Tragedy and heritage: the case of Cambodia

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The growth in tourism to Cambodia creates many challenges in the context of a developing country. The landscape is rich in natural and built heritage and the outstanding temple complex of Angkor Wat is now complemented by a range of other activities and attractions throughout the country. Yet, this is a country that is still healing from a protracted period of war and an internal regime that perpetrated some of the most extreme policies ever seen in the world. The period of the Khmer Rouge (1975–79) saw evacuation of cities, extermination and starvation, closure of international borders. The commemoration and interpretation of this period is explored in the context of modern Cambodia. Heritage and documentation is under threat in a rapidly developing economy, where the past is at best not a development priority and at worst avoided. The difficulty of much of this material for the current political leadership of the country and the attempts by independent non-government organizations to maintain historical representation in the context of tourism attraction operation is discussed. The hypothesis is tested that such tourism sites have an important role in preserving the recent tragic past in a population that has both a ‘right to forget’ and is focused on a range of new economic priorities
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-123
Number of pages8
JournalTourism Recreational Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Cambodia
  • Angkor Wat
  • dark tourism


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