French Businessman Denies Reports That KR Films for Sale

The president of a French media company has denied re­ports that he is selling Khmer Rouge films that were sent to him for restoration, saying instead that he would return the films to Cambodia as soon as the government requests them.

Daniel Renouf of System TV said his company restored the deteriorating 16 millimeter and 35 mm movie reels under a 1998 agreement with former Minister of Cult­ure Nouth Narang.

“We are keeping them in safe condition here, keeping them in the proper conditions,” Renouf said. “If the government wants them back, all they have to do is ask.”

The 38 hours of footage reportedly show Khmer Rouge propaganda and a re-enactment of a bat­tle with the Vietnamese. A researcher has called for the films’ return to Cambodia in case they contain images that would aid prosecutors in a war crimes tribunal of the regime’s leaders.

“To me, any primary sources of information about the Khmer Rouge are equal to a piece of stone from Angkor Wat and be­long in Cambodia,” said Youk Chhang, director of the Docu­mentation Center of Cambodia.

A Reuters reporter who spoke to Renouf in 1999 was told that Cambodians would have to buy the films in order to see them again, though no price was disclosed.

Renouf, speaking earlier this month, said the films are not for sale; he said the 1998 agreement with Nouth Narang forbids him from releasing the reels until he is instructed to do so by the Ministry of Culture.

Renouf said he traveled to Cambodia in 1998 and was led by Nouth Narang to a dilapidated building behind the French Cult­ural Center where he was shown films kept in dire conditions in wooden boxes.

He said he does not remember the name of the building, but the Ministry of Culture’s Film De­partment is located behind the FCC.

Nouth Narang asked Renouf to take the film to France and restore it, Renouf said.

“All things considered, it was not that damaged,” Renouf said.

Renouf said he has turned away people who want to use the film because of his agreement with the Cambodian government.

“If the government wants this film to circulate, they only have to ask,” he said.

Nouth Narang, who left the ministry shortly after making the deal with Renouf, did not return phone calls or messages left at his office. The current Minister of Culture, Princess Norodom Bo­pha Devi, did not return phone calls.

Youk Chhang, meanwhile, said he has asked about the films for nearly three years now.

He re­cently wrote a letter to the Council of Ministers asking that the films be returned, and he made the same request to Kong Ouk, a secretary to Minister of Cabinet Sok An. So far, he has not received a reply in either case.

Youk Chhang said it is no longer necessary to store the films in France for safekeeping.

“Cambodia has the ability to store those films,” he said. “We don’t need France to store them. I wish to have those films so other Cam­bodians can see their history.”

(Additional reporting by Ana Nov and Michelle Vachon)



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