War Museum Cambodia, Siem Reap - review by Rusty Compass
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War Museum Cambodia, Siem Reap

| 16 Mar 2015
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War Museum Cambodia, Siem Reap
A few hundred metres off Route 6 (Airport Rd) before airport turn-off.
8.00AM to 17.30PM

Our rating
16 Mar 2015

Siem Reap’s War Museum is more a collection of war junk than an attempt to enlighten visitors with historical information. If you’re lucky, your guide might add some personal insights.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service


If you’re hoping to come away with some knowledge of the history of Cambodia’s tragic, blood drenched, 60s, 70s and 80s, Siem Reap’s War Museum will be a disappointment.

Instead, you’ll find a collection of damaged, mostly Russian, heavy military equipment like tanks, trucks and a couple of aircraft.

There’s also a display of small arms from the period.

Military history and equipment junkies will enjoy a visit - despite the lack of information.

The museum’s tone is set on arrival - the signs to guide visitors around are painted on decommissioned bombs.

Everything seems to be in English so this wasn’t created with local audiences in mind.

We couldn’t get a clear answer whether the museum is privately or publicly owned - most likely it’s a combination. Dating back to the early 2000s, the success of war museums in Saigon and Hanoi with international tourists probably inspired it.

While grand insights into Cambodia’s tragic late twentieth century history will elude visitors to the museum, a more personal perspective may be possible. I was escorted through the museum by a former Khmer Rouge soldier, Suon, one of the staff guides. Suon was happy to share his incredible personal story.

After his father was murdered by the Khmer Rouge, Suon was forced to join. He talked openly about the appalling conditions he suffered as a soldier. He lost a leg to a landmine in 1989.


Cambodia’s civil war raged from the late 1960s until the Khmer Rouge toppled the US-backed Cambodian government in April 1975. The Khmer Rouge were then ousted by Vietnamese forces in January 1979 and a decade of conflict began with Khmer Rouge forces fighting a guerrilla war against the Vietnamese-backed Phnom Penh government and Vietnamese troops.

The reason so much of the hardware at the museum is Russian is that the Russians were supplying the Vietnamese with weaponry - some of it dating back to WWII.

Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge meanwhile were supported overtly by China and tacitly by the big western powers and Thailand - at least in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnamese invasion.

Vietnam received no international praise for removing the Khmer Rouge, one of the twentieth century’s most barbaric regimes. Instead, the US tightened economic screws.

Siem Reap and the Angkor Temples were a Khmer Rouge stronghold during the Cambodian war with Vietnam. The Khmer Rouge launched a final assault on Siem Reap in 1997 - years after the temples opened up to international tourists and years after the UN effort to bring peace to Cambodia. It was the last serious military action of the Khmer Rouge in a major Cambodian centre.

Rusty Compass listings and reviews are always independent and disclosure is important to us. We paid our way in full on our visit to the War Museum Cambodia. We have neither sought nor received any inducement financial or otherwise to publish this review.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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