Turning A Brutal Regime into a Tourist Attraction

Officials in Cambodia are hoping to capitalize on tourists' interest in the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge regime with a proposed theme park.
November 3, 2010, 8am PDT | Nate Berg
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But his is not the typical theme park. The idea is to recreate and restore a number of historic buildings in the village of Anlong Veng, the last place of resistance in the late 1970s as the Khmer Rouge fell.

"The Cambodian government plans to develop this sun-baked, mine-riddled frontier town into a theme park devoted to the Khmer Rouge, the brutal regime that murdered perhaps 15 percent of Cambodia's population when it ruled from 1975 to 1979. The planned park is of a piece with Cambodia's larger effort to capitalize on the atrocities of its past-and to tap into a booming global industry in travel to macabre destinations, known as thanatourism.

Cambodia depends on tourism for about a fifth of its GDP. Its premier attraction is Angkor Wat, the magnificent complex of ancient Buddhist and Hindu buildings, which draws 2 million visitors annually, by some estimates. But hundreds of thousands of tourists also visit two sites in Phnom Penh with a more grotesque appeal: S21, a Khmer torture center that later became a museum; and the killing fields at Choeung Ek, where some 9,000 bodies were buried en masse and where more than 5,000 human skulls are displayed in a glass-and-concrete stupa."

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Published on Monday, November 1, 2010 in The Atlantic
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