Repository of rare, vintage military hardware feels a bit shellshocked
War Museum director Kong Bunthoeurn is gunning for more visitors.
SIEM REAP'S War Museum is facing a battle to stay open in the face of mass desertion by tourists.
In the last few months, visitor numbers to the museum have dwindled to about 20, from a norm of about 100.
The museum's director, Kong Bunthoeurn, is at a loss to explain the drop-off in patronage and saddened because he feels the museum has an important role.
"We want people, especially the younger ones, to come here to comprehend the horror of Cambodia's recent history and to teach them to avoid war."
The War Museum was constructed in 2001 on more than two hectares of land just off National Road 6 near the airport, in partnership with the Ministry of Defence.
The collection on display was gathered in 1998 from provinces in which the most savage fighting took place - Siem Reap, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey - and is a mix of Chinese, American and Soviet hardware.
Kong Bunthoeurn said the museum is also important as it is the last remaining repository of recent war relics.
"The museum's collection is invaluable, as most war relics have been sold for scrap. If we had not collected the weapons to keep in the museum, there would be none left," he said.
"People have been gathering and selling such equipment because they get good money for scrap metal, and for a tank they can get at least $300 to $400."
Competition from scrap dealers was not the only problem the museum faced as it gathered its collection. Much of the machinery is very heavy, and it was difficult to gain access to dense jungle areas to remove the items.
Kong Bunthoeurn said, "It was took us years to collect what is now on display here. This is a first museum in Cambodia to show old weapons left from the civil war."