Cambodian fury at Pol Pot 'theme park'

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A Cambodian plan to build a theme park in the jungles where Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge killed nearly two million people has outraged relatives of the victims of his Killing Fields.

Relatives are furious that the government's plan includes building a replica of the house where the former dictator died in bed at the age of 73. Some of his former cronies, including his cook and housekeeper, are to act as tour guides to show visitors around 26 proposed Khmer Rouge historical sites, which will feature reconstructed offices and barracks.

A new road will link the temples of Angkor Wat to a multimillion-dollar museum and theatre complex at Anlong Veng, about 200 miles north-west of the capital, Phnom Penh, putting the grave of Pol Pot on the tourist circuit. Khmer Rouge guerrillas held out in the area until 1998.

When "Brother Number One" was cremated in April 1998, a funeral pyre beside the village latrine was heaped with old tyres and set ablaze. Now a rusty tin shelter marks the spot, just 500 metres from the Thai border, and many Cambodians prefer that he continue to lie in ignominy.

Youk Chhang, director of a centre that collects evidence to be used against surviving Khmer Rouge leaders - many of whom are still at large - at proposed genocide tribunals, is incensed at the plans to cash in on the bloodbath. "Why not pay attention to the 19,000 mass grave sites in this country? Why only pay attention to the murderers?" he demanded. "This is debasing the memory of all those people who were killed by the Khmer Rouge. It's all about money."

Cambodian officials are now on the defensive. War crimes trials have been repeatedly postponed while diplomats debate the nationality of the judges and while witnesses die of old age. Moderate politicians are hesitant to reopen old wounds, while others press for amnesties to be revoked and for world leaders to be tried for complicity in the genocide.

Thong Kong, theTourism Secretary, maintains that the official project at Anlong Veng will prevent future generations forgetting the misery and murder under the Khmer Rouge's three-year reign of terror, which started in 1975 and was only halted by the Vietnamese invasion. But, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, the locals may first need to undergo a re-education programme.

Ly Kim Heang, an Anlong Veng tourist official and local schoolmistress, said she would extol the bravery of the Khmer Rouge leaders who fought off Vietnamese invaders. "We will talk about the history of the place, about the leaders and where they lived, but not about the killing," she said.