Less than ten months after his death in a Phnom Penh military hospital, the
homes and gravesite of Ek Choeun, the former Khmer Rouge military chief known as
Ta Mok, still draw an ever-growing number of visitors.
Tourists visit the late Ta Mok's properties, such as this second home the one-legged leader used for meetings. Nhem En, deputy district chief of Anlong Veng, said many of the tourists come to learn the old military leader's battlefield secrets.
On many days,
more than one hundred tourist vehicles arrive at Ta Mok's former home in Anlong
Veng town, said Ouch Sarith, 44, a vendor positioned at the entrance to the site
in remote Anlong Veng district, Oddar Meanchey province. Many have come to pay
respect and "worship," he added.
Sarith said the influx started shortly
after Ta Mok died on July 12, 2006, in Preah Ketokmealea Hospital from a range
of ailments, including high blood pressure, tuberculosis and respiratory
His body was transported from Phnom Penh to Anlong Veng
district for a well-attended funeral ceremony before he was cremated according
to tradition at Wat Srash Chhouk, about 10 km from his main house in Anlong
His death has been lamented as a huge loss for the Khmer Rouge
Now, on a busy day Sarith earns more than $25 selling cold
drinks and snacks to Asian and Western tourists eager to glimpse the one-time
stomping grounds of the one-legged leader, made infamous by the Western press as
"The tourists come here to visit and take pictures of the
Ta Mok's house to show to their relatives at home," said Sarith. "During their
visits to Ta Mok's houses, most tourists always light incense sticks for
After nearly five decades of guerrilla warfare, Ta Mok was
captured in 1999 by government forces. A native of Takeo province and a former
monk, Ta Mok is said to have ordered large-scale massacres in Khmer Rouge zones
under his jurisdiction from 1973. In March 1974, his troops sacked the ancient
capital of Oudong and slaughtered the local population.
Nhem En, deputy
district chief of Anlong Veng, said tourists go to visit Ta Mok's home to study
how the Khmer Rouge leader lived. Many come to learn how he was able to fight
off armed incursions into his territory from 1979 to 1995, En said.
After visiting Ta Mok's main house in Anlong Veng village, many tourists
trek to his grave at Wat Srash Chhouk, and to another of his homes - a second
residence used for meetings - on the top of nearby Phnom Dangrek, said Sarith.
Rong Saroun, 58, owner of Khnang Phnom Dangrek Restaurant near Ta Mok's
visiting-house, said about 50-60 tourists per day go to visit the site and
inspect the "high ground" from which Ta Mok could command his troop fighting
Saroun estimates he earns from $75 to $250 per day from his
café and guesthouse located on the top of the famous ridge separating Thailand
and Cambodia, Saroun said.
But En said the present tourist numbers could
be increased if there were more points of interest for tourists. En, also known
for his methodical photography of the doomed and dying inmates of Khmer Rouge
torture prison S-21 at Toul Sleng, has long been a proponent of a museum in the
"Hundreds of thousands of tourists would come to visit Anlong Veng,
if my proposed museum becomes established because Anlong Veng is the historic
zone of the Khmer Rouge," said En.
He said he needs about $50,000 to
launch a museum in Anlong Veng, but the government has "ignored" his idea.