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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - For Anlong Veng, there's gold in them there atrocities

For Anlong Veng, there's gold in them there atrocities

For Anlong Veng, there's gold in them there atrocities

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Two of the hundreds of photographs of doomed prisoners on the walls of Tuol Sleng, many of them taken by Nhem En.

Nhem En, deputy district chief of Anlong Veng in Odor Meanchey province, says he

can make millions of dollars and create thousands of jobs by highlighting his town's

Khmer Rouge past.

En, infamous for his methodical photography of the doomed and dying inmates of KR

torture prison S-21, says all he needs to seed his enterprise is $50,000 from the

government to build a museum, and the assistance of nongovernmental organizations

and humanitarians. And the government seems right behind him.

En's plans are bold. He said when the museum is set up, it will exhibit hundreds

pictures of all activities of the regime's leaders, CDs of KR songs and other related

documents. All the old singers and workers for KR radio are living in Anlong Veng,

he enthused.

He said he will produce millions of copies of pictures, CDs of songs and documents

to sell to tourists, and he would create jobs for people such as producing archetypal

KR black clothes, sandals, Ta Mok and Pol Pot's walking sticks and other things used

during the Khmer Rouge regime.

So far, he said, he has received 500 KR songs. And the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh

has offered him 100 photos of former KR leaders.

Few people would seem better qualified than Nhem En to organize an exposition of

KR memorabilia. En said he had participated in "the revolution" since 1971

when he was 11 years old.

From 1971 to 1973 he worked for the National United Music and served as a food transporter

to the front lines of the battlefield for the National United Front of Democratic

Kampuchea led by Khieu Samphan, Hu Nim and Hou Youn. From 1973 to 1975 he served

in the KR army to "liberate" military headquarters from Lon Nol's troops.

From 1975 to 1979 En continued to serve with the KR. A highlight of his youthful

career was in 1976, when he and 41 other children were chosen by Angkar as the best

children to study different skills in Shanghai, China. He stayed in Shanghai for

six months, and studied techniques of cinematography, photography, and mapping.

The results can be seen on the walls of the Genocide Museum at Tuol Sleng, the KR

torture prison S-21, where the regime put En to work photographing the thousands

of inmates as they went to their deaths one by one.

"Like Hitler died a hundred years ago, yet there are still a lot of people go

to see the place where he died," En said. "So why not Cambodia? The Khmer

Rouge regime just recently ended."

He says as well as upgrading access roads to Anlong Veng, a town remote from Phnom

Penh but close to the Thai border, an airport is also on the drawing boards. In early

2006, Civil Aviation made a study to establish an airport two kilometers square.

En said tourism would improve the lives of Anlong Veng's 30,000 people - 8,000 families

-85 to 90 percent of whom are farmers.

"I promise I will earn and give back to the government at least a million dollars

a year from tourists," En said. "I will try my best to attract as many

tourists as possible to visit Anlong Veng."

En's plans coincide with the government's. Minister of Tourism Lay Prahas said his

ministry and the government plan to develop Anlong Veng as a tourism zone - and to

establish a history museum.

Anlong Veng is the place where the Khmer Rouge regime ended and is full of evidence

such as Pol Pot's and Ta Mok's graves and houses, Prahas said. And as it is close

to Thailand it will be easy to attract tourists.

"Now we are fencing off those sites, writing the proposal and doing more research

in Anlong Veng," Prahas said. "And when we finish writing the proposal,

we will file it and ask the government for implementation.

"The museum will be like Toul Sleng and Choeung Ek museums - showing pictures

and other KR things," Prahas said. "To do this, we have to work together.

Now we are seeking from help from ADB. And we do not know for sure yet how much it

will cost to establish a museum and upgrade Anlong Veng to be a tourism zone."

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