Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cambodia Trip '08 – Day 03: Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Phnom Penh

It was said that close to 20,000 mug shots were taken of the prisoners at Toul Sleng (S-21) prison between 1975 to 1979. The walls at the second block contained only a fraction of them for visitors to view. It was a solemn moment for us to walk through the rooms looking at these photos. One can’t help wonder, on seeing these mug shots, what these prisoners were thinking about. Did they know what lie ahead of them in this hellish prison? Or were they already resigned to the fact that they would not be able to see the outside of the prison walls ever again? Did they think that they could save their family by letting themselves imprisoned or did they plan to implicate their families in order to live another day?

Looking at the pictures of old people and children affected me the most that afternoon. It was hard to fathom what sort of crime these individual had committed to merit such a horrible end. During the Khmer Rouge rule, a large percentage of the Cambodian population perished from starvation and torture. The pictures at Toul Sleng were only a small portions of those people whose voice has been silence forever. Looking at the people living in Cambodia today, I see reflections of them in these photos. They are now the ones that either survived or came after the atrocities.

They would carry on the task of rebuilding their nation. They keep memories of Toul Sleng alive for their future generations and for outsiders who never had to live through the horrible fate they had to so it would never be allowed to happen again.

These photos will remind me of that lesson.


William said...

Why were pics taken?

Ted Baker said...

I felt like crying.