FORMER inmates of Tuol Sleng prison joined more than 100 government officials and diplomats yesterday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the listing of the facility, now a museum, in the Memory of the World register of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
Teruo Jinnai, UNESCO’s representative in Phnom Penh, said in a speech at the gathering that his organisation hoped to continue its partnership with the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to preserve Tuol Sleng and its voluminous archives.
“The place where we are all standing today deserves the understanding and appreciation of its meaning as a memorial, and a deep respect from us all,” Jinnai said.
Officials at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts announced earlier this year that they were working with UNESCO to digitise the complete archives of Tuol Sleng, building on the work of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia and other organisations. UNESCO has provided computers, scanners and technology training to museum workers, and plans are in the works to add on-site parking, a garden and other renovations at the site.
Under the Khmer Rouge regime, Tuol Sleng was run by the infamous Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch. Last month, Duch became the first person to be sentenced at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, receiving a 30-year jail term for crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
Nearly all of the roughly 16,000 prisoners who came through Tuol Sleng were executed. One of the few to survive, 67-year-old Vann Nath, said he was heartened by the preservation efforts going on at the site.
“I no longer have to worry that the genocide museum will be lost and forgotten by history,” Vann Nath said.