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Pokemon at S-21 not appropriate, some say

A Phnom Penh Post reporter views a Pokemon using the Pokemon Go app inside Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum yesterday.
A Phnom Penh Post reporter views a Pokemon using the Pokemon Go app inside Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum yesterday. Athena Zelandonii

Pokemon at S-21 not appropriate, some say

As darkness fell last night outside the walls of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former Khmer Rouge torture facility from which an estimated 14,000 Cambodians were sent to their deaths, the Pokemon Go players were still going at it.

US-based software developer Niantic on Saturday launched the augmented reality mobile phone application in the Kingdom, which allows players to visit physical locations in a bid to capture Pokemon characters that are visible on their smartphones.

A screenshot from the Pokemon Go app shows Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum designated as a Pokemon "gym".
A screenshot from the Pokemon Go app shows Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum designated as a Pokemon "gym".

As of yesterday, the former S-21 security centre is one of those locations, playing host to two Pokemon “gyms”, four “Pokestops” – one based squarely at the Tomb of Victims of Torture Memorial – and countless wild Pokemon.

And while the company, amid public outcry, has begun eliminating Pokemon Go features from sensitive locations including the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Memorial in Japan and the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, no such provision has yet been made for the former Khmer Rouge facility.

During a visit to the museum yesterday, which is free to Cambodians, the Post quickly spotted two young Cambodians playing the game within the compound. Rain Kun, 21, said he didn’t see a problem with playing Pokemon on museum grounds.

“I’ve been a big fan of Pokemon since I was a child,” said Kun who was born and raised in Phnom Penh. “For me, it’s an attraction to visit the museum. I never came here until Pokemon Go.”

A French couple visiting the Museum expressed less enthusiasm. Fazia said she was “shocked” and her companion Edouard similarly said he couldn’t understand why people would play Pokemon there.

Youk Chhang, director of Khmer Rouge historical research body DC-CAM, strongly condemned the presence of the game in the museum. “I think it should be deleted immediately,” Chhang said last night. “We must send a clear message to young people that this is not appropriate.”

Chhang added that he didn’t blame the youth for their nonchalance, but rather held the adults of society responsible.

“We failed to educate them”, he said, blaming their actions on ignorance.

Niantic could not be reached for comment last night.

The main photograph's caption has been updated to identify the person using the Pokemon Go app in the photo as a reporter for the Phnom Penh Post.

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