PHNOM PENH (AFP) — The number of foreigners visiting Cambodia's "Killing Fields" has more than doubled from last year due to growing public interest in the Khmer Rouge tribunal, an official said Friday.
Up to 500 foreign tourists are visiting the grim execution sites on an average day, compared with 200-300 per day in 2006, said Ros Sophearavy, deputy director of a private company running the fields.
"The increase could be related to the arrest of Khmer Rouge leaders," she told AFP.
"People hear about the Khmer Rouge tribunal and that must have prompted tourists to visit the Killing Fields," said Ros Sophearavy.
Visitors will see a 17-story stupa, or tower, that houses some 9,000 skulls of people killed during the the Khmer Rouge's brutal 1975-79 rule in Choeung Ek, some 15 kilometres (nine miles) southwest of Phnom Penh.
Many people were executed in Choeung Ek and buried in pits by the ultra-communist regime.
Up to two million people were executed, or died of starvation and overwork as the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities, exiling millions to vast collective farms in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia.
Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998, one year after Cambodia first sought the United Nation's help in setting up a genocide tribunal to try regime leaders.
Established in July 2006 after nearly a decade of negotiations between Cambodia and the UN, the joint Cambodian-UN tribunal seeks to prosecute crimes committed by senior Khmer Rouge leaders.
So far five top Khmer Rouge leaders, including the regime's former foreign minister Ieng Sary, have been detained to face charges for crimes committed by the regime.