Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21 Prison)
Trip Start Mar 03, 2010
33Trip End May 02, 2010
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In 1975, the Khmer Rouge took control of Phnom Penh. In the weeks that followed, the entire city was evacuated, as the KR wanted Cambodia to go back to a medieval agrarian utopia. To do that, they had to impose it on people who didn't want it. So the Khmer Rouge tortured and killed them.
Tuol Sleng was a school in a quiet part of Phnom Penh. It was turned into Cambodia's most notorious Prison. More than 17,000 people were tortured here before being killed at the Killing Fields; only 8 prisoners made it out alive
I don't need to describe the conditions at this place, but I will. There were a range of different types of cells, depending on who you were. Some were in ex-classrooms, in large groups shackled to the walls. Others were in tiny brick "rooms", just big enough to stand in. Torture was the norm.
Prisoners were routinely beaten and tortured with electric shocks, hot metal instruments, hanging; cut with knives or suffocated with plastic bags; pulling out fingernails while pouring alcohol on the wounds, holding prisoners’ heads under water, and water boarding.
Their crime was simply that they did not agree with the Khmer Rouge...or they were educated.....or just fell foul of Khmer Rouge cadres.
Today, it is a museum, designed to show the world the horrific history of the place. Some rooms have the bed frames in where people died, others show the torture instruments. Some of the "mug shots" of the Prisoners are shown - Men, Women and Children alike. Other photos show prisoners dying.
It's a tough place to visit - much like Phnom Penh itself. But it is essential. To understand Cambodia, you need to understand what has happened in the last 35 years. As of writing this, the man in charge of the Prison, a guy called Duch, has just (July 2010) been found guilty of genocide. This is something that can't be forgotten.