When Tram Kak district officials in Takeo province see skulls, they think tourism.
District Governor Kol Sim said he wants to turn the former Krang Tachan prison—where more than 10,000 victims of Pol Pot were buried during the Khmer Rouge regime—into a tourist site, officials said Sunday.
The district government is currently building a stupa to house the skulls, a site officials hope will attract locals and foreigners alike. The center will be free of charge to all visitors.
“We are building the new stupa for the relatives of the victims to pray and to let tourists visit,” Kol Sim said.
Rather than repairing the deteriorating wooden stupa, district officials have opted to build a new one. The new three-story building will cost more than $10,000 to build and will be modeled after the memorial stupa at the Cheung Ek killing fields site outside of Phnom Penh. Senate President Chea Sim and victims’ families are providing the funds for construction, officials said.
Krang Tachan was the biggest Khmer Rouge prison in Takeo and one of the few facilities among 167 prisons nationwide to leave a large number of documents about its prisoners, according to Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia.
Takeo was a part of the Khmer Rouge regime’s Southwestern Zone, which was run by Ta Mok, a military chief who was known for his ruthlessness.
According to Kol Sim, Krang Tachan was equipped with loudspeakers to mask the screams of tortured prisoners. When prisoners asked the Khmer Rouge for more food, they were accused of being intelligence agents for the US or the Soviet Union before they were killed, he said.
Youk Chhang disagrees with the governor’s development plans.
“The site should be kept for people who want to research about the Khmer Rouge. To use the site to draw tourists is not good. It is a historical site, not a tourism site,” he said.
Construction of the stupa is scheduled to be completed before April, officials said.