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Memorial to be ‘Symbolic Compensation’ for Khmer Rouge Victims

Cambodian official Han Touch (r) and German Embassy officer Adelbert Eberhardt hold a design of a memorial building as Joachim Baron Von Marschall, center, German Ambassador to Cambodia, watches at the building site, at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, in in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 10, 2014.

Officials from Cambodia's Ministry of Culture and the U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday signed an agreement to build a memorial stupa for victims of the regime at a former torture center in Phnom Penh.

The Buddhist memorial will be built on the grounds of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former school that was turned into a brutal detention center by the Khmer Rouge, where more than 12,000 people were tortured and executed by regime cadre.

Kranh Tony, acting administration chief of tribunal, said at a signing ceremony Thursday that the memorial will achieve an important goal for the court.

“It is a symbol to promote, to officially recognize the victims, and also to keep it for next generation to study, to remember and to prevent the return of the dark regime," said Tony.

The memorial will take nine months to build.

Victims of the regime have been calling for reparations for the suffering and loss caused by the Khmer Rouge, including memorials and mental health centers throughout the country. It remains to be seen whether more such memorials will be built, or whether health centers will be funded.

At Thursday’s ceremony, Khmer Rouge survivor Chum Mey said he was happy a memorial is going forward.

“The memorial is the collective compensation. It’s not just only for Cambodians but for all foreigners who died here. That’s for the next generation to know," said Mey.

As many as two million Cambodians died from starvation, overwork and executions during the four-year rule of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.

The tribunal has only handed down one conviction since its inception in 2006.

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, both in their 80s, are the only senior Khmer Rouge leaders alive and considered fit to stand trial or war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The verdict from the first phase of their prosecution is expected in August.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.