Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - More travelers take interest in Cambodia's dark past



More travelers take interest in Cambodia's dark past

More travelers take interest in Cambodia's dark past

15-2.jpg
15-2.jpg

TRACEY SHELTON

Western tourists visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, February 29. The Khmer Rouge's former interrogation center is one of the most popular tourist desitnations in Cambodia.

"Cambodia has two things to show the world, one from heaven and one from hell: Angkor Wat and the Khmer Rouge,” says Youk Chhang, director of local historical documentation center DC-CAM. 

While the government doesn’t promote tourism to the Khmer Rouge sites, visits to Tuol Sleng prison and the Choeung Ek "Killing Fields” often find their way onto the schedules of travelers to Phnom Penh.

The arrests last year of top Khmer Rouge leaders for war crimes created a minor boom in tourism at the Killing Fields, where ticket sales doubled compared to the previous year.

Often travel agents tack visits to the best-known Khmer Rouge massacre sites onto clients’ itineraries following visits to the Royal Palace and National Museum in the capital.

Youk says tourists frequently do not treat the sites with the respect they deserve.

"Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek are sacred sites where visiting needs to be done properly,” he says.

In Tuol Sleng, "rooms are overfilled and people are talking loudly, there’s no space to think. There shouldn’t be a gift shop and parking lot inside the museum.”

For Britons Chris, 30, and Belina Hathaway, 29, it wasn’t until they saw the shackles, barbwire and torture instruments that the history registered. But they found the cacophony of tour groups disturbed what should have been a solemn experience.

Nick Ray, author of Lonely Planet’s guidebook for Cambodia, says that while visits to both sites can be educational, more thought needs to be given by tour guides who promote them.   

Ensuring appropriate behaviour at landmarks of Khmer Rouge oppression will take on greater significance as an increasing number of such sites become known outside their locality.

Beyond Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek, there are a number of less prominent Khmer Rouge massacre sites, such as the "Killing Caves” of Phnom Sampeou, outside Battambang city, and Wat Thmey in Siem Reap. There are about 90 community stupas around the country containing the remains of those who perished.

Most recently, the houses of former Khmer Rouge leaders in Anlong Veng town, in the regime’s final stronghold, have attracted visitors.

On some days more than 100 people visit the home of the deceased former Khmer Rouge military chief known as Ta Mok, and survey the high ground from which he commanded his troops fighting below.

MOST VIEWED

  • Municipal hall releases map detailing colour coded Covid risks by commune

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng released an official map detailing the red, yellow and dark yellow zones within the city under the new lockdown orders for Phnom Penh announced on April 26. The designation of red, dark yellow and yellow corresponds to areas with high,

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Tottenham Hotspur to wear ISF Cambodia logo on jerseys in match against Sheffield United

    Last year, the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) – an NGO providing education to underprivileged children in Cambodia – made global headlines with its “socially distanced” football initiative. This year, a world-class football club – Tottenham Hotspur FC – will wear special edition jerseys to show their support for ISF