S-21 Survivor Asked to Sell Book in Different Spot

S-21 survivor Bou Meng said yesterday he had written to Culture Minister Him Chhem asking for permission to sell his biography at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum after he was told not to sell it at his preferred spot on the grounds.

Mr Meng, 69, wants to continue selling the book at a tree to the left of the ticket stand, but the museum director has told him to sell it outside the walls or at the bookseller stand on the grounds.

“I only sell my biography to earn my living,” said Mr Meng, an artist who was forced to paint portraits of Khmer Rouge leaders during his imprisonment.

Mr Meng added that he had chosen to sell his book at the tree to be close to tombs and to speak with visitors.

A copy of his letter to the culture minister, dated Wednesday, does not mention where in the museum he wants to sell the book. It reads, “My presence at the museum helps tell visitors the background.”

Mr Chhem said he had not seen the letter, and added, “If [Mr Meng] wants to do something [at the museum], he has to talk to the director.”

Museum Director Ke Soponnaka said he had already informed the culture minister of his decision. Mr Soponnaka said Mr Meng could remain at the museum but could not sell the book wherever he pleased.

“We told him he can either sell his book by himself or have somebody sell it for him at the museum bookstand or outside the museum,” Mr Soponnaka said.

He added said that Mr Meng was paid about $25 a month by the museum, was regarded as “living heritage” and “has the right to talk to visitors.”

The Documentation Center of Cambodia published the 80-page “Bou Meng: A Survivor From Khmer Rouge Prison S-21” last year and gave Mr Meng the book to duplicate and sell, according to DC-Cam director Youk Chhang.

Mr Chhang said Mr Meng was a “victim” and “not a bookseller” and added, “I think he should sit where he wants to sit.”

(Additional reporting by Clancy McGilligan)


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