledge serves the purpose of com -
manding death. A particular legal order comes into existence
through the production and circulation of statements material -
ized, and governance is enacted through the mundane task of
preparing lists, filing reports, and archiving documents. My
overall thesis is that the bureaucratic practices of the Khmer
Rouge were not unique. Indeed, the biopolitical production of
knowledge and the subsequent necropolitical practice of mass
arrest, detainment, and execution are ever-present conditions of
sovereign rule. Accordingly, in this final section I resituate
Cambodia’s violent past as a particular moment of the state man -
agement of life and death and thus as a cautionary rejoinder in the
deployment of biometric security practices.
Well into the twenty-first century, a wide range of sophisticated
biometric techniques have been developed and utilized by innu -
merable bureaucracies. To this end, “specific data about one’s body
e being used to distinguish one person from the next by matching
up the corporeal body presented at a border checkpoint with the
digital data of that body stored on a database or a credit card.”
Widely used technologies include computer-based facial recogni -
tion programs, DNA analysis, and retinal identification systems.
Technologies need not be so advanced, however. Indeed, the
long-standing practice of profiling remains a stalwart feature of the
security apparatus. Simply put, profiling entails the compilation—
the listing—of information on people based on observed physical
or behavioral traits, and profiles are developed and stored in data -
bases for further analysis. Crucially, “profiling enables the
ediction of eventualities in order to prevent them.” 36 Here, I want
to explore further, in the abstract, the inherent danger of security
discourses founded upon biopolitical governance. Lists composed of suspected criminals or terrorists based on
biopolitical profiles are problematic on at least two counts. Anya
Bernstein effectively captures the problem. First, lists become
all-inclusive, establishing a precedent whereby anyone ultimately
may be viewed as a suspect. The point of a terrorist database, for
example, is to prevent any potential threat from materializing.
Inherent in any particular watch list or kill list is a preemptive com -
ponent. Accuracy is important insofar as potential threats are
entified, not that innocent people may inaccurately be placed on a
list. For those bureaucrats who are responsible for the compilation
of lists, the danger is that someone initially adjudged to be safe, i.e.,
not placed on the list, may at some point in the future commit a
crime—an omission known as a false negative. Only by suspecting
everyone is it possible (theoretically) to eliminate false negatives.
As corollary, the ever-expanding list of suspects will necessarily
include some indeterminate number of false positives, that is,
innocent people who should not come under suspicion. As efforts
to eliminate false negatives increase, there is a greater probability
that the acceptance of false positives will also increase. The only
way to afford complete security and to prevent all security breaches
is to monitor everyone; in time, everyone becomes suspect. And
once placed on a security list, guilt is presumed.
38 The political
ontology of anticipatory security threats is such that civil liberties
are too readily cast aside in the compilation of lists. Any right to
due process is bypassed in an effort to prevent any and all future
threats from occurring. Within Democratic Kampuchea, as with
present-day security lists, anyone whose name appeared in a con -
fession, with few exceptions, was prejudged as guilty and thus
ntenced to death. Duch would later testify that he knew many
men and women who were innocent, but in due course they were
put to death. He rationalized at the time that it was better to adjudge
everyone guilty rather than miss one. Digital surveillance, as Stephen Graham and David Wood
explain, makes information more amenable to storage, transmis -
sion, and computation; but more importantly, these modes of
veillance result “in the creation of subjects through databases
that do not replicate or imitate the original subject, but create a
multiplicity of selves that may be acted upon without the knowl -
edge of the original.”
39 To this end, Louise Amoore and Marieke de
Goede write of data wars and of wars by other means; of the pro -
duction of perceived threats, such as terrorists and terrorist
tworks, not from information derived from individual men and
women but through associations of recorded behavior. More pre -
cisely, they call attention to the flourishing of surveillance practices,
a-collection techniques, predictive analy tics, and other compu-
tational innovations that are “intimately tied to the contemporary
rn to pre-emptive security techniques.” 40 As Mark Andrejevic
and Kelly Gates explain, “what is significant about the big data
moment is not simply that it has become possible to store quantities
of data that are impossible for any individual to comprehend . . . but
the fact that this data can be put to use in novel ways.”
At issue is the collection of big data, of the voracious appetite of
the modern security apparatus, gobbling up ever more bits of data,
which anonymous bureaucrats then process through sophisticated
algorithms in search of spatial and temporal patterns. For our
present purposes, this is significant in that the very notion of a sur-
veillance target takes on a somewhat different meaning when
veillance relies on mining large-scale databases: the target
becomes the “hidden pattern” revealed computationally in the data,
rather than existing as any particular individual or event.
42 Big data
surveillance therefore is not simply or even predominantly about
understanding the data, nor is it typically about explaining or
understanding the world captured by that data. Instead, it is about
intervening in a world based on spatial and temporal patterns avail -
able to and made knowable by those with access to the data and the
ocessing power. 43 Accordingly, the role of the bureaucrat assumes
an even greater function in the overall security apparatus, contrib -
uting to a political system described by Irving Horowitz as
overnance through data control.” 44
Within the context of the war on terror, we understand lists, but
especially security lists, as crucial components of state-sanctioned
counterterrorism practices. The blacklisting of individuals, the
establishment of terrorist watch lists, the compilation of no-fly lists:
these become essential political instruments that underscore a host
of security-related practices, including the imposition of travel
bans, the freezing of assets, and the targeted killing of suspected
45 Arguably, nothing captures the concept of necrobu -
reaucracies more than the compilation of kill lists. 46
Conceptually, the motivation behind the kill list is not novel.
Governments have long maintained lists of suspected enemies.
Such kill lists are often, though not always, part of broader coordi -
nated counterinsurgency programs, such as the United States–led
oenix Program during the Vietnam War. Under the veneer of the
war on terror, however, the kill list has expanded greatly in scale
and scope and has elevated the practice of targeted killings to
unprecedented levels. In 2012 investigative reports revealed that the
administration of then U.S. President Barack Obama was utilizing
a particular list known as the “disposition matrix.”
47 Devised two
years earlier by then CIA Director John Brennan, the disposition
matrix merges diverse kill lists, including the Terrorist Identities
Datamart Environment, managed by the National Counterterrorism
Center, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Terrorist Screening
Database, in which between 680,000 and 875,000 people are regis-
48 Regardless of the agency involved, “bureaucrats—far
removed from public scrutiny and oftentimes outside the reach of
courts—are essential to the success of the program.”
49 Indeed, the
production of a target is, following Ian Shaw and Majed Akhter, an
intensely bureaucratic process that is part and parcel of an even
larger security apparatus.
50 To this point, they detail that as of 2010,
an estimated 854,000 people worked on programs related to coun -
terterrorism, intelligence, and homeland security in 10,000
cations across the United States. This does not include the untold
thousands of personnel working around the globe.
How does the disposition matrix become operationalized?
Different procedures have been established for the various govern -
mental agencies involved in targeted killings.
52 In general, however,
there are four elements: identification, vetting, validation, and
nomination. Identification entails the initial selection of men or
women to be added to the respective kill list. In general, someone
may be added if he or she falls into one of two categories: known
membership in an organized armed group and/or by his or her
effectiveness within an organization.
53 The latter may include, for
example, a known bomb maker. Over time, however, the criteria for
inclusion have steadily expanded. Not only are men and women
suspected of engaging in violent acts, such as hostage taking, assas -
sination, or bombings placed on the list; also included are those
pected of destroying government property, cyber-attacks and,
increasingly, nonviolent political activities and any action that is
deemed to challenge the dominant political order.
Once identified, potential targets are vetted and validated,
whereby intelligence agencies evaluate a range of concerns, includ -
ing the likelihood of success, the costs and benefits of eliminating
e individual, and the overall legality of the operation. Input from
these sessions is subsequently placed in the growing dossier kept on
all potential targets. Lastly, names must be nominated—that is,
official approval for someone to be targeted—in a process not unlike
that performed by the Standing Committee of the CPK. Under the
Obama administration, the president assumed a very active role in
this process, whereby the president, key advisers, and upward of
one hundred officials would hold classified meetings to pore over
intelligence briefings derived from the various lists. Participants
would vet potential targets, based on compiled dossiers that
included photographs and biographical information. Deliberations
could be contentious and decisions to include or exclude a specific
name could take five or six meetings; on average, it took President
Obama fifty-eight days to give the final go-ahead. Once approved,
names would be forwarded to officials who would arrange for the
subsequent mission to eliminate the target. Notably, if the target
wasn’t captured or killed within thirty days, the case would in prin-
ciple be rereviewed.
“Although law delimits the categories of persons who can be
killed,” McNeal explains, “in practice, developing kill lists looks far
beyond law to questions about the identity of a particular target and
the accuracy and currency of the supporting intelligence.”
According to Weber, new data infrastructures and analytics are
playing a crucial and increasing role in the politics of intelligence
production and targeted killing in contemporary U.S. warfare.
Crucially, the production of biometric knowledge elides readily
with the oxymoronic concept of paranoia within reason.
Coined by George Marcus, the notion of paranoia by reason
“implies that under certain socio-political conditions paranoia is
not only irrational but actually the most rational response.”
example, the fear that security apparatuses may overlook a terror -
ist induces a paranoia based on the need to eliminate false
gatives. Such reasoning holds that it is better to suspect everyone.
Individual civil liberties are sacrificed in the name of national
security. This in turn contributes to an ever-deepening paranoia
whereby vast conspiratorial networks are presumed to exist—a
presumption seemingly confirmed through the network analysis
of biometric data. Once incorporated into biopolitical or necropolitical practice,
paranoia becomes a “structural condition of rule” that may
permeate all of society, as it did in Democratic Kampuchea.
Nicholas Holm, for example, observes that the perceived “infiltra-
tion of the US administration and entertainment industry by
unist agents were not only regarded as within reason by
those in power, but had real concrete effects on the day to day lives
of thousands, if not millions, of American citizens during the
61 A similar paranoia and resultant infringement on
civil liberties occurred during the Second World War, as American
officials incarcerated upward of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese
Americans under the pretext of national security. It is readily
apparent that the current war on terror is informed by a compara -
ble paranoia, as networks of terrorists are compiled through the
alytics of big data management. Indeed, it is this intersectionality
of surveillance practices and militarized responses that forms the
basis of Katherine Kindervater’s notion of lethal surveillance and
the justification for targeted killings.
Targeted killings are defined as the officially authorized and
premediated killing by military or intelligence officials of named
and identified individuals without the benefit of any judicial
63 Targeted killings are ostensibly conducted in self-
defense and therefore are considered (by some officials) as legal
state action, although the separation of assassination and targeted
killings has generated an intense moral and legal debate.
Michael Gross explains, the “conventions of war permit combat -
ants to use lethal force against enemy soldiers with relatively few
restrictions. Law enforcement, on the other hand, permits officers
to employ lethal force against suspected criminals but remains
65 More precisely, “police officers may kill
in self-defense in unusually threatening and dangerous circum -
stances, but they may not otherwise harm a criminal in the
absence of due process.”
66 At issue, therefore, is the preemptive
bureaucratic classification of people as either combatant or non -
combatant. If those individuals who are targeted are declared
noncombatants, then the conventions of war and laws of armed
conflict make targeted killings illegal.
67 Such decisions ultimately
are shaped by predominant discourses, modes of understanding,
and sociopolitical contexts.
68 In Democratic Kampuchea, the
bureaucratic classification of people into categories of loyalty, e.g.,
as base or new people, facilitated the subsequent production of
traitorous or enemy identities, thereby providing justification for
targeted arrests and executions.
In the contemporary war on terror, targeted killings are carried
out primarily, although not exclusively, through the deployment of
69 This is made possible, however, only through
the performance of a complex bureaucracy and the compilation
and interpretation of volumes of documentation. For as Gregory
McNeal writes, “When the United States government kills people
on traditional and non-traditional battlefields . . . bureaucrats play a
key role in the killings.”
70 In the United States–led war on terror, for
example, U.S. drone strikes conducted through the auspices of a
“disposition matrix” entail two types of targets and strikes.
the one hand, there are personality strikes directed at specific indi -
viduals who have been manually identified by government officials.
O n t
he other hand, there are signature strikes whereby targets are
not specifically identified by name but exist as “digital profiles
across a network of technologies, algorithmic calculations, and
72 Other signature strikes are decidedly more vague,
if not outright random, as when a drone passes over a suspected
insurgent training camp, whereby it is presumed that any person
present, especially if the person is young, male, and armed, is
deemed a legitimate target. The practice of surveillance and subterfuge, and state actors’ col -
lection of data, are not new. Nor are political assassinations that are
nducted in the name of security. Indeed, the historiography of
security practices under the Khmer Rouge calls attention to the
myriad forms in which the practice of lethal surveillance is enacted.
On this point, an interpretation of the Khmer Rouge security appa -
ratus viewed through the prism of lethal surveillance raises many
comfortable parallels with current legal and moral criticisms of
the United States–led war on terror. Jeremy Waldron, for example,
identifies a number of criticisms associated with the practice of
targeted killings as specifically carried out by drones: some critics,
for example, are concerned about the effect of targeted killings on
civilians; the processes by which individuals are targeted; the tar-
geting of American citizens; the use of drones as a new form of
rfare; and the way drones and drone technology presage a new
era of surveillance.
73 For Waldron these are appropriate concerns,
but they miss a more fundamental concern. He explains that taken
in isolation, each of these criticisms leads to the conclusion that if
only we can be certain of identifying the right terrorist, or if we
could ensure that only the right terrorist was killed with no collat -
eral damage, then targeted killings are appropriate state actions
nducted in the war on terror. The central issue, Waldron argues,
“Is not whether [governments] are killing the right people but
whether killings of this kind are appropriate at all. The issue is the
sheer existence and use of such death-lists by our government,
however scrupulously and transparently they are maintained.”
And it is this key issue that finds resonance with our historical
engagement of the Communist Party of Kampuchea and the wide -
spread practice of purging suspected traitors and enemies of the
ate. The techniques of data gathering, network analysis, and pre -
emptive action, coupled with systematic state-sanctioned murder,
re rudimentary in comparison to those deployed in the current
war on terror. A blow to the back of the head, the slit of a throat by
machete: neither of these actions approximates the high-tech cir -
cuitry of unmanned aerial drones and the launching of heat-seeking
ssiles. But they were no less lethal.
1. Geoffrey C. Bowker and Susan Leigh Star, Sorting Things out:
Classification and Its Consequences (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000),
2. Michelle Caswell, “Hannah Arendt’s World: Bureaucracy, Documentation,
and Banal Evil,” Archivaria 70 (Fall 2010): 1–25; at 10.
3. Office of the Co-Investigating Judges (OCIJ), Closing Order, Case File No.:
002/19–09–2007-ECCC-OCIJ (Phnom Penh: Extraordinary Chambers
in the Courts of Cambodia, 2010).
4. Franziska C. Eckelmans, “The Duch Case: The ECCC Supreme Court
Chamber’s Review of Case 001,” in The Extraordinary Chambers in the
Courts of Cambodia, ed. Simon M. Meisenberg and Ignaz Stegmiller
(Berlin: Springer, 2016), 159–79; at 161.
5. Donald W. Beachler, “The Quest for Justice in Cambodia: Power, Politics,
and the Khmer Rouge Tribunal,” Genocide Studies and Prevention 8, no.
2 (2014): 67–80; at 71.
6. Ieng Thirith died on August 22, 2015. She never stood trial for her crimes
committed during the Democratic Kampuchea period.
7. Russell Hopkins, “The Case 002/01 Trial Judgement: A Stepping Stone
from Nuremberg to the Present?” in The Extraordinary Chambers in the
Courts of Cambodia, ed. Simon M. Meisenberg and Ignaz Stegmiller
(Berlin: Springer, 2016), 181–201; at 184.
8. See the website of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of
Cambodia (hereafter cited as ECCC), http://www.eccc.gov.kh.
9. Document No. E393.1, “The OCIJ S-21 Prisoner List and Explanation of
the Applied Methodology,” archived at the ECCC, Phnom Penh, http://
10. “Supreme Court Chamber Orders to Declassify over 1,700 Confidential
Documents,” Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC, press release:
September 6, 2012, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
Notes to Pages xi–xii
11. Kirsten Weld, Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala
(Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014).
12. Ibid., 6.
13. Ben Kiernan, “Bringing the Khmer Rouge to Justice,” Human Rights
Review 1, no. 3 (2000): 92–108; Michelle Caswell, “Khmer Rouge
Archives: Accountability, Truth, and Memory in Cambodia,” Archival
Science 10, no. 1–2 (2010): 25–44; Michelle Caswell, “Using
Classification to Convict the Khmer Rouge,” Journal of Documentation
68, no. 2 (2012): 162–84.
14. Though see Caswell, “Hannah Arendt’s World,” 17–22; see also Stewart
Clegg, Miguel Pina e Cunha, and Arménio Rego, “The Theory and
Practice of Utopia in a Total Institution: The Pineapple Panopticon,”
Organization Studies 33, no. 12 (2012): 1735–57.
15. Weld, Paper Cadavers, 23.
16. Ibid., 13.
17. Ann Laura Stoler, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and
Colonial Common Sense (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
18. William H. Starbuck, “Shouldn’t Organization Theory Emerge from
Adolescence?” Organization 10, no. 3 (2003): 439–52; at 439.
20. See, for example, Max Weber, Economy and Society (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1978); John O’Neill, “The Disciplinary Society:
From Weber to Foucault,” The British Journal of Sociology 37, no. 1
(1986): 42–60; Stewart Clegg, “Weber and Foucault: Social Theory for
the Study of Organizations,” Organization 1, no. 1 (1994): 149–78;
Kenneth Dauber, “Bureaucratizing the Ethnographer’s Magic,” Current
Anthropology 36, no. 1 (1995): 75–95; Matthew Kurtz, “Situating
Practices: The Archive and the File Cabinet,” Historical Geography 29
(2001): 26–37; Marie-Andrée Jacob, “Form-Made Persons: Consent
Forms as Consent’s Blind Spot,” PoLAR: Political and Legal
Anthropology Review 30, no. 2 (2007): 249–68; Matthew S. Hull,
“Documents and Bureaucracy,” Annual Review of Anthropology 41
(2012): 251–67; Martin Müller, “Opening the Black Box of the
Organization: Socio-material Practices of Geopolitical Ordering,”
Political Geography 31, no. 6 (2012): 379–88; Merje Kuus,
“Transnational Bureaucracies: How Do We Know What They Know?”
Progress in Human Geography 39, no. 4 (2015): 432–48; Jason Dittmer,
“Theorizing a More-Than-Human Diplomacy: Assembling the British
Foreign Office, 1839–1874,” The Hague Journal of Diplomacy 11, no. 1
21. Kuus, “Transnational Bureaucracies,” 432.
Notes to Pages xii–xv
22. Ben Kafka, “Paperwork: The State of the Discipline,” Book History 12,
no. 1 (2009): 340–53; at 341.
23. Hull, “Documents and Bureaucracy,” 253.
24. Craig Robertson, “‘You Lie!’ Identity, Paper, and the Materiality of
Information,” The Communication Review 17, no. 2 (2014): 69–90; at
25. Hull, “Documents and Bureaucracy,” 257.
26. Katharine Meehan, Ian G. R. Shaw, and Sallie A. Marston, “Political
Geographies of the Object,” Political Geography 33 (March 2013): 1–10;
27. Hull, “Documents and Bureaucracy,” 259.
28. Jacob, “Form-Made Persons,” 251.
29. Hull, “Documents and Bureaucracy,” 259.
30. We b e r, Economy and Society, 225.
31. Madan Sarup, An Introductory Guide to Post-structuralism and
Postmodernism, 2nd ed. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1993), 72.
32. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. A.
Sheridan (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 27.
33. Michel Foucault, “Two Lectures,” in Power/Knowledge: Selected
Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977, ed. Colin Gordon (New
York: Pantheon Books, 1980), 98.
34. Hannah Arendt, On Violence (New York: Harvest Books, 1969), 51.
35. Ibid., 49.
36. Ibid., 38.
37. Claire Blencowe, “Foucault’s and Arendt’s ‘Insider View’ of Biopolitics: A
Critique of Agamben,” History of the Human Sciences 23, no. 5 (2010):
113–30; at 120. See also Claire Edwards, “Cutting Off the King’s Head:
The ‘Social’ in Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault,” Studies in Social
and Political Thought 1, no. 1 (1999): 3–20.
38. Dauber, “Bureaucratizing the Ethnographer’s Magic,” 75.
39. Ibid., 76.
40. Steven Brint, In an Age of Experts: The Changing Role of Professionals in
Politics and Public Life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994);
Tim Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); Dominic Boyer,
“Thinking Through the Anthropology of Experts,” Anthropology in
Action 15, no. 2 (2008): 38–46; William Davies, “Knowing the
Unknowable: The Epistemological Authority of Innovation Policy
Experts,” Social Epistemology 25, no. 4 (2011): 401–21.
41. Boyer, “Thinking Through,” 39.
43. Nicholas Holm, “Conspiracy Theorizing Surveillance: Considering
Modalities of Paranoia and Conspiracy in Surveillance Studies,”
Notes to Pages xvi–4
Surveillance & Society 7, no. 1 (2009): 36–48; at 36. See also Sarah
Kendzior, “‘Recognize the Spies’: Transparency and Political Power in
Uzbek Cyberspace,” Social Analysis 59, no. 4 (2015): 50–65.
44. Holm, “Conspiracy Theorizing Surveillance,” 37.
45. Alexander L. Hinton, Why Did They Kill? Cambodia in the Shadow of
Genocide (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); James A.
Tyner, From Rice Fields to Killing Fields: Nature, Life, and Labor under
the Khmer Rouge (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2017).
46. Foucault, “Two Lectures,” 101.
47. Bruno Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers
Through Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987), 215
48. Akhil Gupta, Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence, and Poverty in
India (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012); Matthew S. Hull,
Government of Paper: The Materiality of Bureaucracy in Urban Pakistan
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012); Dean Spade, Normal
Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Transpolitics, and the Limits of Law
(Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015); Jason Dittmer, Diplomatic
Material: Affect, Assemblage, and Foreign Policy (Durham, NC: Duke
University Press, 2017).
49. Caswell, “Hannah Arendt’s World,” 5; see also Katherine Kindervater,
“The Emergence of Lethal Surveillance: Watching and Killing in the
History of Drone Technology,” Security Dialogue 47, no. 3 (2016):
CHAPTER 1: EMERGING FROM THE SHADOWS
1. Document No. D30882, “Long Live the 17th Anniversary of the
Communist Party of Kampuchea,” archived at the Documentation
Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.
2. Hinton, Why Did They Kill?, 48.
3. Document No. D30882, “Long Live the 17th Anniversary of the
Communist Party of Kampuchea,” 9.
4. John Marston, “Democratic Kampuchea and the Idea of Modernity,” in
Cambodia Emerges from the Past: Eight Essays, ed. Judy Ledgerwood
(DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2002), 38–59; at 56.
6. Steve Heder, Cambodian Communism and the Vietnamese Model:
Imitation and Independence, 1930–1975 (Bangkok: White Lotus Press,
7. Document No. D30882, “Long Live the 17th Anniversary of the
Communist Party of Kampuchea,” 17.
8. Ibid., 11.
Notes to Pages 4–11
9. Ibid., 55.
11. Ibid., 57.
13. Quoted in David Ayers, Anatomy of a Crisis: Education, Development,
and the State in Cambodia, 1953–1998 (Chiang Mai, Thailand:
Silkworm Press, 2003), 32.
14. Ibid., 32.
15. David Chandler, A History of Cambodia, 3rd ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview
Press, 2000), 189.
16. Ibid., 189; see also Margaret Slocomb, An Economic History of Cambodia
in the Twentieth Century (Singapore: National University of Singapore
Press, 2010), 76.
17. Slocomb, An Economic History, 77.
18. Heder, Cambodian Communism, 49.
19. Margaret Slocomb, The People’s Republic of Kampuchea, 1979–1989: The
Revolution after Pol Pot (Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm Books, 2003),
10; Heder, Cambodian Communism, 93.
20. Heder, Cambodian Communism, 93.
21. It is probable that Sihanouk agreed to this arrangement in the hope that
the Vietnamese would be able to restrain the Khmer Communists.
22. Slocomb, The People’s Republic of Kampuchea, 10.
23. Heder, Cambodian Communism, 95.
24. Slocomb, The People’s Republic of Kampuchea, 11.
25. David Chandler, Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol Pot,
rev. ed. (Chiang Mai, Thailand: Silkworm Books, 1999), 72–73.
26. Kenton Clymer, Troubled Relations: The United States and Cambodia
since 1870 (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2007), 99–100,
27. Ibid., 99.
29. Operation Menu comprised a series of six bombing campaigns, known
as Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, Supper, and Dessert. Each
campaign targeted a specific base area located in eastern Cambodia. See
Ben Kiernan, “The American Bombardment of Kampuchea, 1969–
1973,” Vietnam Generation 1, no. 1 (1989): 4–41; William Shawcross,
Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia, rev. ed.
(New York: Cooper Square Press, 2002); Taylor Owen and Ben Kiernan,
“Bombs over Cambodia,” Walrus Magazine October (2006): 62–69; Ben
Kiernan and Taylor Owen, “Making More Enemies Than We Kill?
Calculating U.S. Bomb Tonnages Dropped on Laos and Cambodia, and
Weighing Their Implications,” The Asia-Pacific Journal 13, no. 16
Notes to Pages 12–15
30. Chandler, A History of Cambodia, 208; Shawcross, Sideshow, 122;
Clymer, Troubled Relations, 102.
31. Initially, China attempted to align itself with the Lon Nol government, if
three conditions were met: permission for the Chinese to continue to
supply the Vietnamese Communists through Cambodian territory;
authorization of Vietnamese Communists to maintain their bases
inside Cambodia; and Khmer support of the Vietnamese Communists
in government statements. In effect, the Chinese were willing to
postpone the Cambodian revolution in order to help the Vietnamese
revolution and to maintain a Chinese-Vietnamese front against the
United States. The Lon Nol government, given its anti-Vietnamese and
anti-Communist hard-line stance, predictably refused the Chinese
overture. It is also likely that Lon Nol assumed that the United States
would not abandon a loyal ally in its proxy war against the
32. Arnold Isaacs, Without Honor: Defeat in Cambodia (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1983), 199.
33. Donald M. Seekins, “Historical Setting,” in Cambodia: A Country Study,
ed. R. R. Ross (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office,
1990), 3–71; at 43–44. Khmer Rouge members of GRUNK claimed that
it was not a government in exile because Khieu Samphan and other
officials remained in Cambodia. Publicly, neither Pol Pot, Ieng Sary,
nor Nuon Chea were identified as top leaders, although political and
military authority was firmly in their hands.
34. Richard M. Nixon, “Address to the Nation on the Situation in Southeast
Asia,” April 30, 1970, www.nixonlibrary.org.
36. John Tully, A Short History of Cambodia from Empire to Survival (Crow’s
Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2005), 167.
37. Shawcross, Sideshow, 317.
38. Henry Kamm, Report from a Stricken Land (New York: Arcade
Publishing, 1998), 116.
39. Kate G. Frieson, “Revolution and Rural Response in Cambodia: 1970–
1975,” in Genocide and Democracy in Cambodia: The Khmer Rouge, the
United Nations and the International Community, ed. Ben Kiernan
(New Haven, CT: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies, 1993).
40. Philip Short, Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare (New York: Henry Holt
and Company, 2004), 218.
41. Quoted in Kiernan, “The American Bombardment,” 8.
42. Anthony Barnett, “Democratic Kampuchea: A Highly Centralized
Dictatorship,” inRevolution and Its Aftermath in Kampuchea: Eight
Essays, ed. David P. Chandler and Ben Kiernan (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Southeast Asia Studies, 1983), 212–29; at 214.
Notes to Pages 16–20
43. Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), “Excerpted Report on the
Leading Views of the Comrade Representing the Party Organization at
a Zone Assembly,” in Pol Pot Plans the Future: Confidential Leadership
Documents from Democratic Kampuchea, 1976–1977, ed. David P.
Chandler, Ben Kiernan, and Chanthou Boua (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Southeast Asia Studies, Monograph Series 33, 1988), 13–25;
44. Ben Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime: Polices, Race and Genocide in
Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975–1979 (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 1996); David P. Chandler, Voices from S-21: Terror and
History in Pol Pot’s Secret Prison (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1999); Hinton, Why Did They Kill?
45. Simon Locke, “Conspiracy Culture, Blame Culture, and Rationalisation,”
The Sociological Review 57, no. 4 (2009): 567–85; at 569.
46. Jovan Byford, Conspiracy Theories: A Critical Introduction (New York:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 21.
47. Ginna Husting and Martin Orr, “Dangerous Machinery: ‘Conspiracy
Theorist’ as a Transpersonal Strategy of Exclusion,” Symbolic Interaction
30, no. 2 (2007): 127–50; at 141.
48. Laura Jones, “The Commonplace Geopolitics of Conspiracy,” Geography
Compass 6, no. 1 (2012): 44–59; at 45.
49. Anne McClintock, “Paranoid Empire: Specters from Guantánamo and
Abu Ghraib,” small axe 13, no. 1 (2009): 50–74.
50. Jonathan Bach, “Power, Secrecy, Paranoia: Technologies of Governance
and the Structure of Rule,” Cultural Politics 6, no. 3 (2010): 287–302; at
52. Ibid., 292.
53. McClintock, “Paranoid Empire,” 53.
55. Byford, Conspiracy Theories, 4.
56. Roger Mac Ginty, “Social Network Analysis and Counterinsurgency: A
Counterproductive Strategy?” Critical Studies on Terrorism 3, no. 2
(2010): 209–26; at 210.
57. Jutta Weber, “Keep Adding. On Kill Lists, Drone Warfare and the Politics
of Databases,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 34, no. 1
(2016): 107–25; at 111.
58. Marieke de Goede, “Fighting the Network: A Critique of the Network as
a Security Technology,” Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social
Theory 13, no. 3 (2012): 215–32; at 221.
59. Mac Ginty, “Social Network Analysis,” 211.
60. Louise Amoore, “Lines of Sight: On the Visualization of Unknown
Futures,” Citizenship Studies 13, no. 1 (2009): 17–30; Marieke de Goede
Notes to Pages 20–23
and Gavin Sullivan, “The Politics of Security Lists,” Environment and
Planning D: Society and Space 34, no. 1 (2016): 67–88; Anna Leander,
“The Politics of Whitelisting: Regulatory Work and Topologies in
Commercial Security,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
34, no. 1 (2016): 48–66; Urs Stäheli, “Indexing—the Politics of
Invisibility,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 34, no. 1
61. Cornelia Vismann, Files: Law and Media Technology, trans. Geoffrey
Winthrop-Young (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008), 6.
62. Stäheli, “Indexing,” 14.
64. de Goede and Sullivan, “The Politics of Security Lists,” 72.
65. Ibid., 70.
66. Ibid., 69.
67. Ibid. See also Daniel J. Steinbock, “Designating the Dangerous: From
Blacklists to Watch Lists,” Seattle University Law Review 30 (2006):
65–118; Anya Bernstein, “The Hidden Costs of Terrorist Watch Lists,”
Buffalo Law Review 61, no. 3 (2013): 461–535.
68. de Goede and Sullivan, “Politics of Security Lists,” 72.
69. Weber, “Keep Adding,” 111.
70. Mac Ginty, “Social Network Analysis,” 220.
71. Leander, “Politics of Whitelisting,” 52.
72. Weber, “Keep Adding,” 112.
73. de Goede, “Fighting the Network,” 221.
74. Ibid., 216.
75. Ibid., 217.
76. Marieke de Goede and Samuel Randalls, “Precaution, Preemption: Arts
and Technologies of the Actionable Future,” Environment and Planning
D: Society and Space 27, no. 5 (2009): 859–78; at 861.
77. Bruce Braun, “Biopolitics and the Molecularization of Life,” cultural
geographies 14, no. 1 (2007): 6–28; at 19.
78. Christopher New, “Time and Punishment,” Analysis 52, no. 1 (1992):
35–40; Saul Smilansky, “The Time to Punish,” Analysis 54, no. 1 (1994):
50–53; Lucia Zedner, “Pre-crime and Post-criminology?” Theoretical
Criminology 11, no. 2 (2007): 261–81; Lucia Zedner, “Pre-crime and
Pre-punishment: A Health Warning,” Centre for Crime and Justice
Studies 81 (September 2010): 24–25; James Vlahos, “The Department
of Pre-crime,” Scientific American (January 2012): 62–67; Marieke de
Goede, Stephanie Simon, and Marijn Hoijtink, “Performing
Preemption,” Security Dialogue 45, no. 5 (2014): 411–22.
79. Louise Amoore and Marieke de Goede, “Data and the War by Other Means,” Journal of Cultural Economy 5, no. 1 (2012): 4.
80. Zedner, “Pre-crime and Post-criminology,” 262.
Notes to Pages 23–28
81. Weber, “Keep Adding,” 113.
83. Brian Massumi, “The Future Birth of the Affective Fact: The Political
Ontology of Threat,” in Digital and Other Virtualities: Renegotiating the
Image, ed. Antony Bryant and Briselda Pollock (London: I. B. Tauris,
84. Zedner, “Pre-crime and Pre-punishment,” 24.
85. Massumi, “The Future Birth,” 85.
86. Laurie Calhoun, “The Strange Case of Summary Execution by Predator
Drone,” Peace Review 15, no. 2 (2003): 209–14.
87. Ibid., 211.
89. Ibid., 212.
90. See also Stewart R. Clegg, Miguel Pina e Cunha, Arménio Rego, and
Joana Dias, “Mundane Objects and the Banality of Evil: The
Sociomateriality of a Death Camp,” Journal of Management Inquiry 22,
no. 3 (2013): 325–40.
91. Document No. E3/13 (00940336), “Minutes of the Meeting of
Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries of Divisions and Independent
Regiments,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
92. Michel Foucault, “Society Must be Defended”: Lectures at the Collège de
France, 1977–1978, trans. David Macey (New York: Picador, 2003), 240.
94. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 26.
95. Paul Rabinow and Nikolas Rose, “Biopower Today,” BioSocieties 1
96. Achille Mbembe, “Necropolitics,” trans. Libby Meintjes, Public Culture
15, no. 1 (2003): 11–40; see also Melissa W. Wright, “Necropolitics,
Narcopolitics, and Femicide: Gendered Violence on the Mexico-U.S.
Border,” Signs 36, no. 3 (2011): 707–31; John Round and Irina
Kuznetsova, “Necropolitics and the Migrant as a Political Subject of
Disgust: The Precarious Everyday of Russia’s Labour Migrants,” Critical
Sociology 42, no. 7–8 (2016): 1017–34; Ian G. R. Shaw, “The
Urbanization of Drone Warfare: Policing Surplus Populations in the
Dronepolis,” Geographical Helvetica 71, no. 1 (2016): 19–28.
97. Mbembe, “Necropolitics,” 12.
98. Jamie Allinson, “The Necropolitics of Drones,” International Political
Sociology 9, no. 2 (2015): 113–27; at 118.
CHAPTER 2: A TALE OF TWO LISTS
1. Document No. E3/4123 (00322176), “Letter to Angkar,” archived by the
Notes to Pages 28–34
2. Document No. E3/1640 (00767226), “Respectfully Submitted to: The
Embassy of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,” archived by
the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
3. Document No. E3/4123 (00322176), “Letter to Angkar.” The letter indi
cates two other people suspected of committing crimes against Angkar.
cument No. E3/1640 (00767226), “Respectfully Submitted to: The
Embassy of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.”
5. Francis X. Blouin Jr. and William G. Rosenberg, Processing the Past:
Contesting Authority in History and the Archives (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2011), 26.
6. Gupta, Red Tape, 45.
8. Ibid., 47.
9. For a complementary perspective, see Andrew Mertha, Brothers in Arms:
Chinese Aid to the Khmer Rouge, 1975–1979 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 2014), especially Chapter 2. See also Craig Etcheson,
The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea (Boulder, CO: Westview
10. Clark and Dear, State Apparatus, 45.
11. See, for example, Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private
Property and the State (New York: Penguin, 2010), 8.
12. Vladimir I. Lenin, Essential Works of Lenin: ‘What Is to Be Done?’ and
Other Writings, ed. Henry M. Christman (New York: Dover
13. Ibid., 292; emphasis in original.
14. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, trans.
Samuel Moore (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 1945).
15. Lenin, Essential Works, 274.
16. Ibid., 290.
17. Quoted in Slocomb, The People’s Republic of Kampuchea, 21.
18. Lenin, Essential Works, 137.
19. Ibid., 143.
20. In Khmer, the word angkar is translated as organization. As Steve Heder
explains, angkar was used as early as the 1940s within the Cambodian
Communist movement. In time, it would obtain more sinister conno -
tations. Heder, Cambodian Communism and the Vietnamese Model. See
also H int
on, Why Did They Kill?
21. Document No. E3/12 (00182809), “Decision of the Central Committee
Regarding a Number of Matters,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.
22. Document No. E3/130 (00184022), “Communist Party of Kampuchea:
Statute,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
Notes to Pages 34–41
24. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology (Amherst, NY:
Prometheus Books, 1998), 36–37.
25. Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), “The Party’s Four-Year Plan to
Build Socialism in All Fields, 1977–1980,” in Chandler, Kiernan, and
Boua, Pol Pot Plans the Future, 51.
26. Marx and Engels, The German Ideology, 37.
27. Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (New
York: International Publishers, 1970), 20.
28. Ibid., 20–21.
29. Clark and Dear, State Apparatus, 36.
30. Charles Perrow, “The Analysis of Goals in Complex Organizations,”
American Sociological Review 26, no. 6 (1961): 854–66.
31. Ibid., 855.
33. Dittmer, “Theorizing a More-Than-Human Diplomacy,” 86. See also
Müller, “Opening the Black Box of the Organization.”
34. Document No. E3/186 (00182663), “Minutes of Meeting of Standing
Committee 3–5-76,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
35. Clark and Dear, State Apparatus, 48–54.
36. Mertha, Brothers in Arms, 2.
37. For a more extensive discussion, see Tyner, From Rice Fields to Killing
38. Document No. D30882, “Long Live the 17th Anniversary of the
Communist Party of Kampuchea.”
39. Document No, D55874, [no title], archived at the Documentation
Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.
40. Ibid. It is noteworthy that Article 2 also specifies that “Articles for
everyday use remain the personal property of the individual.” This
demonstrates that as of December 1975, when the text of the
Constitution was being written, individual private property was not yet
41. Membership also fluctuated because of repeated purges. Usually, mem
bership consisted of upward of thirty men and women. Apart from the
mmittee members (who served on both committees), the
Central Committee included Khieu Samphan, Koy Thuon, Ney Saran,
and Ke Pok. The Central Committee also included a Specialist Military
Committee that included Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Son Sen, So Phim, and
Ta Mok; Vorn Vet and Ke Pauk would later be added. See also Office of
the Co-Investigating Judges, Closing Order, 18.
42. Ibid., 17.
43. Ibid., 21.
44. The third committee member may at times be simultaneously occupied
by two or more people.
Notes to Pages 41–49
45. Mertha, Brothers in Arms, 30.
46. Boraden Nhem, The Khmer Rouge: Ideology, Militarism, and the
Revolution That Consumed a Generation (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger,
47. The Northeast, for example, was designated 108. In practice, numeric
codes at the zonal level were rarely utilized.
48. Michael Vickery, Cambodia, 1975–1982 (Chiang Mai, Thailand:
Silkworm Books, 1984), 71–73.
49. Office of the Co-Prosecutors, Co-Prosecutors’ Rule 66 Final Submission
(public redacted version), Case No.: 002/19/09/20007-ECCC/OCIJ, 53,
50. Mertha, Brothers in Arms, 33.
51. Clark and Dear, State Apparatus, 50.
52. Ibid., 50–51.
53. Document No, D55874, [no title], archived at the Documentation
Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.
54. Document No. D00674, “Communist Party of Kampuchea: Statute,”
archived at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. See
also OCIJ, Closing Order, 16.
61. Ibid.; OCIJ, Closing Order, 17.
62. The People’s Representative Assembly met once, during a meeting held
on April 11–13, 1976.
63. Isaacs, Without Honor, 224. See also Noam Chomsky and Edward S.
Herman, After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction
of Imperial Ideology (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014).
64. For an extensive discussion of Khmer Rouge agricultural policies, see
Tyner, From Rice Fields to Killing Fields, Chapter 4.
65. CPK, “The Party’s Four-Year Plan,” 51.
67. Ibid., 96.
68. Tyner, From Rice Fields to Killing Fields, Chapter 3.
69. Karl D. Jackson, “The Ideology of Total Revolution,” in Cambodia 1975–
1978: Rendezvous with Death, ed. Karl D. Jackson (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1989), 37–78; at 45.
70. Charles H. Twining, “The Economy,” in Cambodia, 1975–1978:
Rendezvous with Death, ed. Karl D. Jackson (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University), 109–50; at 110.
Notes to Pages 50–55
71. Brian R. Tomlinson, “What Was the Third World?” Journal of
Contemporary History 38, no. 2 (2003): 307–21; at 309.
72. Kristin S. Tassin, “’Lift Up Your Head, My Brother’: Nationalism and the
Genesis of the Non-Aligned Movement,” Journal of Third World Studies
23, no. 1 (2006): 147–68; at 148.
74. Document No. D55874, [no title], archived at the Documentation
Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.
78. Michael P. Todaro, Economic Development in the Third World, 4th ed.
(New York: Longman, 1989), 428.
79. Document No. D00698, “Cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce,”
archived at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.
81. CPK, “The Party’s Four-Year Plan,” 46.
82. Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), “Excerpted Report of the
Leading Views of the Comrade Representing the Party Organization at
a Zone Assembly,” 27.
83. CPK, “The Party’s Four-Year Plan,” 51.
84. Ibid., 131.
85. Ibid., 132.
86. Ibid., 89.
88. As the Khmer Rouge liberated areas from 1971 onward, peasants were
relocated from the cities and into agricultural cooperatives. In 1973, for
example, Khmer Rouge soldiers seized half of Kompong Cham City,
taking fifteen thousand townspeople into the countryside with them.
Later, in March 1974, just weeks before the fall of Phnom Penh, Khmer
Rouge forces emptied the former capital of Oudong, dispersing more
than twenty thousand former residents throughout the countryside.
Initially, peasants were organized into mutual aid teams (krom provas
dai). Under this system, effective control—but not ownership—of
land, stock, and equipment remained in peasant hands, usury and
rental payments were abolished, and taxation was relatively light. Later,
but especially after April 1975, these were merged into larger low-level
cooperatives (sahakor kumrit teap) and, finally, into high-level coopera -
tives (sahakor kumrit khpuos). Similar to the practice of collectivization
in the S o
viet Union and the People’s Republic of China, the CPK
viewed cooperatives as a spatial practice that could, in theory, increase
agricultural productivity and thereby garner greater surplus with which
to spur industrialization. Following their victory of April 17, 1975, the
Notes to Pages 55–56
Communist Party of Kampuchea began forcibly evacuating Phnom
Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Upward of three million people, more
than half of whom were peasants who had fled the fighting during five
years of civil war, were relocated to cooperatives and work camps in
neighboring provinces. Many were forced to walk; others were trans-
ported by truck or train. It is now apparent that little planning went
int o the sp
ecific details of evacuation—there was scant coordination
and the resultant death toll, while not accurately known, was substan-
tial. For more detailed discussions on the forced evacuations, see
rnan, The Pol Pot Regime; James A. Tyner, Samuel Henkin, Savina
Sirik, and Sokvisal Kimsroy, “Phnom Penh during the Cambodian
Genocide: A Case of Selective Urbicide,” Environment and Planning A
46 (2014): 1873–91. For more on Soviet and Chinese communes, see
Evsey D. Domar, “The Soviet Collective Farm as Producer
Cooperative,” The American Economic Review 56, no. 4 (1966): 734–57;
Michael E. Bradley, “Incentives and Labour Supply on Soviet Collective
Farms,” The Canadian Journal of Economics 4, no. 3 (1971): 342–52; Tse
Ka-Kui, “Agricultural Collectivization and Socialist Construction: The
Soviet Union and China,” Dialectical Anthropology 2, no. 3 (1977):
199–221; Xin Meng, Nancy Qian, and Pierre Yared, “The Institutional
Causes of China’s Great Famine, 1959–1961,” paper presented at the
Centre for Economic Policy Research’s Development Economics
Symposium, June 2–3, 2010, www.cepr.org/meets/wkcn/7/780/papers/
89. Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Documentation Center of
Cambodia, The Forced Transfer: The Second Evacuation of People during
the Khmer Rouge Regime (Phnom Penh: Documentation Center of
90. In total, thirteen appointments were made at this meeting: Pol Pot,
military and the economy; Nuon Chea, Party affairs, social action,
culture, propaganda, and education; Ieng Sary, foreign affairs, both
Party and state; Khieu Samphan, front and the Royal Government, and
commerce for accounting and pricing; Koy Thuon, domestic and inter -
national commerce; Son Sen, general staff and security; Vorn Vet,
ry, railroads, and fisheries; Sua Vasi, chairman, political office of
870; Ieng Thirith, culture—social action and foreign affairs; Hu Nim,
propaganda and reeducation, both internal and external; Chey, agricul -
ture; Yem, Bureau 870; and Pang, government office. Document No.
“Meeting of the Standing Committee 9 October
75,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
91. Nhem, The Khmer Rouge, 48.
92. On April 14, 1976, for example, the Standing Committee, ostensibly
working through the People’s Representative Assembly, publicly
Notes to Pages 56–60
announced the governmental structure of Democratic Kampuchea: Pol
Pot (prime minister), Ieng Sary (deputy prime minister responsible for
foreign affairs), Vorn Vet (deputy prime minister responsible for eco-
nomics), Son Sen (deputy prime minister for national defense), Hu
N im (minist
er responsible for information and propaganda), Chuon
Choeun (minister of public health), Ieng Thirith (minister of social
affairs), Touch Phoeun (minister of public works), and Yun Yat
(ministry of culture, training, and education). In addition, six commit -
tees were established under the direction of the Ministry of Economy:
iculture, industry, commerce, rubber plantations, transportation,
and energy. The respective ministers of these committees are: Chey
Soun, Cheng An, Koy Thuon, Ek Sophon, Mei Brang, and Ta Che. It is
unclear as to how active any of these committees truly were; prelimi -
nary archival evidence suggests that the Agriculture and Commerce
mmittees were most active. OCIJ, Closing Order, 23; Document No.
E3/165 (00184048), “Document on Conference of Legislature of the
People’s Representative Assembly of Kampuchea 11–13 April 1976,”
archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en; Document No.
D21227, [no title], archived at the Documentation Center of
Cambodia, Phnom Penh.
93. Mertha, Brothers in Arms, 48–49.
94. Twining, “The Economy.”
95. Tyner et al., “Phnom Penh,” 1884; Mertha, Brothers in Arms, 49.
96. Tyner et al., “Phnom Penh,” 1882, 1886.
97. Mertha, Brothers in Arms, 53.
98. Document No. E3/494 (00142826), “Report by Craig Etcheson,”
archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
99. Tyner et al., “Phnom Penh,” 1886–87.
100. Mertha, Brothers in Arms, 50.
101. Ibid., 52.
102. Clark and Dear, State Apparatus, 52.
103. See, for example, James A. Tyner, “Genocide as Reconstruction: The
Political Geography of Democratic Kampuchea,” in Reconstructing
Conflict: Integrating War and Post-war Geographies, ed. Scott Kirsch and
Colin Flint (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2011); James A. Tyner, “State
Sovereignty, Bioethics, and Political Geographies: The Practice of
Medicine under the Khmer Rouge,” Environment and Planning D:
Society and Space 30, no. 5 (2012): 842–60.
104. CPK, “Four-Year Plan,” 113.
105. Thomas Clayton, “Building the New Cambodia: Educational
Destruction and Construction under the Khmer Rouge, 1975–1979,”
History of Education Quarterly 38, no. 1 (1998): 1–16; at 5. See also
Ayers , Anatomy of a Crisis; Thomas Clayton, “Re-orientations in Moral
Notes to Pages 60–65
Education in Cambodia since 1975,” Journal of Moral Education 34, no.
4 (2005): 505–17.
106. Clayton, “Building the New Cambodia,” 6.
108. Ibid., 8.
109. CPK, “Four-Year Plan,” 113–14.
110. Ayers , Anatomy of a Crisis, 118–19. Three textbooks are known to have
been produced by the CPK, including a math book and two geography
texts. For a discussion of the second-grade political geography text
produced by the CPK, see Tyner, “Genocide as Reconstruction,” 60–63.
See also James A. Tyner, Sokvisal Kimsroy, and Savina Sirik, “Nature,
Poetry, and Public Pedagogy: The Poetic Geographies of the Khmer
Rouge,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 105, no. 6
(2015): 1285–99; James A. Tyner, Sokvisal Kimsroy, and Savina Sirik,
“Landscape Photography, Geographic Education, and Nation-Building
in Democratic Kampuchea, 1975–1979,” The Geographical Review 105,
no. 4 (2015): 566–80; James A. Tyner, Mark Rhodes, and Sokvisal
Kimsroy, “Music, Nature, Power, and Place: An Ecomusicology of
Khmer Rouge Songs,” GeoHumanities 2, no. 2 (2016): 395–412.
111. Document No. E3/216 (00850973), “Record of the Standing
[Committee’s] Visit to the Northwest Zone 20–24 August 1975,”
archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
112. Document No. D00679, “Telegram Number 45,” archived at the
Documentation Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. I do not know if
the request for medicines was ever addressed.
113. Document No. E3/232 (00182628), “Minutes of Meeting on Base Work
8 March 1976,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
114. Jan Ovesen and Ing-Britt Trankell, Cambodians and Their Doctors: A
Medical Anthropology of Colonial and Post-colonial Cambodia
(Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, 2010), 9.
115. Sokhym Em, “Revolutionary Female Medical Staff in Tram Kak District
I ,” Searching for the Truth 34 (October 2002): 24–27; at 25. See also
Sokhym Em, “Female Patients,” Searching for the Truth 33 (September
2002): 25–29; Sokhym Em, “Revolutionary Female Medical Staff in
Tram Kak District II,” Searching for the Truth 35 (November 2002):
116. The motivation to volunteer varied; for some girls, it was an opportu
nity to escape oppressive conditions in their home village; for others it
was a means of
avoiding combat. See Em, “Revolutionary Female
Medical Staff . . . District I,” 25.
118. Ibid.; Em, “Revolutionary Female Medical Staff . . . District II.”
119. Ovesen and Trankell, Cambodians and Their Doctors, 109.
Notes to Pages 65–74
120. Ibid., 107.
121. Sokhym Em, “Rabbit Dropping Medicine,” Searching for the Truth 30
(June 2002): 22–23; at 22.
122. Mertha, Brothers in Arms, 42.
123. CPK, “Four-Year Plan,” 114.
124. Document No. E3/749 (00182614), “Minutes—Meeting of the
Standing Committee 9 January 1976,” archived by the ECCC, http://
125. Document No. E3/231 (00183360), “Minutes of Meeting of
Propaganda Work 8 March 1976,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.
127. Following the arrest of Hu Nim in 1977, the Ministry of Propaganda
and Information and was apparently merged with the Ministry of
Education, with both falling under the supervision of Yun Yat, wife of
Son Sen, the deputy prime minister of national defense.
128. Mertha, Brothers in Arms, 44–47.
129. Gupta, Red Tape, 188.
CHAPTER 3: INTO THE DARKNESS
1. Barnett, “Democratic Kampuchea,” 215.
2. Document No. L0001022, “Minutes of the Standing Committee’s Visit to the Southwest Zone,” archived at the Documentation Center of
Cambodia, Phnom Penh.
5. Lenin, Essential Works, 150.
6. Document No. L0001022, “Minutes of the Standing Committee’s Visit to the Southwest Zone.”
10. Kindervater, “The Emergence of Lethal Surveillance.”
11. Gillian K. Hadfield and Barry R. Weingast, “What Is Law? A Coordination Model of the Characteristics of Legal Order,” Journal of
Legal Analysis 4, no. 2 (2012): 471–514; at 471.
12. Helen Fein, “Revolutionary and Antirevolutionary Genocides: A Comparison of State Murders in Democratic Kampuchea, 1975 to
1979, and in Indonesia, 1965 to 1966,” Comparative Studies in Society
and History 35, no. 4 (1993): 796–823; at 809.
13. Barnett, “Democratic Kampuchea,” 216.
Notes to Pages 75–82
14. Hadfield and Weingast, “What Is Law,” 472.
16. No document has yet surfaced that explains in detail the philosophical basis of the CPK’s legal order. As a self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist
Party, it is safe to presume that CPK officials would have adhered to a
variant of positive law as opposed to natural law. Furthermore, it is
unclear to what extent leading members of the CPK were aware of, let
alone adhered to, the various Marxist legal theories that were devel -
oped throughout the twentieth century.
ugene Kamenka, “Law,” in A Dictionary of Marxist Thought, 2nd ed., ed.
Tom Bottomore (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 1991), 306–7.
18. Document No. E3/259 (00184833), “Constitution of Democratic Kampuchea,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
22. Justus M. van der Kroef, “Cambodia: From ‘Democratic Kampuchea’ to ‘People’s Republic,’” Asian Survey 19, no. 8 (1979): 731–50; at 737. See
also Ian Harris, Buddhism under Pol Pot (Phnom Penh: Documentation
Center of Cambodia, 2007).
23. Document No. E3/259 (00184833), “Constitution of Democratic Kampuchea,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
27. Gillian K. Hadfield, “The Problem of Social Order: What Should We Count as Law?” Law & Social Inquiry 42, no. 1 (2017): 16–27; at 18.
28. Document No. E3/130 (00184022), “Communist Party of Kampuchea— Statute,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
31. Hadfield and Weingast, “What Is Law,” 473.
32. Document No. E3/130 (00184022), “Communist Party of Kampuchea—Statute.”
36. See, for example, Tyner, From Rice Fields to Killing Field.
37. Herbert F. Schurmann, “Organizational Principles of the Chinese Communists,” The China Quarterly 2 (April–June 1960): 47–58; at 52.
38. Tyner et al., “Phnom Penh.”
39. Document No. E3/494 (00142826), “Report by Craig Etcheson.”
Notes to Pages 83–87
40. Jonathan London, “Viet Nam and the Making of Market-Leninism,” The Pacific Review 22, no. 3 (2009): 375–99; at 379.
41. Stephen C. Angle, “Decent Democratic Centralism,” Political Theory 33,
no. 4 (2005): 518–46; at 525–26.
42. Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), “Report of Activities of the Party Center According to the General Political Tasks of 1976,” in
Chandler, Kiernan, and Boua, Pol Pot Plans the Future, 202.
45. Ibid., 203.
46. Mertha, Brothers in Arms, 31–33.
47. Ibid., 33.
48. Document No. E3/12 (00182809, “Decision of the Central Committee Regarding a Number of Matters,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.
51. Document No. E3/874 (00185060), “Telegram 50—Radio Band 948— Presented with Respect to Beloved and Missed Brother,” archived by the
ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en. See also Document No. E3/494
(00142826), “Report by Craig Etcheson.”
52. Document No. D02129, “To Angkar 870,” archived at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Ros Nhim would
himself be arrested and sent to S-21 the following month.
53. Document No. E3/494 (00142826), “Report by Craig Etcheson.”
55. James A. Tyner and Stian Rice, “Cambodia’s Political Economy of Violence: Space, Time, and Genocide under the Khmer Rouge, 1975–
79,” Genocide Studies International 10, no. 1 (2016): 84–94; James A.
Tyner and Stian Rice, “To Live and Let Die: Food, Famine, and
Administrative Violence in Democratic Kampuchea, 1975–1979,”
Political Geography 52 (May 2016): 47–56; Tyner, From Rice Fields to
56. See, for example, Craig Etcheson, After the Killing Fields: Lessons from the Cambodian Genocide (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2005),
107–28. See also Vickery, Cambodia, 1975–1982, 88–172.
57. Randle C. DeFalco, “Accounting for Famine at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia: The Crimes against Humanity
of Extermination, Inhumane Acts and Persecution,” The International
Journal of Transitional Justice 5, no. 1 (2011): 142–58; at 141. See also
Randle C. DeFalco, “Justice and Starvation in Cambodia: The Khmer
Rouge Famine,” Cambodia Law and Policy Journal 2 (2014): 45–84.
Notes to Pages 87–91
58. Randle DeFalco, “Voices of Genocide: Episodes of the Radio Program on Famine under the Khmer Rouge,” Searching for the Truth, Second
Quarter (2013): 26–32.
59. David Harper, “The Politics of Paranoia: Paranoid Positioning and Conspiratorial Narratives in the Surveillance Society,” Surveillance &
Society 5, no. 1 (2008): 1–32; Holm, “Conspiracy Theorizing
Surveillance”; McClintock, “Paranoid Empire”; Bach, “Power, Secrecy,
Paranoia,” 287–302; Kendzior, “‘Recognize the Spies’”; Sarah Nuttall
and Achille Mbembe, “Secrecy’s Softwares,” Current Anthropology 56,
no. 12 (2015): 317–24.
60. McClintock, “Paranoid Empire,” 53.
61. Bach, “Power, Secrecy, Paranoia,” 288.
62. Ibid., 290.
63. Document No. E3/798 (00183966), “Minutes of the Meeting of Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries of Divisions and Independent
Regiments,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
64. Document No. E3/811 (00178149), “Minutes of Meeting with the Organization’s Office, 703, and S-21,” archived by the ECCC, http://
65. Document No. L01449_4p, “Minutes of Meeting of the Division Secretary, Division Deputy Secretary, and Independent Regiments,”
archived at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.
66. Document No. L01448_3p, “Minutes of Meeting of Comrade Tal, Division 290 and Division 170,” archived at the Documentation Center
of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. See also Document No. E3/810
(00195339), “Minutes of Meeting of Secretaries and Logistics of
Divisions and Regiments,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.
kh/en; Document No. E3/13 (00940336), “Minutes of the Meeting of
Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries of Divisions and Independent
Regiments”; Document No. E3/815 (00877015), “Minutes of Meeting
of Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries of Divisions and Regiments,”
archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
67. Document No. E1/112.1 (00841140), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings, Case File No. 002/19–09–2007-ECCC/TC, 22 August 2012, Trial Day
100,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en; Office of the
Co-Investigating Judges, “Criminal Case File No. 002/14–08–2006,”
archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en. During the course
of the tribunal, Kim Vun learned that Chim Nary was arrested on May
1, 1978, and executed on May 27, 1978.
68. Bach, “Power, Secrecy, Paranoia,” 290.
70. Haing Ngor (with R. Warner), Survival in the Killing Fields (New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1987), 277.
Notes to Pages 92–96
71. Sreytouch Svay-Ryser, “New Year’s Surprise,” in Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors, ed. Kim DePaul and comp. Dith
Pran (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977), 38.
72. Roeun Sam, “Living in Darkness,” in DePaul and Pran, Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields, 78.
73. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt,
74. Ngor, Survival in the Killing Fields, 300.
75. Mark Andrejevic, “The Work of Watching One Another: Lateral Surveillance, Risk, and Governance,” Surveillance & Society 2, no. 4
(2005): 479–97; at 488.
76. Mark Andrejevic, “The Discipline of Watching: Detection, Risk, and Lateral Surveillance,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 23, no. 5
(2006): 391–407; at 396–97.
77. Michel Foucault, “Technologies of the Self,” in Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault, ed. Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman,
and Patrick H. Hutton (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press,
78. Ibid., 18.
79. Harper, “The Politics of Paranoia,” 5; see also Maria Los, “The Technologies of Total Domination,” Surveillance & Society 2, no. 1
80. Foucault, “Technologies of the Self,” 27.
81. Ian Burkitt, “Technologies of the Self: Habitus and Capacities,” Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior 32, no. 2 (2002): 219–37; at 234–35.
82. Mbembe, “Necropolitics,” 14.
83. Tyner and Rice, “To Live and Let Die,” 55.
84. See, for example, Bach, “Power, Secrecy, Paranoia,” 291–92; Timothy Me l l e y, Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar
America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000), 209.
85. Erving Goffman, Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1961), 11.
86. Chandler, Voices from S-21; see also Clegg, Pina e Cunha, and Rego, “The Theory and Practice of Utopia in a Total Institution”; Miguel Pina e
Cunha, Arménio Rego, and Stewart Clegg, “The Institutionalization of
Genocidal Leadership: Pol Pot and a Cambodian Dystopia,” Journal of
Leadership Studies 9, no. 1 (2015): 6–18.
87. Chandler, Voices from S-21, 14.
88. Dominique Moran and Yvonne Jewkes, “Linking the Carceral and the Punitive State: A Review of Research on Prison Architecture, Design,
Technology and the Lived Experience of Carceral Space,” Annales de
Géographie no. 702–703 (2015): 163–84; at 164 and 166.
Notes to Pages 97–101
89. Nick Gill, Deidre Conlon, Dominique Moran, and Andrew Burridge, “Carceral Circuitry: New Directions in Carceral Geography,” Progress in
Human Geography doi:10.1177/0309132516671823. See also Keith
Farrington, “The Modern Prison as Total Institution? Public Perception
Versus Objective Reality,” Crime & Delinquency 38, no. 1 (1992): 6–26;
Jenna Loyd, Andrew Burridge, and Matthew L. Mitchelson, “Thinking
(and Moving) Beyond Walls and Cages: Bridging Immigrant Justice
and Anti-prison Organizing in the United States,” Social Justice 36, no.
2 (2016): 85–103; Dominique Moran, “Between Outside and Inside?
Prison Visiting Rooms as Liminal Carceral Spaces,” Geoforum 78, no. 2
(2013): 339–51; Jennifer Turner, The Prison Boundary (London:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).
90. Farrington, “The Modern Prison,” 6–7.
91. Turner, The Prison Boundary, 27.
92. Stephen Heder (with Brian D. Tittemore), Seven Candidates for Prosecution: Accountability for the Crimes of the Khmer Rouge (Phnom
Penh: Documentation Center of Cambodia, 2004), 30.
93. There was not always a clear-cut distinction of security centers. The Koh Kyang security center, for example, reportedly operated as a detain -
ment site for both Sector 37 and the West Zone. See OCIJ, Closing
r, Case File No.:002/19–09–2007-ECCC-OCIJ, 134.
94. Meng-Try Ea, The Chain of Terror: The Khmer Rouge Southwest Zone Security System (Phnom Penh: Documentation Center of Cambodia,
95. The theft of food was often considered a minor offense; however, numerous accounts exist whereby men, women, and children were
executed for such crimes.
96. Document No. E3/2423 (00322206), “Report—To Comrade Uncle Ann, for His Knowledge,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
97. Document No. E3/2423 (00322210), “Letter from San,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
98. Most evidence is derived from eyewitness accounts or through confes -
sions obtained at larger security centers.
ocument No. E3/494 (00142826), “Report by Craig Etcheson.”
100. Ea, The Chain of Terror, 2.
101. Document No. E3/2423 (00322208), “To Respected Comrade Elder Brother,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
102. Document No. E3/2450 (00322163), “Report,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
103. Document No. E3/494 (00142826), “Report by Craig Etcheson.”
Notes to Pages 101–109
106. OCIJ, Closing Order, 126. It was located in present-day Kus Subdistrict, Tram Kok District, Takeo Province.
107. Ibid., 130. Document No. E3/2109 (00276555), “Report,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
108. OCIJ, Closing Order, 127.
109. Ibid., 130.
111. Ibid., 132.
112. Ibid., 129.
113. Document No. E3/4166 (00694355), “Education Office of District 105—Report,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
114. OCIJ, Closing Order, 129.
115. Robertson, “‘You Lie!’” 79.
116. OCIJ, Closing Order, 133.
117. Ibid., 122. It was located in present-day Trea Commune, Kandal Steung District, Kandal Province.
119. Ibid., 123.
120. Ibid., 124.
121. Ibid., 125.
122. Ea, The Chain of Terror, 98–99.
123. Document No. E3/874 (00185060), “Telegram 50—Presented with Respect to Beloved and Missed Brother,” archived by the ECCC, http://
www.eccc.gov.kh.en. See also Document No. E3/494 (00142826),
“Report by Craig Etcheson.”
124. Document No. E3/871 (00185241), “Telegram 21—Presented with Respect to Beloved and Missed Brother Pol,” archived by the ECCC,
http://www.eccc.gov.kh.en. See also Document No. E3/494 (00142826),
“Report by Craig Etcheson.”
125. Document No. E3/494 (00142826), “Report by Craig Etcheson.”
126. OCIJ, Closing Order, 158–59.
127. Ibid., 160.
128. Ibid., 161.
129. Ea, The Chain of Terror, 98.
130. Ibid., 100–102.
131. Ibid., 100.
132. Document No. E3/798 (00183966), “Minutes of the Meeting of Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries of Divisions and Independent
Regiments,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
133. Document No. E3/811 (00178149), “Minutes of Meeting with the Organization’s Office, 703, and S-21,” archived by the ECCC, http://
134. Quoted in Ea, The Chain of Terror, 100.
Notes to Pages 110–114
135. Locke, “Conspiracy Culture,” 574.
136. Ian G. R. Shaw and Majed Akhter, “The Dronification of State Violence,” Critical Asian Studies 46, no. 2 (2014): 211–34; at 229. See
also Ian G. R. Shaw, Predator Empire: Drone Warfare and Full Spectrum
Dominance (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016).
137. Kindervater, “Emergence of Lethal Surveillance,” 224.
138. Louise Amoore and Marieke de Goede, “Transactions after 9/11: The Banal Face of the Preemptive Strike,” Transactions of the Institute of
British Geographers 33, no. 2 (2008): 173–85; at 176.
CHAPTER 4: MORTAL ACCOUNTINGS
1. The vast majority of prisoners executed on this date were all recorded as
staff workers from Public Works.
2. Mao Hok, Ping Chun, Prakk Nat, and Seam Ho were all executed on July
20, 1977; Nuon Prang was executed on October 15, 1977.
3. Judy Ledgerwood, “The Cambodian Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal
Crimes: National Narrative,” Museum Anthropology 21, no. 1 (1997):
82–98; Paul Williams, “Witnessing Genocide: Vigilance and
Remembrance at Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek,” Holocaust and Genocide
Studies 18, no. 2 (2004): 234–54; Rachel Hughes, “Dutiful Tourism:
Encountering the Cambodian Genocide,” Asia Pacific Viewpoint 49, no.
3 (2008): 318–30; Bridgette Sion, “Conflicting Sites of Memory in Post-
genocide Cambodia,” Humanity: An International Journal of Human
Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development 2, no. 1 (2011): 1–21;
Stephanie Benzaquen, “Looking at the Tuol Sleng Museum of
Genocidal Crimes, Cambodia, on Flickr and YouTube,” Media, Culture
& Society 36, no. 6 (2014): 790–809; James A. Tyner, “Violent Erasures
and Erasing Violence: Contesting Cambodia’s Landscape of Violence,”
in Space and the Memories of Violence: Landscapes of Erasure,
Disappearance and Exception, ed. Estela Schindel and Pamela Colombo
(New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 21–33; Caitlin Brown and Chris
Millington, “The Memory of the Cambodian Genocide: The Tuol Sleng
Genocide Museum,” History Compass 13, no. 3 (2015): 31–39; James A.
Tyner, Landscape, Memory, and Post-violence in Cambodia (New York:
Rowman & Littlefield, 2017).
4. Lindsay French, “Exhibiting Terror,” in Truth Claims: Representation and
Human Rights, ed. M. P. Bradley and P. Petro (New Brunswick, NJ:
Rutgers University Press, 2002), 131–55; Rachel Hughes, “The Abject
Artefacts of Memory: Photographs from Cambodia’s Genocide,”
Media, Culture & Society 25, no. 1 (2003): 23–44; Maria Elander,
“Education and Photography at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum,” in The
Notes to Pages 114–120
Arts of Transitional Justice, ed. P. D. Rush and O. Simić (New York:
Springer, 2014), 43–62.
5. Chandler, Voices from S-21. See also David Hawk, “Tuol Sleng
Extermination Centre,” Index on Censorship 1 (1986): 25–31; Clegg, e
Cunha, Rego, “The Theory and Practice of Utopia in a Total
Institution”; Clegg, e Cunha, Rego, and Dias, “Mundane Objects and
the Banality of Evil”; Michelle Caswell, Archiving the Unspeakable:
Silence, Memory, and the Photographic Record in Cambodia (Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 2014); Terith Chy, When the Criminal
Laughs (Phnom Penh: Documentation Center of Cambodia, 2014);
Miguel Pina e Cunha, Stewart Clegg, and Arménio Rego, “The Ethical
Speaking of Objects: Ethics and the ‘Object-ive’ World of Khmer Rouge
Young Comrades,” Journal of Political Power 7, no. 1 (2014): 35–61;
Alexander L. Hinton, Man or Monster? The Trial of a Khmer Rouge
Torturer (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016).
6. Chandler, Voices from S-21, 15.
7. Document No. D390 (00744663), “Co-Prosecutors’ Rule 66 Final
Submission (Public Redacted Version),” archived by the ECCC, http://
8. Ibid., 119.
9. Vannak Huy, “Prey Sar Prison,” Searching for the Truth 29 (May 2002):
21–25; at 21.
10. Craig Etcheson describes the classification system as consisting of
“light-offence” prisoners, “serious-offence” prisoners, and an interme -
diate category whereby men and women were to be evaluated and
quently classified as light or serious. Many who were classified as
light-offense prisoners were eventually released—if they survived their
detention. Those classed as serious were ultimately sent to S-21 and
executed. See Document No. E1/21.1 (00328887), “Transcript of Trial
Proceedings—Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–
2007-ECCC/TC, 19 May 2009, Trial Day 17,” archived by the ECCC,
11. OCIJ, Closing Order, 105–7.
12. Vannak Huy, “Prey Sar Prison,” 21.
13. Document No. D390 (00744663), “Co-Prosecutors’ Rule 66 Final
Submission (Public Redacted Version),” 121.
14. Document No. E3/13 (00940336), “Minutes of the Meeting of
Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries of Divisions and Independent
15. Document No. D390 (00744663), “Co-Prosecutors’ Rule 66 Final
Submission (Public Redacted Version),” 279.
17. Ibid., 124.
Notes to Pages 120–125
18. Hawk, “Tuol Sleng Extermination Centre,” 25; see also David Hawk,
Khmer Rouge Prison Documents from the S-21 (Tuol Sleng)
Extermination Center in Phnom Penh (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
19. Document No. D390 (00744663), “Co-Prosecutors’ Rule 66 Final
Submission (Public Redacted Version),” 121–22.
20. Chandler, Voices from S-21, 26; Document No. D390 (00744663),
“Co-Prosecutors’ Rule 66 Final Submission (Public Redacted Version),”
21. Document No. E1/33.1 (00341955), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 16 June 2009, Trial Day 29,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.
22. This should not be construed that Duch had any misgivings about
female sexual abuse. Rather, Duch apparently expressed concern
because he personally knew the abused woman. It should be noted,
also, that Duch did not secure her release. Once the woman was no
longer considered valuable from an investigative standpoint, she too
23. Document No. E1/33.1 (00341955), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 16 June 2009, Trial Day 29.”
24. Chandler, Voices from S-21, 27.
25. Ibid.; Document No. D390 (00744663), “Co-Prosecutors’ Rule 66 Final
Submission (Public Redacted Version),” 123.
26. Document No. D390 (00744663), “Co-Prosecutors’ Rule 66 Final
Submission (Public Redacted Version),” 123–24.
27. Caswell, Archiving the Unspeakable, 52; see also Caswell, “Hannah
28. Caswell, Archiving the Unspeakable, 53.
29. See Hinton, Man or Monster?; see also Document No. E1/32.1
(00341683), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’
Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/TC, 15 June 2009, Trial
Day 28,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en; Document
No. E1/33.1 (00341955), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—Kaing Guek
Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/TC, 16 June
2009, Trial Day 29”; Document No. E1/34.1 (00342829), “Transcript of
Trial Proceedings—Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No.
001/18–07–2007-ECCC/TC, 17 June 2009, Trial Day 30,” archived by
the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
30. Caswell, Archiving the Unspeakable, 55.
Notes to Pages 126–132
31. Document No. E3/1044 (00875624), “Request for the Removal of Bad
Elements, Which Were Divided into Three Categories,” archived by the
32. Document No. E2/80/4.2 (00347466), “Brief Biography,” archived by the
33. Document No. E3/1043 (00224319), “Dear Beloved Brother Duch,”
archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
34. Document No. E1/32.1 (00341683), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 15 June 2009, Trial Day 28.”
35. Document No. E3/13 (00940336), “Minutes of the Meeting of
Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries of Divisions and Independent
36. Document No. E1/32.1 (00341683), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 15 June 2009, Trial Day 28.”
37. Document No. D390 (00744663), “Co-Prosecutors’ Rule 66 Final
Submission (Public Redacted Version).”
41. Document No. E3/822 (00937114), “Minutes of the Meeting Comrade
Tal of Division 290 and Division 170,” archived by the ECCC, http://
42. Document No. E1/32.1 (00341683), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 15 June 2009, Trial Day 28.”
44. Document No. E3/1645 (00809627), “Names of Prisoners Who Entered
on 23 November 1977,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/
45. During massive purges, when scores (if not hundreds) of prisoners were
arrested simultaneously, registration was largely nonexistent.
46. Document No. E1/32.1 (00341683), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 15 June 2009, Trial Day 28.”
47. Document No. E3/4145 (00762839), “Names of Prisoners Smashed on
31 May 1978,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
48. Document No. E1/32.1 (00341683), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 15 June 2009, Trial Day 28.” Medical experimentation did take
place at S-21. Medics undergoing training would practice drawing
blood on prisoners; blood was also collected for use at nearby hospitals.
Notes to Pages 132–139
Evidence also indicates that surgery was conducted on prisoners in
order for medical trainees to learn anatomy.
50. Document No. E3/1671 (00181789), “List of Female Prisoners—
Unofficial Partial Translation by Bunsou Sour, OCP 14 March 2008,”
archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
51. Document No. E1/34.1 (00342829), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 17 June 2009, Trial Day 30.”
52. Document No. E3/1533 (00242035), “Biography of Prisoner in
Detention,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
53. Document No. E3/171 (00226076), “Prisoner’s Biography,” archived by
the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en. According to the official ECCC
list of S-21 prisoners, Lim Kimary was arrested in Battambang
Province and entered S-21 on February 13, 1976; he was reported
executed on May 27, 1976.
54. Document No. E3/1672 (00233690), “Names of Prisoners Interrogated
on 27.4.78,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en. See also
Document No. D57 (00767728), “List of Prisoners Interrogated on
7–5-1978,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
55. Document No. E3/1666 (00224659), “Name List of Enemies to be
Interrogated,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
56. Document No. E3/1674 (00802404), “Names of Prisoners Interrogated
on 11 April 1978,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
57. “Daily Report on Prisoners, April 25, 1977,” compiled in Hawk, Khmer
Rouge Prison Documents from the S-21.
58. Document No. E3/1541 (00233891), “Name List of Prisoners Put on
Hold in January 1977,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/
59. Document No. E3/2231 (00785257), “Name List of Prisoners ‘Kept,’”
archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
60. Caswell, Archiving the Unspeakable, 55.
61. Document No. E1/33.1 (00341955), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 16 June 2009, Trial Day 29.”
62. Document No. E3/13 (00940336), “Minutes of the Meeting of
Secretaries and Deputy Secretaries of Divisions and Independent
63. Hinton, Man or Monster, 148.
65. Ibid., 80.
66. Ibid., 145.
Notes to Pages 139–144
67. Document No. E1/33.1 (00341955), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 16 June 2009, Trial Day 29.” Cadres were obliged to take notes
during these sessions; examples of notebooks compiled by S-21 staff
are archived at the Documentation Center of Cambodia.
68. Document No. E1/33.1 (00341955), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 16 June 2009, Trial Day 29.”
70. Document No. E1/34.1 (00342829), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 17 June 2009, Trial Day 30.”
71. Document No. E1/33.1 (00341955), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 16 June 2009, Trial Day 29.”
72. Document No. D390 (00744663), “Co-Prosecutors’ Rule 66 Final
Submission (Public Redacted Version).”
73. Document No. E1/33.1 (00341955), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 16 June 2009, Trial Day 29.”
74. Chandler, Voices from S-21, 89. Examples of various documents are
reproduced in Chy, When the Criminal Laughs.
75. Document No. E3/1706 (00224632), “Color Copy Excerpt of Confession
of Khek Bin alias Sou, Translation of Annotations Only,” archived by
the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
76. Robertson, “‘You Lie!’” 71.
77. The Documentation Center of Cambodia has identified 179 people who
possibly were released from S-21. If this finding is correct, however,
these individuals were most likely released in the early months of S-21’s
existence, probably under the supervision of Nat. Apart from these
survivors, there is no evidence—certainly during the command of
Duch—that any prisoner was released. Dacil Q. Keo and Nean Yin, Fact
Sheet: Pol Pot and His Prisoners at Secret Prison S-21 (Phnom Penh:
Documentation Center of Cambodia, 2011); Document No. E1/21.1
(00328887), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’
Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/TC, 19 May 2009, Trial
Day 17,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
78. Chum Mey, Survivor: The Triumph of an Ordinary Man in the Khmer
Rouge Genocide (Phnom Penh: Documentation Center of Cambodia,
79. Ibid., 35.
Notes to Pages 145–148
81. Document No. E1/33.1 (00341955), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 16 June 2009, Trial Day 29.”
82. Document No. E1/34.1 (00342829), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 17 June 2009, Trial Day 30.”
85. “Execution Schedule for July 1, 1977,” compiled in Hawk, Khmer Rouge
Prison Documents from the S-21.
86. Execution Schedule for July 2, 1977, “compiled in ibid.
87. Document No. E3/2131 (00182876), “List of Prisoners from Military
Division, Smashed on 10–6-1977 Division 310,” archived by the ECCC,
88. E3/3861 (00657714), “List of Prisoners ‘Smashed’ on 8–7-77, North
Zone,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
89. Document No. E3/3861 (00657725), “List of Prisoners ‘Smashed’ in the
Section of Brother Huy Sre,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.
90. Document No. E3/2133 (00242285), “Prisoners’ Names Smashed by
Brother Huy Sre,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
91. Document No. E3/1540 (00182892), “Names of Prisoners Who Died at
Office S-21 C,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en.
92. Document No. E1/34.1 (00342829), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 17 June 2009, Trial Day 30.”
99. Heder, Seven Candidates, 27–45.
100. One cannot discount the salience of networked logics underpinning
the purges. In this case, it was not necessarily the group that was
targeted, but rather the networks resultant from shared identities. By
way of illustration, I am presently a faculty member in the Department
of Geography and, as such, most of my closest associates are in the
department. Beyond these proximate connections, my contacts with
other departments across the university is uneven, a consequence of
personal interests, past committee involvement, and so on. If I were to
be arrested and forced to confess, a predominance of geographers
would be listed. When subsequent scholars evaluate those groups
Notes to Pages 149–151
targeted, they may find an inordinate number of geographers. Can we
say that geographers were targeted because they were geographers? Or is
it because I, and not, say, a historian, was initially suspected?
101. Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime; Ysa Osman, Oukoubah: Justice for the
Cham Muslims under the Democratic Kampuchea Regime (Phnom
Penh: Documentation Center of Cambodia, 2002); Ysa Osman, “The
Cham Prisoners in the Khmer Rouge’s Secret Prison,” Jebat: Malaysian
Journal of History, Politics and Strategic Studies 32 (2005): 100–133; Ysa
Osman, The Cham Rebellion: Survivors’ Stories from the Villages
(Phnom Penh: Documentation Center of Cambodia, 2006); Farina So,
The Hijab of Cambodia: Memories of Cham Muslim Women after the
Khmer Rouge (Phnom Penh: Documentation Center of Cambodia,
2011); Philipp Bruckmayr, “Cambodian Muslims, Transnational NGOs,
and International Justice,” Peace Review 27, no. 3 (2015): 337–45.
102. Heder, Seven Candidates, 35.
103. Ryan Park, “Proving Genocidal Intent: International Precedent and
ECCC Case 002,” Rutgers Law Review 63, no. 1 (2011): 129–91; Andrew
T. Cayley, “Prosecuting Mass Atrocities at the Extraordinary Chambers
in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC),” Washington University Global
Studies Law Review 11, no. 2 (2012): 445–58; Mélanie Vianney-Liaud,
“Legal Constraints in the Interpretation of Genocide,” in The
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, ed. Simon
Meisenberg and Ignaz Stegmiller (The Hague: TMC Asser, 2016).
104. Heder, Seven Candidates, 37. At the time of writing, Case 002/02 was
still underway at the ECCC. This case was to establish, in part, whether
the Cham population was specifically targeted by the CPK. If proven,
this would classify Khmer Rouge atrocities—as applied to this group—
105. See James A. Tyner, Xinyue Ye, Sokvisal Kimsroy, Zheye Wang, and
Chenjian Fu, “Emerging Data Sources and the Study of Genocide: A
Preliminary Analysis of Prison Data from S-21 Security-Center,
Cambodia,” GeoJournal 81, no. 6 (2016): 907–18; James A. Tyner,
Sokvisal Kimsroy, Chenjian Fu, Zheye Wang, and Xinyue Ye, “An
Empirical Analysis of Arrests and Executions at S-21 Security-Center
during the Cambodian Genocide,” Genocide Studies International 10,
no. 2 (2016): 268–86.
106. Hawk, “Tuol Sleng Extermination Centre,” 26.
107. The official figure of 12,273 is a revised figure, down from an earlier
number of 12,380 forwarded by the ECCC. Throughout the tribunal, it
became clear that approximately one hundred individuals had been
double-counted, hence the downward revision. However, given that
many detainees, especially women and children, went unrecorded, the
figure of 12,273 must remain an approximation. Indeed, as this
Notes to Pages 152–166
manuscript was being prepared, the Office of the Co-Investigating
Judges twice revised the prisoner list. The most recent accounting
places the total number of prisoners detained at S-21 at 15,101.
108. I am especially grateful for the collaborative work I conducted with
Sokvisal Kimsroy, Chenjian Fu, Zheye Wang, and Xinyue Ye.
Considerable insight was also provided through a series of email
exchanges with Craig Etcheson.
109. Another possible but unlikely scenario is that Say Kim-Kheat was ini
tially detained at M-13 and subsequently transferred to S-21.
1 10. D
ocument No. E1/59.1 (00361336), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 6 August 2009, Trial Day 55,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.
111. For Chandler’s testimony, see ibid., 78–80.
112. Indeed, it is currently not possible to disaggregate patterns simultane
ously by space and over time.
1 13. D
ocument No. E1/33.1 (00341955), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 16 June 2009, Trial Day 29.”
114. Chandler, Voices from S-21, 43–45.
115. Heder, Seven Candidates, 32–45.
116. Document No. E1/21.1 (00328887), “Transcript of Trial Proceedings—
Kaing Guek Eav ‘Duch’ Public, Case File No. 001/18–07–2007-ECCC/
TC, 19 May 2009, Trial Day 17,” archived by the ECCC, http://www.
117. Ben Kiernan, “Conflict in Cambodia, 1945–2002,” Critical Asian Studies
34, no. 4 (2002): 483–96; at 487.
118. Craig Etcheson, personal communication.
119. Of these two exceptions, one woman was listed as “woman combatant”
while another was described as “ordinary people.”
120. Dominique Moran, Judith Pallot, and Laure Piacentini, “Lipstick, Lace
& Longing: Constructions of Femininity inside a Russian Prison,”
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 27, no. 4 (2009):
700–720; at 701.
121. Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life
(Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998), 16.
122. Walter Benjamin, “Critique of Violence,” in Reflections: Essays,
Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, ed. P. Demetz (New York:
Schocken Books, 1978), 277–300. See also Mathew Abbott, “The
Creature Before the Law: Notes on Walter Benjamin’s Critique of
Violence,” Colloqui: Text, Theory, Critique 16 (2008): 80–96; at 82.
123. Abbott, “The Creature Before,” 83.
Notes to Pages 167–169
CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSIONS
1. Document No. E3/1047 (00548892), “To Beloved Comrade Duch,”
archived by the ECCC, http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en. As discussed in
Chapter 4, this letter continues that interrogators must exercise caution
when dealing with “less important” prisoners, in that they would impli -
cate anything or anyone. It is noteworthy that Son Sen was concerned
b oth w
ith the conservation of paper and of senior leaders of the CPK
being implicated unjustly.
2. Robert N. Proctor, Racial Hygiene: Medicine under the Nazis (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 184.
3. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 27.
4. Foucault, “Two Lectures,” 98.
5. Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric
Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); Kurtz,
“Situating Practices,” 26–37; Carolyn Steedman, Dust: The Archive and
Cultural History (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002);
Ben Kafka, “The Demon of Writing: Paperwork, Public Safety, and the
Reign of Terror,” Representations 98, no. 1 (2007): 1–24; Vismann, Files:
Law and Media Technology; Kafka, “Paperwork,” 340–53; Gupta, Red
Ta p e ; Hull, Government of Paper; Meehan, Shaw, and Marston,
“Political Geographies of the Object”; Robertson, “‘You Lie!’”; Dittmer,
“Theorizing a More-Than-Human Diplomacy”; Dittmer, Diplomatic
6. Meehan et al., “Political Geographies,” 2.
7. Ibid., 8.
8. Irving Louis Horowitz, Taking Lives: Genocide and State Power (New
Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1980), 2; see also Zygmunt Bauman,
Modernity and the Holocaust (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press,
9. Clegg, e Cunha, Rego, and Dias, “Mundane Objects and the Banality of
10. James A. Tyner, Genocide and the Geographical Imagination: Life and
Death in Germany, China, and Cambodia (Lanham, MD: Rowman &
Littlefield, 2012), 15.
11. Joe Painter, “Prosaic Geographies of Stateness,” Political Geography 25,
no. 7 (2006): 752–74; at 753.
12. Meehan et al., “Political Geographies,” 2.
13. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 190.
14. Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust, 106; emphasis in original.
15. Merje Kuus, “Bureaucracy and Place: Expertise in the European
Quarter,” Global Networks 11, no. 4 (2011): 421–39; at 422.
16. Robertson, “‘You Lie!’” 86.
Notes to Pages 170–174
17. Jonathan Darling, “Another Letter from the Home Office: Reading the
Material Politics of Asylum,” Environment and Planning D: Society and
Space 32, no. 3 (2014): 484–500; at 485.
18. Dittmer, “Theorizing a More-Than-Human Diplomacy,” 83.
19. Ibid., 103.
20. Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust, 105.
21. See, for example, Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An
Introduction (New York: Vintage Books, 1990); Agamben, Homo Sacer;
Foucault, Society Must Be Defended; Mbembe, “Necropolitics,” 11–40;
Rabinow and Rose, “Biopower Today”; Stephen Legg, “Foucault’s
Population Geographies: Classifications, Biopolitics, and Governmental
Spaces,” Population, Space and Place 11, no. 3 (2005): 137–56; Roberto
Esposito, Bíos: Biopolitics and Philosophy (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 2008); Matthew Coleman and K. Grove, “Biopolitics,
Biopower, and the Return of Sovereignty,” Environment and Planning
D: Society and Space 27, no. 3 (2009): 489–507; Thomas Lemke,
Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction (New York: New York University
Press, 2011); Elke Schwarz, “Prescription Drones: On the Techno-
Biopolitical Regimes of Contemporary ‘Ethical Killing,” Security
Dialogue 47, no. 1 (2016): 59–75.
22. Lemke, Biopolitics, 5.
24. Jeremy W. Crampton and Stuart Elden, “Space, Politics, Calculation: An
Introduction,” 7, no. 5 (2006): 681–85; at 682.
25. Holger Pötzsch, “The Emergence of iBorder: Bordering Bodies,
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38. Ibid., 474.
39. Stephen Graham and David Wood, “Digitizing Surveillance:
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47. Shaw, “Predator Empire,” 540; Weber, “Keep Adding.”
48. Weber, “Keep Adding,” 110. Also included are lists managed by the CIA,
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49. Gregory S. McNeal, “Targeted Killing and Accountability,” Georgetown
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50. Shaw and Akhter, “The Dronification of State Violence,” 226.
52. Cf. McNeal, “Targeted Killing,” 702–12.
53. The definition of “organized armed group” is itself a contested exercise.
54. Weber, “Keep Adding,” 110.
55. Shaw and Akhter, “Dronification of State Violence,” 226; Weber, “Keep
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56. McNeal, “Targeted Killing,” 707.
57. Weber, “Keep Adding,” 108.
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60. Bach, “Power, Secrecy, Paranoia.”
61. Holm, “Conspiracy Theorizing Surveillance,” 39.
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69. Shaw, Predator Empire.
70. McNeal, “Targeted Killing,” 684.
71. Pötzsch, “The Emergence of iBorder,” 109.
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Amoore, Louise, 111, 175
Andrejevic, Mark, 92, 175
Angkar, 2, 28–29, 31, 33, 62–63, 68, 72, 85, 88, 91–93, 139,
archives, vii, x–xi, 37, 173
Arendt, Hannah, xiv, 92
assassination, 22, 24, 26, 177, 179–80
Bach, Jonathan, 18, 87, 91
Bauman, Zygmunt, 168–69, 171
base people, 1, 45, 61–62, 71, 80, 102, 104, 115, 152, 180
Benjamin, Walter, 165–66
Bernstein, Anya, 174
Bombing of Cambodia, 11–15, 48, 67, 187n29
building socialism, 37, 47, 66, 80–81
biographies: information source, 20, 46, 81–82, 88, 164, 172;
personal, 25, 78, 81, 91, 93, 95,
99, 107; prisoner, x, 5, 110; at
S-21, 120, 122, 126–38 biopolitics, xv, 23, 25–27, 69, 78,
91, 98, 110, 124, 135, 138, 164,
171–73, 174 , 178
bureaucracies: in Democratic Kampuchea, 17, 25, 30, 36–38,
95–96, 110; and power, xii,
xiv–xvi, 25–27, 30
Cambodian Civil War, 41, 45, 141, 165, 195n88
carceral geographies, 96–97, 113
Caswell, Michelle, viii, 123–24, 135, 137
Center 15 security center, 107–9
center of calculation, xvi, 5, 114
Cham, 102, 148
Chandler, David, 7, 9, 95, 114, 141–42, 151–53, 157–58
Chhim Sak, vii–viii, 111
chhlop , 86, 100, 149
Chinese advisors, 59, 64–66, 115
Choeung Ek, vii, 121, 146–48, 164
Chum Mey, 143–44
Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK): as
Central Committee, 40, 64,
84, 108, 131, 193n41; origins
of, 1–5; as political party,
31–36; Standing Committee,
39–41, 48, 55, 60–68, 82, 89,
106–8, 118–19, 120, 122–24,
133, 135–37, 139, 146 –48, 166,
170, 177, 193n41, 196n90,
consciousness, 61, 72, 83–84
conspiracy: in Democratic Kampuchea, 5, 16–19, 27, 87,
94–95, 98, 102, 108–9; and
power, xv, 16–17, 22
de Goede, Marieke, 20, 22, 111, 175
democratic centralism, 38–39, 41, 78–83
Democratic Kampuchea: admin -
istrative organization, 38–45;
nsensus apparatus, 45–58;
Constitution, 39, 45, 48, 50,
74–79, 84, 193n40; executive
apparatus, 38–45; health care,
59–66; integrative apparatus,
59–68; ministries, 38, 55–56,
70, 82, 85, 122, 128, 170; pro -
duction apparatus, 35, 48–59;
curity apparatus, vii–viii, xvi,
1, 5, 18, 24–25, 27, 74–86,
95 –10 9
discipline, xiii, 93, 97
Dittmer, Jason, 37, 170 Documentation Center of
Ca mbod ia (DC- CA M), x–x i,
38, 69, 112
documents: of the Documentation Center of
Cambodia, 112; of the
Extraordinary Chambers in the
Courts of Cambodia, 151–53
Duch: confessions, 135; deci -
sion-making, 89, 124, 127–28,
4, 175; executions, 150–51,
153, 157, 160–61; interrogation,
137–48; leadership, 114–16;
registration of prisoners,
132–33; secrecy, 130; torture,
142–44; training, 138–39; on
Ea, Meng-Try, 108
Etcheson, Craig, 57, 82, 85, 101, 16 0, 2 07n10
experts, xv–xvi, 19
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC),
v iii–xi, 151–153
Foucault, Michel, xiii–xiv, xvi, 26–27, 69, 92–94, 168
Four-Year Plan, 34, 49, 53–55, 60, 66–67
genocide, ix–xi, 31, 168–69
Goffman, Erving, 95–98
CPK ( continued )
Heder, Steve, 2, 98, 148–49, 157–58 , 192n 2 0
Him Huy, 121
Hinton, Alexander, 138, 192n20
historical materialism, 34, 75
Hor, 120–21, 128, 132–35, 140, 14 2 , 14 5 – 4 6 , 15 0
Horowitz, Irving, 168, 176
Hou Yuon, 13
Hu Nim, 13, 68, 147, 196n90, 199n127
Ieng Sary, ix, 2, 37, 40, 50–51, 66, 85, 89, 106, 109, 137, 188n33,
Ieng Thirith, ix, 64, 66, 183n6, 196n90, 196n92
import-substitution industrial -
ization, 53, 57, 95
interrogation: contemporary, xvii; information, 98, 103; lists,
vii, x, 27, 134; at M-13, 114–15;
procedures, 107–8, 122, 134; at
S-21, 115–18, 120–27, 132–45;
training, 121, 138–39
legal order: in Democratic Kampuchea, viii, 20, 24, 73,
74–86, 93, 129, 165–66, 173;
and law, 75, 173; Marxist,
75 –76 , 2 0 0 n16
lists: arrest schedules, 120; exe -
cution lists, x, 120, 145–146,
147, 151; interrogation schedules, 120, 134; kill lists,
21–22 , 174 , 176 –78
Lon Nol, 10–13, 15, 73, 86, 91, 100, 158, 188n31
Kaing Guek Eav. See Duch
Khieu Samphan, ix–x, 2, 13, 40, 48, 50, 107, 188n33, 193n41,
Khim Met, 126
Khim Vat. See Hor
Kiernan, Ben, 160
Kiet Sophal, 112–13
Kim Ham Bin, vii–viii, 111
kill chain, 128, 145
Kim Vun, 90–91, 93, 202n67
Koy Thuon, 55–56, 147, 193n41, 196n90, 196n92
Kraing Ta Chan security center, 101–5
Mam Nai, 121
Marxist-Leninism, 2, 83, 2 0 0 n16
Mbembe, Achille, 27, 94
Mertha, Andrew, 38, 58–59, 66, 84
Ministry of Commerce, 56, 126
Ministry of Education, 90, 199n127
Ministry of Energy, 112
Ministry of Industry, 56, 130
Ministry of Propaganda and Information, 90, 134, 199n127
Ministry of Public Works, 56–57, 112
Ministry of Social Affairs, 66, 128
mode of production, 34–36
Moran, Dominique, 165
neak tos, vii, 149
necrobureaucracy, 27, 176
necropolitics, xvi, 5, 25, 27, 69, 73, 173, 178
networks: in Democratic Kampuchea, viii, 5, 17–18, 27,
38, 85, 88, 91–94, 99, 105,
108–9, 119–20, 126–27, 136–37,
142–44, 172; logics, 18–19,
178–181; metaphors, 21–23. See
also strings of traitors
new people, 1, 45, 61–62, 71–72, 80, 102, 104, 109, 115, 152, 180
Non-Aligned Movement, 49–50, 96
Nuon Chea: politics, 40, 48, 109; at S-21, 118–20, 124, 128, 130,
137, 140–41, 143, 150, 164; on
t r ia l, i x–x
paranoia: in Democratic Kampuchea, 5, 17, 27, 87, 90,
92–93, 95, 137; and power, xv–
xvi, 16, 18–19, 87, 92, 178–79
Phnom Kraol security center, 10 6 –7 photographs, x, 112, 114, 118,
120, 122, 131, 139, 148–50,
165 – 6 6 , 178
Pol Pot: conspiracies, 16–17; decision-making, 106, 108, 137;
politics, 38–40, 193n41; revolu -
t ion, 1–15
wer: bureaucratic, viii, xii,
xiv–xvi, 24, 25–27, 69–70; and
knowledge, xiii, 18, 168–70; and
paranoia, 18–19; state, 32–33;
and violence, xiii, xvi
precrime, 5, 23, 165
preemptive punishment, viii, xv, 5, 23–24, 165, 172–73, 174, 179,
propaganda, 1, 13, 15, 67–68, 77, 90, 134, 196n90, 196n92,
rape, ix, 93, 112, 171
Ren Fung, 56, 65
S-21: arrests, 124–26; as bureau -
cratic apparatus, 112, 115–20;
fessions, 127, 129; establish -
ment, 114–15; evidence
llection, 124–28; executions,
145–48; interrogation, 121,
133–40; procedural operations,
120–48; purges, 148–64;
recording of prisoners, 131–33;
torture, 141–45; transportation,
S-71, 40, 120
Sang security center, 104–5
Santebal, 87, 114
security centers: branch-level, 98–100; in Democratic
Kampuchea, 5, 60, 94–96,
98 –109; d ist r ic t-level, 10 0 –105;
sector-level, 105–7; zone-level,
109. See also S -21
Shaw, Ian, 110, 177
Sihanouk, Norodom, 2, 6–13, 53, 60, 67, 73, 187n21
Slocomb, Margaret, 7
smash, 72, 84–86, 103, 106, 109, 122, 127, 131, 145–48, 164
Son Sen, 40, 85, 87–89, 106, 108–9, 115, 118–19, 123–24,
128, 137–38, 140, 143, 193n41
So Phim, 40, 106, 108, 193n41
sovereignty: in Democratic Kampuchea, 40, 49–51; and
power, 4, 26–27, 110, 143, 165
spies, 73, 141, 149, 152
strings of traitors, viii, xv, 19, 98, 127, 142, 164
Suos Thy, 122
surveillance: auto-surveillance, 95; contemporary, xvii,
175–76, 179, 180–81; in Democratic Kampuchea,
86–95, 98, 110, 172; lateral, 92,
95, 172; lethal, 27, 73, 110, 114,
targeted killings, xvii, 24, 27, 85, 176 – 81
terror: terrorist, 19–24, 174–179, 181; terror society, 93; terror
state, xvi; war on terror, xvii,
19, 24 , 176 , 179 –181
torture, ix, xvi, 24, 73–74, 87, 91–94, 103–10, 120–24, 134,
139, 141–44. See also S -21
vanguard, xv, 16, 33, 109
violence: administrative, xv, 98, 114; bureaucratic, 17–19, 110,
113–14; direct, xiv, xvi, 91, 93;
law-mak ing, 165– 66; law-pre -
serving, 165–66; and power,
ii–xiv; structural, xvi, 94
Vorn Vet, 40, 55–57, 120, 147, 193n111, 196n90, 196n92
Yun Yat, 64, 76, 90–91, 197n92, 199n127
Zedner, Lucia, 23