We HAVE WISHED TO MAKE THIS A TOURIST SITE FOR A LONG TIME NOW.
THE Cabinet of Prime Minister Hun Sen has given approval for officials to develop Anlong Veng, the Oddar Meanchey district that was the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, into a historic tourist site that will allow “national and international guests to visit and understand the last political leadership of the genocidal regime”.
Officials in Anlong Veng said Sunday they were elated that the plan had been approved by the Cabinet, which passed a sub-decree on Friday.
“We have wished to make this a tourist site for a long time now, but we did not get official approval. Now that we have official approval, our dream is coming true,” said Peuy Saroeun, deputy governor of Anlong Veng district.
“It will be useful for the people who live here. They can make a living by selling their goods to tourists in the future,” he added.
Peuy Saroeun said officials in the district planned to hold discussions soon about how to best put their development plans into action.
So Mara, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism, on Sunday noted that the district already attracted both foreign and domestic tourists.
Among the most popular sites, he said, are the grave of regime leader Pol Pot, located near the Chom border crossing with Thailand, and the compound of Khmer Rouge Central Committee member Chhit Choeun, alias Ta Mok.
Pol Pot died in Anlong Veng in 1998, and Ta Mok died eight years later in detention at a military prison in the capital.Other attractions are a munitions warehouse, homes belonging to former Khmer Rouge cadres, and the fenced-off area where Pol Pot spent his last months under house arrest.
Officials have been planning since 2000 to transform Anlong Veng into a showcase of the communist regime’s final days. The Tourism Ministry has picked out some three dozen sites of interest in the isolated area.
Ta Mok’s compound is currently operated by the Ministry of Tourism .
Prime Minister Hun Sen has asked Cabinet officials to compile a guidebook to the area that includes a description of his “win-win policy” to defeat the Khmer Rouge.
So Mara said he could not provide recent tourism figures for Anlong Veng, but Touch Ra, who works at the Chom border crossing, said between 400 and 500 tourists each month visited the district.
“We have 400 to 500 foreign tourists from Thailand visiting Anlong Veng each month,” he said.
Nhem En, who worked as a photographer at Tuol Sleng, the notorious secret detention facility in Phnom Penh, during the Khmer Rouge regime, said he welcomed the government’s decision to approve the development of Anlong Veng as a tourist attraction.
“I am very happy to hear this news. It will help encourage more tourists to visit here and promote people’s living condition,” said Nhem En, who is now deputy governor there.
Nhem En has long had plans to put his Khmer Rouge-era possessions – including what he says are Pol Pot’s shoes, walking stick and toilet – in a museum in Anlong Veng, though last year he decided to offer them up for sale for US$1 million. That attempt was unsuccessful.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP