The Khmer Rouge tribunal and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts will officially ink an agreement today to build a memorial at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum to pay tribute to the victims who died at the infamous security centre.
The memorial stupa, which will cost $87,000, will be funded by the German government via the Victims Support Section of the court, known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).
The project will be implemented outside the judicial procedures of the court, meaning it will not be part of official “collective and moral” reparations projects that hinge on a guilty verdict in Case 002/01 next month.
“Non-judicial measures or programs are initiatives identified and implemented for the benefit of general victims of the Khmer Rouge regime,” the ECCC said in a statement on Tuesday.
“They are separate from Civil Party reparation projects, which are decided by the Judges in a case verdict.”
The ECCC and the Ministry of Culture are to sign a memorandum of understanding today at the museum.
The former high school saw the torture and deaths of at least 12,000 people when it functioned as the S-21 prison under the Democratic Kampuchea regime.
The prison’s notorious chief, Kaing Guek Eav, or Duch, was sentenced to life in 2012 by the tribunal.
Court spokesman Neth Pheaktra said that the project was expected to be completed by March 2015, with the construction of the Buddhist stupa itself to take about six months. The Culture Ministry will design the monument, he said.
The stupa, while widely welcomed, has been the subject of controversy due to plans to inscribe the names of victims or list them in a book nearby.
Some 70 per cent of those killed at S-21 were Khmer Rouge cadres rounded up during a frenzy of internal purges and many fear that listing names could upset families reading their relatives names next to the names of cadres.
Pheaktra said whether names would be inscribed on the stupa was “still under discussion”.
Hab Touch, director-general of the heritage department at the Culture Ministry, also said yesterday that no decision had been made on that front.
“Victims have asked us to inscribe the names, but we will have a meeting to talk about this first.… We want to do [this project] as soon as possible,” he said.
The stupa, Touch added, would occupy a 10-square-metre plot of land within the museum’s grounds.
Former S-21 prisoner Bou Meng, who because of his ability to paint portraits of Pol Pot was one of the few who made it out of the detention centre alive, said yesterday that he wanted the names of victims to be on the memorial to preserve their memory.
“I am happy [about the stupa] because my wife was killed there. I want my wife’s name to be inscribed on it so the world and the young generation of Khmers can know. This is evidence. I want the names
[of victims] to be put there as history.”
But Chum Mey, another surviving victim, told the Post in May that he opposed the inscription of names. Mey could not be reached for comment yesterday.