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S-21 photographer’s NGO gains approval

NHEM En, who photo-graphed prisoners at Tuol Sleng for the Khmer Rouge said yesterday that the Ministry of Interior had approved his plan to establish an NGO aimed at attracting visitors to a former regime stronghold in Oddar Meanchey province.

“I will develop Anlong Veng, best known as the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge between 1993 and 1997, as a memorial and tourism site for attracting local and international tourists to visit Cambodia,” Nhem En said in Phnom Penh yesterday. He said the name of the NGO is Anlong Veng Historical Tourism Development Organisation.

The Council of Ministers in March approved a draft of a sub-decree allowing tourism development in Anlong Veng.

Nhem En, a deputy Anlong Veng district governor, said he hoped the district would become a centre for tourism, and that his organisation would provide jobs for locals.

“Our organisation will be created in order to preserve the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge in Anlong Veng, for [future] generations to research and understand about the Khmer Rouge regime, and to promote the livelihood of the people in this area as well,” he said.

During the Khmer Rouge regime, Nhem En, 50, worked at Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh, where he took many of the black-and-white portraits now on display at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The prison, which was under the command of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, claimed the lives of as many as 16,000 “enemies” of the regime.

Nhem En said his current project – a museum in Anlong Veng that will house photos and other relics belonging to Khmer Rouge leaders including Pol Pot – was around halfway to completion.

He said he expects the museum, situated on 50 hectares of his own land in Anlong Veng, to be completed by the end of the year.

Nhem En made a splash in April 2009 when he announced plans to sell what he claimed were Pol Pot’s shoes and some of the cameras he used at Tuol Sleng for US$500,000. No buyers emerged.

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