S-21 prison survivor Chum Mey has raised concerns about a proposal to inscribe a planned memorial stupa with the names of those who died at the notorious Khmer Rouge jail.
The stupa is being funded by Germany’s development agency and is part of extrajudicial reparations in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s case against Kaing Guek Eav, the former head of S-21. It would replace a decaying wooden stupa that has fallen into disrepair at the site, where low- and high-ranking Khmer Rouge were purged.
But Mr. Mey, who is also the president of the Ksem Ksam Victims Association, said his vision for the memorial is at odds with that of Helen Jarvis, the former head of the court’s Victims Support Section, who he says has a hand in the memorial.
“Firstly, Helen wanted to get all names of victims at S-21 to be written on the wall of Tuol Sleng but I disagreed at that time,” he said, adding that he proposed instead to have the names of more than 13,000 victims of the regime inscribed on the stupa instead.
“But I have changed my mind lately after thinking about it thoroughly,” he said.
“I believe that more than 50 percent of the victims who died at S-21 were former Khmer Rouge comrades and Khmer Rouge perpetrators. If those names are written on either the wall of Tuol Sleng prison or on the as-yet-constructed stupa, it will definitely hurt other Cambodians whose fathers, mothers, husbands, wives and relatives were killed by those former Khmer Rouge comrades and perpetrators who were themselves later executed at Tuol Sleng.”
Ms. Jarvis could not be reached. Mr. Mey said a meeting is to be held soon, which would include representatives from Unesco, to discuss how to move forward with the stupa.
Philippe Delanghe, head of Unesco’s culture unit, said he had heard about the inscription proposal, but that there is still “room for negotiation” about the details of the project. He said the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts is taking charge of the project, not Unesco.
The Ministry of Culture could not be reached for comment.
(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)