Tourism a welcome boost after genocide

IN recent years Cambodia has developed a thriving tourist industry which draws thousands of visitors to its temples, particularly the vast Angkor complex.

Following decades of war and isolation it is now firmly back on the map for travellers in south-east Asia and is taking some of the tourist boom hitting Vietnam.

But Cambodia is still one of the poorest countries in the world and will forever be haunted by the memory of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge and the 1.7 million - quarter of the population - who died in the 1970s.

When Pol Pot seized power in 1975 private property was abolished, cities were emptied, money abolished and schools and hospitals closed in a deranged Maoist attempt to create a collectivised, agrarian utopia called Democratic Kampuchea. Many died from starvation, exhaustion or diseases. Others were tortured and executed as enemies of the state.

Brother Number One Pol Pot was eventually driven into the jungle when the Vietnamese invaded. He died in his sleep in 1998.

Only now is a tribunal being set up by Cambodia and the UN to put the surviving leaders of his genocidal regime on trial.

The King of the mainly Buddhist country is King Sihamoni and its veteran leader is Prime Minister Hun Sen, who was a member of the Khmer Rouge but joined anti-Khmer Rouge forces in Vietnam during Pol Pot’s regime.

Cambodia’s main economic success is in textiles and it accounts for 80% of exports. But over-reliance on clothing means tourism is seen as a highly important factor in aiding the country’s recovery.

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