Sunday, April 22, 2007

Tub Tan Leang - in love with his work

In January 2006 I met Tub Tan Leang (above) for the first time. In fact he gave me a personal guided tour of the Battambang Provincial Museum, alongside Sak, a former colleague of his at the museum and now my guide and friend. I met Tub again this January and spent another enjoyable couple of hours in his company inside the museum. He just happens to be the Province's Director of Culture and Fine Arts, so he's a very important man - but that doesn't stop him turning up at the museum every day, to tend to his museum's priceless artifacts. Most Province Directors would be sat behind a plush desk, if they're at work at all, but not Tub Tan Leang. He spends every day at the museum, talking to visitors in his well-practised French or faltering English, or more likely, with a brush or cloth in his hand, making sure his exhibits look their best. This is a man who loves his work. And as we went around each exhibit in the museum, you can tell from his demeanour and his knowledge exactly how much his museum means to him. I recommend you visit his museum, its a treasure-trove of beautifully sculpted lintels and other substantial artifacts and contains much of the carving from the nearby Angkorean temples that have been moved there for safety reasons.

I also came across this article, translated from the Khmer newspaper, Kampuchea Thmey, by Dambong Dek. Its published on the Khmer Rouge Trial Web Portal site here, which is worth a visit. The story is about Tub Tan Leang and his museum.

Battambang Provincial Museum: a Detention Center during the Genocidal Regime
Museums are places for keeping antiques from one generation to others.
Tub Tan Leang, chief of Battambang department of Culture and Arts, said that Battambang provincial museum was established during 1966/67. In 1968, under the presidency of the head of state Norodom Sihanouk, it was opened to visitors, but it was then controlled by the black-shirted Khmer Rouges on the 17th of April, 1975 when Cambodia was under the rule of the DK Regime. During the regime, all kinds of infrastructures and sectors were completely demolished, and Battambang provincial museum became a detention center or prison.
Since liberation day on the 7th of January, 1979, a lot of infrastructure has been reconstructed. However, suffering and grief left from the Khmer Rouge regime period still haunts Cambodians as surviving victims cannot forget these cruel acts which took place during the 3 years 8 months and 20 days of the Democratic Kampuchea Regime.
For instance, the evidence of the blood stains of victims whom the Khmer Rouges tortured and killed still remains red on the floor of the museum as well as, the marks of axes on the floor and shackles which were left.
Uncle Tub Tan Leang says, "The red stains on the floor of Battambang provincial museum which still remain until today are blood stains, and it suggests that the museum became a place for detaining people during the Democratic Kampuchea Regime. During the 1980s, when we cleaned up the museum, we found an axe and some shackles, but we later lost them all. Antiques were scattered around the place and all the small objects in the museum were lost. The only items that remain from before are the huge gables of temples which were attached to the museum's wall."

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