Remarks by Ambassador William A. Heidt at the Signing Ceremony for the AFCP Project on Conservation of Ethnographic Objects at Tuol Sleng Museum

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
December 8, 2017

Good morning everyone and thank you very much for coming out this morning.

In particular, I would like to thank His Excellency Chuch Phoeurn for his remarks and for being with us today to represent the Minister of Culture and Fine Arts.

I would also like to recognize Mr. Chhay Visoth, the Director of the Tuol Sleng Museum, for his leadership of this important museum over the past few years.

I would like to recognize Ms. Cari Enav, who oversees our heritage and cultural preservations programs worldwide as the Director of the Cultural Heritage Center at the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C. Since Cambodia is one of the largest beneficiaries of the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, we are pleased that she can see firsthand our long and successful partnership with Cambodia.

It is my great pleasure to announce today a new Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation grant of $55,500 to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts for preserving the textiles of the Tuol Sleng Museum. This project will preserve 3,000 -5,000 articles of prisoners’ clothing currently stored at the museum, some of which you can see here on display today. The preservation of the victims’ clothing directly supports Tuol Sleng’s mission of genocide education through material culture and evidence.

The timing of this project is critical since this clothing is over thirty years old and is slowly degrading. It tells the extremely personal, heartbreaking stories of the victims of the Khmer Rouge and includes clothing, hats, and other personal items from both adults and children.

If you look closely, you can even see that some items still show blood and sweat stains. The conservation work will carefully preserve the textiles without removing this historical evidence. Each piece carries its own story, and we recognize how important it is to preserve this story for future generations.

The U.S. Embassy is proud to support the Tuol Sleng Museum and its educational mission to preserve the history of the Khmer Rouge period. In addition to the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, we have also supported the professional development and training of the staff.

In October of this year, the Embassy sent six Tuol Sleng staff members on an International Visitor Leadership Program study tour of the United States. On this two-week trip, the staff took a close look at how museums in the United States commemorate genocide, collect and preserve archival data, and promote peace through digital storytelling.

During their visit to America, they built relationships with museums and organizations working on similar issues in the United States. I am confident these relationships will help strengthen Tuol Sleng’s core mission of preserving the past for the understanding of future generations.

Our cooperation with the Tuol Sleng Museum is part of our larger efforts to help preserve Cambodia’s cultural heritage. The U.S. government is proud to have invested over 4 million dollars in cultural heritage preservation projects at locations around Cambodia since 2001.

This investment is an important part of our people-to-people relationship with Cambodia, and shows the American people’s continued, deep respect of Cambodian culture and history. We look forward to collaborating on future cultural preservation projects benefiting the Cambodian people.

Thank you very much.