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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Former S-21 photographer revisits old plan to build a Khmer Rouge heritage museum

Former S-21 photographer revisits old plan to build a Khmer Rouge heritage museum

Former S-21 photographer revisits old plan to build a Khmer Rouge heritage museum

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Nhem En holds up plans for his proposed Khmer Rouge museum Monday.

Having failed to sell what he insists are Pol Pot's sandals and other items, Nhem En says he is seeking funding for a museum to be built in Anlong Veng, already the site of Pol Pot's grave.

AFTER failing to sell them, former Tuol Sleng photographer Nhem En has returned to his original plan to exhibit his many Khmer Rouge-era possessions - including what he says are Pol Pot's sandals and toilet - in a new museum he hopes to construct in Oddar Meanchey's Anlong Veng district.

The 50-year-old said in an interview Monday that he would request financial support for the museum from the World Monuments Fund, a US-based organisation involved in the preservation of architectural and cultural heritage sites.

In a letter he said he would send to the organisation "soon", he wrote, "It was recently heard that your organisation has a policy to help bring about regional development in any areas affected by a war crime and anti-humanity.... I am thankfully requesting for your kind consideration of providing charitable funding to support our construction project of the Khmer Rouge historic museum."

Nhem En has been publicly discussing plans for a Khmer Rouge museum for years, and in January he told the Post that he had invested US$110,000 of his own money buying and clearing land for the project. He said then that it would cost $320,000, and that he would be willing to fund it piecemeal if outside funding could not be secured.

Less than four months later, having failed to line up any financial support, he offered to sell the sandals as well as cameras he used to photograph Tuol Sleng prisoners for $500,000.

When that went nowhere, he said in May that he had decided to sell all of his Khmer Rouge memorabilia for $1 million. The additional items included 2,000 photographs of Khmer Rouge leaders; what he claimed were Pol Pot's clothes and hat; videos of military commander Ta Mok and other top regime cadre; and 1,000 Khmer Rouge songs on original tapes and pirated CDs.

Nhem En, who is also deputy governor of Anlong Veng district, said Monday that the total cost of the museum would be $500,000. The letter addressed to the World Monuments Fund notes that he has still been unable to secure outside funding.

"Now I've run out of money," he said in an interview, adding that he also planned to call on the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to provide funding for the project.

Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Him Chhem said Monday that he would need to meet with Nhem En before he agreed to support the project, adding that he would want to see detailed construction plans.

Kong Sophearak, director of the statistics department at the Ministry of Tourism, said there had been no discussions within the ministry about whether to approve a new museum in Anlong Veng, which he noted already has two tourist attractions: Ta Mok's house and Pol Pot's grave.

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