Tourism in Anlong Veng receives boost

The nascent tourism industry within Anlong Veng has received boost with the opening of road between the town and former bunker of former dictator Pol Pot.

The road which was funded by the Documentation Centre for Cambodia (Cam-DOC) means that the tourist site can now be driven to by car. Previously it had only been possible to get here via motorbike on often flooded dirt roads.

Cam-DOC are a Cambodian NGO that seeks to preserve historical and tourist sites related to the period in Cambodian history dominated by the Communist Party of Kampuchea, otherwise known as the Khmer Rouge.

As well as the opening of the new road Cam-DOC told Cambodia Lifestyle that they were also engaged in a number of other restorative projects, such as fixing the grave of former leader of the Khmer Rouge Pol Pot.

The macabre grave, which is also in Anlong Veng is currently in a serious state of disrepair and is funded by private donations from largely anonymous sources.

The dark tourism industry in Cambodia

While there are currently no figures for dark tourism in Cambodia, it is not only seen as being of importance by many, but also as a potential source of growth within the tourism industry.

Famous sites such as S-21, the Killing Fields, as well as the Killing Caves in Battambang are already seen as must see sites within Cambodia, but it is at the lesser known sites that the potential is seen by Cam-DOC, as well as others. In 2024 the dark tourism industry is expected to be worth almost $32 billion.

Where could future growth be seen?

Prior to the renovations by Cam-DOC Anlong Veng received fairly few visitors, save the odd journalist, or adventure traveler. Since the renovations, as well as the adding of signage for tourists a small tourism industry is now evident in the town.

This has led not just to money flowing into the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, which has led not just to job creation, but also investment in infrastructure for tourists, such as hotels, bars and restaurants. This is perhaps best evidenced by the recent opening of the Tamok Guesthouse situated next to the former home of the last leader of the Khmer Rouge.

Through this model Cam-DOC see potential for developing a number of other areas, particularly those that like Anlong Veng are not on the traditional tourist radar.

An example of this are the numerous sites that they have documented in Kampong Chhnang, a place almost no tourists ever visit. These include killing caves, as well as the huge Kampong Chhnang Airport which was built by slave labour.

Yet despite its historical importance and indeed the good condition that it is in there are currently not only no facilities for tourists, but there are not even signs to memorialize the dark history of the area.

If though NGO’s, as well as government agencies related to tourism within the Kingdom could provide support or investment thane it is hoped that other places might be able to replicate the Anlong Veng model. Were this to happen then it might help people from currently lesser visited places to be able to financially benefit from their troubled past.

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Gareth Johnson
Author: Gareth Johnson

Gareth Johnson is the founder of Young Pioneer Tours and has visited over 180+ countries. His passion is opening obscure destinations to tourism and sharing his experience of street food.

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