Owner of new Khmer Rouge museum in former communist stronghold Anlong
Veng says he expects site to drastically increase tourist numbers once
project is completed.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DC-CAM
Photographer Nhem En in a picture taken during the Democratic Kampuchea era.
Who is Nhem En?
- Original name: Nhem En
- Revolutionary name: none
- Joined KR: October 3, 1973
- Introducer: Morn
- Village: Trapeang Meas
- Commune: Tra-ngil
- Family involvement: None
- Base opinions: No connection with the enemies
SOURCE: KHMER ROUGE BIOGRAPNY SUPPLIED BY DC-CAM
THE founder of a new museum for displaying Khmer Rouge memorabilia said he expects the attraction to draw more tourists to the remote Anlong Veng district in Oddar Meanchey province, which has already experienced a recent spike in both Cambodian and foreign visitors.
Nhem En, Anlong Veng district deputy governor and the founder of the museum, said he expects the museum - which will feature 2,000 photos of Khmer Rouge leaders, audio recordings of Khmer Rouge songs and related documents - to trigger a tenfold increase in tourism to the district.
The number of tourists to Oddar Meanchey province is already on the rise. More than double the number of tourists visited the district in 2008 compared with 2007: 97,566 Cambodian and 15,027 foreign tourists visited in 2008, compared with 40,458 Cambodian and 13,063 foreign tourists in 2007, said Kong Sophearak, director of the Statistics Department at the Ministry of Tourism.
Better known for his meticulous, methodical photography of the doomed and dying inmates at Tuol Sleng torture prison, Nhem En said he has invested US$110,000 of his own money buying and clearing land for the museum. He said he plans to place the museum building on 10 hectares that have already been cleared, and will build an irrigation system modelled after those built by the regime on an adjacent 40 hectares that have yet to be cleared.
In an interview with the Post, Nhem En appealed to business people, NGOs and the government to help finance the rest of the project, which he estimated to total $320,000.
He said he would fund the museum himself and construct it piecemeal if necessary, though he would prefer to receive assistance from outside sources.
"I will make my dream come true," he said. "I will not give up hope, even though so far I have received no funding from other sources."
He said the museum - located near remnants of the Khmer Rouge regime including Ta Mok's house and Pol Pot's grave - would be of particular interest to foreigners.
Hopes to boost tourism
Presently, Nhem En estimates that between 20 and 30 foreign students visit Anlong Veng each day.
When the museum is completed, between 300 and 500 foreign tourists will visit the district, he said. Kong Sophearak said the tourism ministry did not have data on the number of foreign tourists the specific district receives.
One road is currently being built to connect Siem Reap to Anlong Veng, though it has yet to be paved. Yim Phanna, Anlong Veng district governor, said the road will be completed in April.
The government is planning to build two more roads - one connecting Anlong Veng to O'Smach commune, Samroang district, Oddar Meanchey province, and one connecting Anlong Veng to Preah Vihear province.
I will not give up hope even though so far I have received no funding...
Still in need of support
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam), expressed his support for the establishment of the museum, saying he had met with Nhem En many times to offer suggestions regarding the museum plans.
DC-Cam has also provided technical support for the project, he said, though it has been unable to provide funding.
Yim Phanna, Anlong Veng district governor, said he hoped the museum would attract more tourists to the district.
"The museum could encourage more tourists who visit Angkor Wat temple to also visit Anlong Veng because the 124-kilometre road from Siem Reap to Anlong Veng is almost finished, Yim Phanna said.
Vann Nath, a survivor of Tuol Sleng, said he did not object to the museum, noting that it would allow Nhem En to demonstrate his skills as a photographer.
"It is up to him," he said.