Memorial Stupa at S-21 to Be Rebuilt as Civil Party Reparations
By and | November 19, 2013

A new $80,000 memorial stupa will be constructed at former Khmer Rouge torture center S-21—now Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum—as part of the plan for reparations proposed by civil party lawyers in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s second case, victim’s rights advocates said Monday.

While civil parties are not entitled to monetary compensation, they are seeking symbolic, collective reparations such as memorials, mental health support and a national remembrance day.

Germany’s development agency has donated the money for the memorial, to be built on the site of the original stupa at the site, which was not properly maintained and now lies in ruins, said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

“Germany is funding the restoration project of this stupa, which the Documentation Center of Cambodia encouraged. It was built by the genocide survivors in the early 1980s,” he said, adding that it would be a nondenominational memorial for all victims of the Khmer Rouge, which included Cham Muslims.

“It will be a stupa with a Cambodian ornamental design and will be neither mosque, church or pagoda.”

Chum Mey, one of the prison’s few survivors, said he had been informed of the plans to rebuild the stupa at a meeting on Friday between civil parties, tribunal staff and officials from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

“The stupa will sit on the original 10 meter by 10 meter area and could be constructed as early as 2014 after the $80,000 was donated to the tribunal, while the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts will be in charge of constructing it,” said Mr. Mey, who is also president of the Ksem Ksam Victims Association.

Survivors of the regime welcomed the news of the memorial.

“The construction of the stupa at Tuol Sleng will be a good thing, because this is what all of the victims have wanted,” said Norng Chan Phal, 44, who was detained at S-21 as a child and whose parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge.

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The government has failed in recent years to take steps to prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence committed during the Khmer Rouge, according to the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Three Vietnamese nationals were arrested in Sihanoukville on Wednesday afternoon for kidnapping two 34-year-old Vietnamese men and demanding a $7,000 ransom from each of their families after luring them across the border on the pretense of a gambling trip, police said.

About 50 fired factory workers protested in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal court Wednesday after two of the factory’s five union representatives were summoned for questioning following strikes in February.

The appointment of General Sok Phal to head the Interior Ministry’s newly formed department to monitor migrant workers has raised concerns over his close familial connection to a labor recruitment industry fraught with human rights abuses.

As military police with AK-47s descended on protesting garment workers during their nationwide strike on January 3, Sam Ravy, a manager at one of the many factories along Phnom Penh’s Veng Sreng Street, was on the phone with his mother-in-law.

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