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readers' submissions


Choeung Ek sale is simply and plainly an insult to all Khmer

By Ronnie Yimsut

The planned Choeung Ek concession to a foreign firm is simply an insult to our dead and plainly disrespectful to those of us who have survived the Killing Fields.

First it was various state (public) assets, which were bought and sold over the years by shady, back-alley business deal, with little to show for in the public coffer. Let's not discuss the small things. Let's just deal with a few major assets, such as the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh ceded to the Taiwanese, the concession of Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to Sokimex, and more recently the selling of the sport stadium in Siem Reap. The list goes on and on, but public trust in such a deal is in short supply. 

And now, it comes to this unthinkable part of Khmer history. The concession of Choeung Ek Killing Fields to a little known Japanese firm, under a very shady and private deal, is not such a good idea to begin with. In a corruption prone environment of Cambodia, where transparency is a must but in short supply, the dealing of this public asset also raised many questions. This questionable deal, which involved high ranking officials in the RGC, is at best a blatant conflict of interest, if not an ethic and conduct issue.  The public have the right to transparency, especially when officials decided to sell or concession public asset, especially to foreigners under the pretense of the so called, "investment" scheme.

As a Khmer, I must agree with the Director of DC CAM, Mr. Youk Chhang, who earlier said that, "Memory cannot be contracted or sold." It is especially disrespectful to our dead as the site is to be operated by foreigners whose main motivation, as investors, is the big profits from the Tourism Industry.  To give a 30 years concession of such an important site in Khmer history for so little in return is simply and plainly an insult to my murdered family members and millions other Khmer who have tragically perished.

Is there not a single competent individual or a group in Cambodia who can take on this task of preserving the memory for our future generations? I believe a group of Khmer patriots, such as the people from DC CAM, is more than capable and can very well manage both Choeung Ek and Toul Sleng on Khmer people's behalf.  The skills are there, and more importantly, the motivation and passion needed (not for $$$) are there as well. If capital investment dollars is an issue, I am most certain that fund can be raised, even directly from the generous foreign donors and tourists, for Khmer to manage our own collective memory, both at Choeung Ek and Toul Sleng. If the RCG is not capable of managing such important public places, then the RGC should cede control back to the Khmer people to manage our own history and collective memory—certainly not to foreigners to do it for us!

As a survivor, I, for one, am personally more than willing to contribute my limited time, energy, and money to this cause, especially toward a proven group that I can trust, such as DC CAM.  Indeed, this is a matter of trust, a trust that should never be bought or sold or concession in the first place.

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