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 year is 1945 and Cambodian men are packed into traditional longboats, ready to race each other in an event that “has been going on for more than 1,000 years” at the annual Water Festival in Phnom Penh.

CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha said during a radio interview this week that he will meet with senior officials in the U.S. Department of Defense during his 20-day visit to the U.S., seeking their support for an eventual CNRP-led government.

The National Election Committee on Friday said that political parties would be banned from setting up permanent campaign bases in the city during next month’s council elections.

Sao Sothy’s home is small and the furniture is sparse. There are no tables or chairs. In one room, there is a small bed, but her family of four sleeps on mats in the living room. Hanging on the otherwise bare walls is Ms. Sothy’s teacher’s certificate.

The Council of Ministers on Friday passed three long-awaited laws on the reform of the judiciary and will send them to the National Assembly early next week.

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