They often spend their days just metres from each other, talking visitors through the tragic history of the infamous Tuol Sleng detention center, but survivors Bou Meng and Chum Mey are miles apart in their views on the S-21 denial scandal.
In a statement released yesterday, Bou Meng, deputy president of the Victims Association of Democratic Kampuchea, distanced the organisation from its president.
Meng’s statement said that while Chum Mey was welcome to lead a planned march protesting against opposition leader Kem Sokha’s alleged assertion that S-21 was a Vietnamese fabrication, he won’t be taking part.
“If Mr Chum Mey wants to announce a demonstration against Mr Kem Sokha, he does it as an individual, not on behalf of the Victims Association [Ksaem Ksan],” Meng’s statement said. “I have said again and again that I will remain neutral and not take part in this demonstration.”
Sokha, deputy president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, has been under fire since the government’s May 20 release of an audio clip in which he is heard telling an audience that Tuol Sleng had been “staged” by the Vietnamese.
Mey then pledged to lead a 20,000 strong protest if Sokha failed to apologise within 10 days, a threat bolstered when Prime Minister Hun Sen predicted a “mass demonstration”.
The deadline came and went yesterday, and Mey, who agreed that the protest was his initiative alone, remained adamant it will take place.
“Every day, [people] have called me continuously saying they want to participate in this mass demonstration,” he said. “I want [Sokha] to come and apologise directly in front of me and in Tuol Sleng.”
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann, who has previously said Sokha will not apologise for a “CPP fabrication”, yesterday warned that any protests came at the behest of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
“The provoker is the ruling party. The [CPP] has never announced support for a demonstration when the election is near like this,” Sovann said.
A law proposed by Hun Sen last week outlawing genocide denial is hurtling through the National Assembly.