Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum staffers held a Buddhist ceremony Wednesday morning, in memory of the approximately 14,000 people tortured there and sent to their deaths during the Khmer Rouge regime.
About 60 staff members offered food to four monks invited from nearby Wat Tuol Tumpoung pagoda for the ceremony while the museum remained open to tour-
ists, said Nong Sotha, 35, a deputy chief for the archive office at Tuol Sleng, which was the former site of the notorious S-21 prison.
Former S-21 chairman Kaing Guek Eav is currently being tried at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
“The monks sang the prayers dedicated to the spirits of the dead in Tuol Sleng,” Nong Sotha said, adding that the ceremony was one of a pair of ceremonies held each year around Khmer New Year and Pchum Ben.
Nong Sotha added that he had also dedicated the food he offered to the monks to the spirit of his grandfather, who was killed during the Khmer Rouge regime.
“In the past, there has been haunting” at Tuol Sleng, Nong Sotha said, adding that now “the spirits have become calm,” he said, referring to the Buddhist ceremony of offering food.
“The spirits of the dead were still locked [in chains] and after holding the holy ceremony dedicated to them, it is like unlocking [them] to have freedom,” he said.
Tho Tip, 60, a retired Tuol Sleng staff member, came to his former workplace to help organize the event for the New Year. He said he believed that, thanks to such ceremonies, the dead ghosts at the prison never troubled him.
“The spirits came to take the offerings,” he said, adding that staffers had offered soft drinks, candles, incense and money to the monks, believing they would go to the dead.
At the Choeung Ek killing fields, deputy manager Neang Say said Wednesday that a similar Buddhist ceremony, joined by seven monks and about 100 villagers and staff members would be held Friday morning for the thousands who were killed and buried there.