Dark Tourism in Anlong Veng and beyond received boost

Dark Tourism

The nascent Cambodian dark tourism industry has received a boost after a road was paved between Anlong Veng to the last bunker of Pol Pot, as well as plans to renovate the grave of the former communist leader.

Previously the bunker, which is in the last Khmer Rouge holdout of Anlong Veng on the Thai border was only reachable via motorbike over dirt roads. Now a new road, which was funded by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (Cam-DOC) now links not just the town, but the also renovated former base of the last Khmer Rouge leader Ta Mok, as well as the peace observatory.

Speaking to KhmerRouge.com a revresataive of Cam-DOC stated that there were also plans to renovate the grave of Pol Pot in the town. Currently it largely sits in a state of disrepair and is funded exclusively by private and largely anonymous financial donations.

According to the reprobative the plans were to put a cover of the grave, as well as create facilities for tourists. Information on the crimes of the regime, known as Angkar would also be included as a way of educating people about the dark history of the region.

Dark Tourism in Cambodia

What exactly falls into the realm of dark tourism and indeed how and if it should even be marketed are controversial subjects within Cambodia. Currently sites such as S-21, the Killing Fields and the Killing Cave of Battambang are very much on the tourist trail, while others are decidedly not.

These include much of what is in Anlong Veng, famously the capital of the last Khmer Rouge state, but also more obscure places such as the airport built with forced labour in Kampong Chhnang. The later of these does not even have a sign commemorating what happened there, let alone any kind of tourism infrastructure.

Whether this should be acknowledged or developed is open for debate. Generally speaking tourism officials within Cambodia have been keen to leave the past behind. On the other hand though people such as Cam-DOC, as well as local entrepreneurs see it as not just a way to commemorate the past, but also to help rejuvenate areas where currently few tourists visit.

This has already proved a success to some degree within Anlong Veng where previously next to no tourists visited. Since many of the tourist sites, such as the home of Ta Mok, and the aforementioned bunker of Pol Pot have been set up for tourism guests have indeed come.

Brining in tourism has also of course brought money, which has led to local businesses that cater to tourists springing up, such as bars, hotels, and restaurants.

And there is serious money in dark tourism, with it being worth an estimated $32 billion in 2024. This therefore represents a huge opportunity for the Kingdom to finally benefit from its turbulent past.

It is thus hoped that through support from Cam-DOC, as well as tourism authorities within the Kingdom that it will also help places that are currently less visited to also financially benefit from their dark pasts.