Saturday, October 02, 2010

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21)

Cambodia post.

Usually, i'm not particularly interested in the history of a country. Like it's good to know brief history of a country I'm visiting but the curiousity stops there. However, this part of Cambodian history totally touches me. It helps me understand why Cambodia is still 30 years behind time. It explains why Cambodia is still one of the poorest country in the world currently.

The Khmer Rouge regime is probably one of the most violent, awful and cruel regime ever existed.  Although the regime officially lasted from 1975-1979, but the effect of the regime has never truly ended. Even till today, the Cambodians are still suffering from the remnants of the cruelty and horror during the regime.

If you are still clueless on the whole Khmer Rouge regime, here is a brief brief history of it,

"The Khmer Rouge, organized by Pol Pot in the Cambodian jungle in the 1960s, advocated a radical Communist revolution that would wipe out Western influences in Cambodia and set up a solely agrarian society.......... In April 1975, the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, overthrew the pro-U.S. regime, and established a new government, the Kampuchean People's Republic ..............Between 1975 and 1978, an estimated two million Cambodians died by execution, forced labor, and famine." (quoted from Cambodian Information Center , to read more of the Khmer Rouge, click the link too)

And so, on our 3rd day in Phnom Penh, we decided to visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

"Formerly the Chao Ponhea Yat High School, named after a Royal ancestor of King Norodom Sihanouk, the five buildings of the complex were converted in August 1975, four months after the Khmer Rouge won the civil war, into a prison and interrogation center. The Khmer Rouge renamed the complex "Security Prison 21" (S-21) and construction began to adapt the prison to the inmates: the buildings were enclosed in electrified barbed wire, the classrooms converted into tiny prison and torture chambers, and all windows were covered with iron bars and barbed wire to prevent escapes. From 1975 to 1979, an estimated 17,000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng (some estimates suggest a number as high as 20,000, although the real number is unknown). At any one time, the prison held between 1,000-1,500 prisoners. They were repeatedly tortured and coerced into naming family members and close associates, who were in turn arrested, tortured and killed."  (Read more here) 

Not only intellects were captured and killed, thousands of the party activisist and their families suspected by Pol Pot of wanting to plot against him were also captured and killed. The prisoners of this prison has no boudaries ; the old, the young, the men, the women, the well and the sick were captured and murdered all the same. Out of the 17000 to 20000 imprisoned, only about 6 is said to have survived and escaped the prison.
A brief introduction of the museum
They look just like any normal school now, no? But just imagine so much cruelty and horror once took place here
The buildings at Tuol Sleng are preserved as they were left when the Khmer Rouge were driven out in 1979. The regime kept extensive records, including thousands of photographs. Several rooms of the museum are now lined, floor to ceiling, with black and white photographs of some of the estimated 20,000 prisoners who passed through the prison. (source here) Bloodstains, drawings, iron bed frames, chains, 'toilets', documentations, photographs of the prisoners, torturing weapons and cells were all kept as they were.
Clockwise from uppermost left : (a) The brothers of Pol Pot (b) Exhibition board showing Pol Pot and the other party top leaders (c) Photographs of some of the people imprisoned (d) A photo showing how the victims had to sit when having their photograph taken (e) The man himself; Pol Pot (f) Garments of some the vicitms collected (g) Another photo of the top party leaders (h) Black and White photographs of some of the prisoners (i) Photos showing the Khmer Rouge invading PP, the capital.

One of the top floor of the museum that keeps the documents of Khmer Rouge regime
The rules and regulations of the prison (click picture to read the cold and hard rules)
Exercise beams and wells converted into torturing device then

The bigger cell. One room for one prisoner

The rusty iron bed frame kept in place as it originally was. The chains, metal bowl and bullet cartridges container were also in place
These bullet cartridges container were the prisoners toilet then. Yes, the prisoners were chained all the time and were not allowed to leave their cell even to the toilet. They were all given a cartridge container like this to relieve themselves.
Bloodstains that are still visible

The tiny cells

A view from inside the tiny cells

The torturing weapons used
Paintings (painted by one of the survivor of the prison himself based on what he saw and went through back then) depicting how the prisoners were tortured and photographs (taken by Vietnamnese photgrapher when Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1979) showing mutilated bodies of the prisoners killed as they were chained to the iron bed frames
The skull map of Cambodia now already dismantled

Personally, I'm glad knowing that their dark days are over and they can now live in peace and love. I guessed one of the saddest thing about the whole Khmer Rouge regime is knowing that all of these cruelty and torture on the people were done by fellow Cambodians themselves. It's like when a tiger tortures his fellow tigers, it is worse than when a lion that tortures them.

Cambodia did a good job by opening up the prison and convert it to a museum. This museum is definitely a good reminder to the world of what took place and hopefully such a thing will never occur again. :)

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Jimi Hendrix

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14 fondue dips :

WOAH!! This blog super good!

Thanks for the providing the history lesson. I've heard of Pol Pot, but I didn't know any of the details of what he was responsible for until you posted about it.

But...even standing in an area where such atrocities occurred in the past, you still look lovely. :-)


Dolly : Thanks darling. xoxo :)

lol horror indeed . . . anyway good post ^^

Kian Fai : so sad right. Thanks btw :)

It's so sad to read about such things that happened in the past. :( Hopefully, history doesn't repeats itself in any parts of the world. Peace.

May their souls rest in peace. It's a good write up, Allison. The photos are lovely. :)

M : You are most welcome :)

Anony 1 : Thanks :)

Erika : Yes, hopefully this will never happen again. Thanks Erika :)

Oh my gosh, so scary T__T

I salute your braveness to go to such place. Cheerios~

Melmonica : The history is awful but the place itself is not so scary.. At least not in the day.. cheers :)

Nweomma : Sure will have.. lol..especially after so much cruelty had took place there.