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Genocide Museum in Cambodia Preserves Clothes of Tortured Victims

Textile experts say that without urgent action, what is left of the clothing will be destroyed.

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The memory of the victim’s of Cambodia’s ‘Khmer Rouge’ is being kept alive through a special conservation project.

‘Khmer Rouge’ communists carried out a genocide in the country, killing an estimated two million people by execution, famine or forced labor.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum holds the clothes of thousands of victims who were killed in the Cambodian genocide in the late 1970's.

The building became a torture centre when the communist Khmer Rouge took power and tortured as many as seventeen thousand men, women and children before putting them to death.


In it's latest incarnation as a museum, it is a popular tourist attraction where thousands come every week to learn about the macabre history of Cambodia first-hand.

Much of the museum is preserved as it was found in 1979, but time is now taking it's toll, particularly on organic items like the clothing of former prisoners.

Until now they've been stored in cardboard boxes in a forgotten cellar.

Textile experts say without urgent action what is left of the clothing will be destroyed by the humidity, heat, dust and insects.

In a former classroom where prisoners were once held, efforts have begun to document and preserve the garments left by the dead.


The most urgent task now is to register and preserve what remains. The first step to preserving the former prisoners’ clothing is to thoroughly dry them out. The items are put into plastic storage boxes with a desiccant, in this case pellets normally used in the agriculture industry. These reduce relative humidity or RH, which is very high in the tropics causing mildew and mold.

Later the clothes are cleaned with a vacuum cleaner, or a soft brush but they are never washed so the dirt, stains and particles from the past are retained.

Next the clothes are tagged and photographed and entered into the official archive before being properly stored to preserve them for the future.

(With inputs from AP)


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Topics:  Khmer Rouge   Cambodia   National Museum 

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