FORMER Tuol Sleng prison photographer Nhem En has made an open call for offers on two of his cameras and a pair of Pol Pot's shoes to fund a museum in his hometown, the former communist stronghold Anlong Veng.
"I would like to call on both national and international, private and state companies to start bidding on a pair of Pol Pot's shoes and two cameras for the [starting] price of US$500,000," Nhem En, now deputy governor of Anlong Veng district, Oddar Meanchey province, said Sunday.
He said he used the cameras, one German and one Chinese, to photograph prisoners at Tuol Sleng before their death, which are now viewed by tourists visiting the genocide museum. He added that the cameras shot about 80 percent of S-21's pictures, which is why he set the starting price so high.
"Right now, I do not have enough money to continue setting up my museum. That's why I decided to offer a pair of Pol Pot's shoes and two cameras for auction," he said.
Nhem En said he will hold a news conference soon to announce details of the sale.
The ex-cadre has struggled to finance his museum despite numerous calls for donations. So far, he says, he has spent about $200,000 on buying and clearing some 50 hectares of land.
Nhem En says the museum, if it's built, will showcase items and photos from the Khmer Rouge era, including a walking stick owned by deceased former leader Ta Mok.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said it was Nhem En's individual right to sell the items, as they were his own private property. However, he questioned the merit of having the items in the private sphere, as opposed to in a museum.
"It does not matter [if Nhem En sells the items], but I think it would be better to keep the cameras and the shoes in a museum to show the younger generation," he said. "If Tuol Sleng museum is able, it should request to keep the items there. Once things are put on auction, you do not know where they will end up."
Him Chhem, minister of culture and fine arts, said he had not yet been informed about the sale but said he would find out whether the items were the rightful property of Nhem En.