Cambodia Unveils Stupa at Notorious Khmer Rouge Death Prison

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Cambodian officials and foreign dignitaries unveil a memorial stupa at Tuol Sleng, March 26, 2015
Cambodian officials and foreign dignitaries unveil a memorial stupa at Tuol Sleng, March 26, 2015

Cambodia unveiled a new stupa on Thursday at the site of a notorious Khmer Rouge-era prison in the capital, Phnom Penh, to memorialize the thousands who endured torture and death at the hands of the murderous communist regime in the late 1970s.

Government officials said they hope the memorial at Tuol Sleng Prison will serve as an educational tool for future generations, to prevent the return of such a dark regime. Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21, was one of a number of torture and execution centers created by the Khmer Rouge during a 1975-79 reign of terror that killed an estimated two million Cambodians.

"The stupa will be a place for families of the victims and survivors to pay respect their lost loved ones and it is a place to reduce their suffer and their sadness," said Council of Ministers official Sok An at a ceremony to unveil the Buddhist monument .

Some Khmer Rouge survivors, however, say they’re still hoping for financial compensation for the 12,000 or more victims who passed through the gates of Tuol Sleng, a former high school that serves as a grisly tourist attraction in Phnom Penh.

"The stupa is only psychological compensation. I don’t oppose it, but I’m still disappointed," said Chhum Noeuv, a Khmer Rouge survivor.

"If the government or the courts can find compensation for Khmer Rouge victims, I will praise them and I will be happy," he told RFA's Khmer Service.

Another victim, Bou Meng, said the stupa is not an adequate response to his suffering. He said a sum of $15,000 paid to each victim would be appropriate.

"There must be civil compensation. Regardless of where the funds come from, you need to pay compensation. I don't demand that the government or any individuals pay, but maybe a fund from the UN,'" said Bou Meng.

But another former S-21 prisoner, Chhum Mey, said he doesn't want any compensation.

"I don't want any private compensation. We need to move on to rebuild the country. Let bygones be bygones; otherwise Khmer will kill Khmer again," he said.

About two million people–one in four Cambodians–died from starvation, overwork and execution in what has become known at the Killing Fields during the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime.

Reported by Leng Maly for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Chris Billing and Paul Eckert.





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