Ministry Orders Halt to Tuol Sleng Renovations

Renovations to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum were halted Friday by order of the Ministry of Arts and Culture, the museum’s director, Sopheara Chey said Monday.

Repainting and refurbishing of the former school-turned-Khmer Rouge prison and torture center were criticized last week for sanitizing the historical site in the interests of making the museum more tourist-friendly.

Chuch Phoeung, secretary of state at the ministry, said the order to halt work was made following media reports of the redevelopment. “I myself requested that the repainting of the Tuol Sleng buildings [be stopped],” he said.

About 90 percent of interior painting and 10 percent of exterior painting of the buildings is already complete, Sopheara Chey said.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cam­bo­­dia, said expert analysis is re­quired to repair structural problems at Tuol Sleng while preserving as much of the original as possible.

He said it was unclear who gave the order to renovate without first performing such an analysis.

“The Minister of Culture and Fine Art and secretary of state denied giving any order,” he said.

Minister of Culture Prince Sisowath Panara Sirivuddh could not be reached for comment Monday. Chuch Phoeung said that although there are regular annual renovations at Tuol Sleng, this year’s renovations warranted a detailed proposal that was never received by the ministry.

“It might be the responsibility of the Tuol Sleng museum to give the models, the sketch and the proposal concern,” he said.

Sopheara Chey, however, said a detailed proposal for the $50,000 renovation had been created by the Ministry of Culture’s department of logistics and re­sources and approved by the Ministry of Finance.

“I am just an ant,” he said. “I don’t dare to do something without informing the Minister…. We don’t have big money like this.”

(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)


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