Friday, September 30, 2005

Genocide Museum Garden Sprouts Criticism

By William Sham and Prak Chan Thul
The Cambodia Daily
Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Work is underway on an ornamental garden in the yard of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, just outside the former classrooms containing thousands of black-and-white photos of people killed by the Khmer Rouge and the metal beds where people were handcuffed and tortured to death.

Work started on the garden about 20 days ago.

Red and yellow tiles are being laid as walkways running round the garden, a mango tree stands at its center and flowers will be planted and benches placed beneath the tree’s shadow, laborer Preap Vannak said Monday, though he added that he was not entirely comfortable with the development.

“My opinion is we should leave the old things the same,” said Preap Vannak. “It’s our heritage. If we change it, it means we lie to the tourists” about what happened at Tuol Sleng, he said. “From generation to generation, the truth will dissolve.”

Chey Sopheara, the museum’s director, could not be reached for comment. Chuch Phoeurn, secretary of state of the Ministry of Culture, said the new garden is not a problem as long as it does not disturb the prison buildings or the simple graves situated along one of the garden’s edges.

The garden, which runs about 15 meters in each direction, will be “the beauty of the museum,” he said.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said that flowers should be planted to commemorate the dead, but any changes to the site should be though out and implemented very carefully.

“They should keep the original taste of the museum,” he said. “The original should be preserved,” he added.

As importantly, the road running past the museum should be paved, and the sewage system repaired to prevent the museum from flooding, Youk Chhang said.

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