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Regional confab puts focus on 'sites of conscience'

Regional confab puts focus on 'sites of conscience'

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Organisation dedicated to preserving historical record of human atrocities begins conference with visit to Tuol Sleng

RICK VALENZUELA

Nepali academic Abhi Subedi (left) and S-21 survivor Vann Nath at the Asian Sites of Conscience conference at the Sunway Hotel Monday.

REPRESENTATIVES from "remembrance sites" around Asia gathered in Phnom Penh on Monday for the third annual meeting of the Asian Sites of Conscience, opening the three day conference with a visit to the Tuol Sleng prison.

The conference was organised by the Liberation War Museum in Bangladesh in collaboration with the Cambodian genocide research group, the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-CAM).

The event will bring together Asian members of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC), a New York-based organisation that represents 70 historic sites and hundreds of historic institutions around the world, including the Gulag museum in Russia and holocaust museums throughout Europe. 

Mofidul Hoque, the regional coordinator of ICSC, applauded Cambodia on the achievements of the Tuol Sleng museum and DC-CAM.

"Cambodia has made its mark and is recovering from its past atrocities," Hoque said.

Hoque also commented on the importance of collective memory to national progress in countries with traumatic histories, saying that the organisations "want to look forward to the future".

ICSC representative Bix Gabriel told the Post that she hoped that the meeting would strengthen the collaboration of the member states in their quest to share complex historical issues with younger generations across Asia. 

"We recognise the power museums have to address the solid issues of today and of the past," she said. "We want to help resolve the underlying questions about why these histories have come to exist."

She explained that the sites of conscience are all significant for their use of physical space to make history come alive and to speak to people today.

"[Our] sites are significant because they use the physical space of history to connect to people today," she said.

Akku Chowdhury from the Liberation War Museum in Bangladesh said that it was symbolic for Asia's sites of remembrance to come together.  "Our sites can reflect upon the past and connect to the future, so the same mistakes are not repeated. We are all connected."

Tuol Sleng survivor Vann Nath and ECCC spokeswoman Helen Jarvis, among others, are representing Cambodia at the conference.

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