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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Shocking development

Shocking development

It is hard to believe that it is possible that a government in which so many

suffered as victims of the Pol Pot regime could possibly tolerate the Killing

Fields memorial being turned over to a commercial Japanese company.

Like

many Khmer and foreign friends of Cambodia, I am shocked that a key figure in

the Council of Ministers has admitted to trading in one of the nation's most

important and sacred sites - the Killing Fields memorial site of Choueng

Ek.

Once the Khmer Rouge Tribunal kicks off, all the international judges

and lawyers will naturally visit Choueng Ek in the course of their duties. But

will they now be greeted by a sign such as "Welcome to Killing Fields Glorious

Tourism Development Site - Now under Japanese Management"!

If you can do

this to Choueng Ek, where next for privatization and foreign investment in the

national patrimony? Tuol Sleng, the National Museum or even the Royal Palace?

If this squalid deal goes through, future historians will not look

kindly on those who licensed Cambodian heritage to an obscure Japanese company

for the sake of a few dollars. Other countries would not even dream about

abdicating their responsibility to the public to look after war memorials, grave

sites, and museums. The protection and conservation of historic sites are among

the prime responsibilities of a responsible government.

Prime Minister

Hun Sen in Paris Peace negotiations in 1989, referring to a proposal backed by

many countries that the Cambodian government should accept the Khmer Rouge

inside a four-party coalition, called the idea an "insult to the memory of those

who died in the Killing Fields."

He firmly rejected that "insult" and

successively kept the Khmer Rouge out of government. We hope that he will also

reject this newest insult to the souls of those who were brutally dispatched at

Choueng Ek.

As the prime minister must surely know, any additional funds

needed for the upkeep of the Killing Fields can be found from many sources,

without sacrificing Cambodian national pride and sovereignty.

Tom

Fawthrop

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