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Tuol Sleng photographer begins building Khmer Rouge museum

A FORMER photographer at the notorious Khmer Rouge prison Tuol Sleng said Thursday that he had begun construction on a museum to house his collection of regime memorabilia, including what he says are Pol Pot’s shoes and toilet.

Nhem En said Thursday that the 7-by-25-metre structure – located in Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district, of which he is deputy governor – will be completed in “two or two and a half months”, and will cost about US$15,000. Construction began last Friday, he said.

He added, though, that the museum will be “temporary”, and that he has plans for a grander facility to be located on 50 hectares of land he has bought and cleared in the district.

“For the first step, we are just building the temporary museum to exhibit photos of Khmer Rouge activities’ leaders, Pol Pot’s shoes and cameras that I used in the regime,” he said. “So far I have no sponsors. All the money I am spending is my own pocket money that I have earned from selling rice crops.”

Last July, Nhem En sought financial backing from the World Monuments Fund, a US-based organisation that supports the preservation of historic sites. He said Thursday that he never received a response.

Prior to submitting that request, Nhem En made a splash in April 2009 when he announced plans to sell Pol Pot’s shoes and some of the cameras he used at Tuol Sleng for $500,000. After no buyers emerged, he said in May that he would sell all of his Khmer Rouge memorabilia for $1 million. That, too, was unsuccessful.

Even though the museum is now being built, he said Thursday that he would still be willing to sell the items for $1 million.

The Council of Ministers in March approved a draft of a sub-decree allowing for tourism development in Anlong Veng, a former regime stronghold that fell to government forces in 1998. Oddar Meanchey governor Pich Sokhin said Thursday that the development work would include renovated roads, “standardised” guesthouses and more restaurants.

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