(Entrance to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum)
We were suppose to visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum the previous afternoon but thanks to the traffic jam that we got caught in, we had to reschedule it for early on the 3rd day we were in Phnom Penh. After the early breakfast, the group piled into our provided transport and drove out about 10 minutes where our hotel was located. Along the way we saw a lot of people out that morning as it was the Cambodian Independence Day holiday. We were later told that they were going to see the parade along the Mekong river and that traffic would definitely be hard to avoid at that area. Learning our lesson from yesterday, our minivan went the opposite side where the locals were headed to.
We reached the museum at almost the beginning of their hours of operations and paid the entry fee at the entrance. Due to the early hour, we practically had the museum all to ourselves to explore. We did not have the tour guide that we had the previous day for that morning’s trip but we did have our helpful Cambodian hosts who walked us through the buildings and gave us a little bit of background of what had happened here.
The former high school building was converted to a prison and interrogation center by the Khmer Rouge when they came into power in Cambodia in 1975. Known then as the “Security Prison 21” (S-21), the complex was infamous as being the place where prisoners were mercilessly tortured to naming other “traitors” who in turn were also arrested, imprisoned and tortured. A lot of those tortured here were eventually sent to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields to be executed and buried in mass graves. Of the close to 17,000 prisoners that had passed through the prison, we were told that only a handful were still alive to tell their stories of their experiences in that hellish place.
(Description at the museum entrance)
(L: Tomb of the last victims of S-21, R: Torture room interior)
(Bed and implements used during the interrogation process found with the last victims)
The first school block that we went in had the original beds where the last 14 victims were found. In each room, there were a faded photograph on the wall that detailed what had been found in the room when the Vietnamese army liberated the prison. Without any written description of what had happened in the room, we were only able to guess what might had happened there based on the condition of the rusting iron bed frame and the remaining torture implements in the room. I noticed that the supposedly blood stains that was said to still be visible on the floors in those room were not that apparent. It would be even difficult to step into the room if they were.
(L: Prison rules, R: Water containers where prisoners would be dunked in head first during torture)
(L: Mug shots from S-21 records, R: Iron shackles used on prisoners)
(Cell block at S-21)
(L: External fencing, R: Cell interior)
(L: Shackles used in the cells, R: Disused chalkboard as reminder that the prison used to be a school)
(Implements of torture - Water boarding and dunking)