More horror sites set to be added to busy tourism trail

Khmer Rouge leader Ta Mok's grave in Anlong Veng. Photo / AP


The place where the body of Pol Pot, the former Khmer Rouge leader, was unceremoniously burned in a pile of rubbish is set to be the latest location from Cambodia's dark recent history to be transformed into a tourist spot.
In a controversial move that underlines the increasing allure of the country's genocidal history and the importance of tourists to Cambodia's coffers, the Government has decided to "preserve and develop" Anlong Veng.
The jungle town in the far north of the country was the last stronghold of the rebel movement responsible for the deaths of up to two million people.
The authorities in Phnom Penh say the town will be transformed into a historic tourism site for national and international guests to visit and understand the last political leadership of the genocidal regime.
For more than two decades hardly anyone visited Cambodia.
Although the rebels who seized power in April 1975 were ousted just four years later, a civil war kept most visitors away until well into the mid-1990s.
For years, splendours such as the World Heritage site of Angkor Wat were effectively out of bounds.
Yet tourism has bounced back.
Last year there were around two million visitors and by next year the authorities hope the figure will top three million. Increasingly, as tourists have returned to Cambodia to visit such wonders as the 12th-century temple complex near the town of Siam Reap, they have also found time to fit in locations associated with the Khmer Rouge.
Chief among these have been Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh, where up to 17,000 people were tortured and sent for execution, and the killing fields themselves, located on the edge of the city at Choeung Ek.
Even if it wanted to, Cambodia has not been allowed to forget its past.
A major legal process to try six former Khmer Rouge officials is proceeding under the oversight of the United Nations in a move that took more than a decade to agree.
Yet not everyone agrees that the Government should be using this dark period in the country's history to bring in foreign currency, however much they are needed.
Youk Chhang, who heads the genocide documentation centre, which brings together personal testimonies and documents from the Khmer Rouge era, said: "Using genocide to attract tourists is irresponsible. These [events] have to be preserved; they have to be documented.

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