Saturday, 18 June 2011

Tuol Sleng Prison (S-21), Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Prison Cells from outside

 Today we went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.  Formerly the Chao Ponhea Yat High School, 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.

Bed used to torture prisoners

 This is the prison where those killed on the Choeung Ek Killing Fields were previously held, although many thousands of the prisoners were killed inside here and never made it to the killing fields.

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.

Mugshots of Prisoners

 They were repeatedly tortured and coerced into naming family members and close associates, who were in turn arrested, tortured and killed. In the early months of S-21's existence, most of the victims were from the previous regime and included soldiers, government officials, as well as academics, doctors, teachers, students, factory workers, monks, engineers, etc.

Counting down the years in blood

The museum costs about $2USD to get in and we spent around 2 hours looking around the prison.  It is amazing sight and much like the Killing Fields, the place was eerily silent, even though there were many visitors walking around the complex.  The cells in which the prisoners were contained were tiny.  About 8 foot high, 3 foot wide and 7 foot long.  Awful conditions.  As you walk around, you can still see the dried bloodstains on the floor from the prisoners - this is because when it was captured by Vietnamese forces, they contained the area and it was kept exactly how it remains - in state.

Blood-stained floor

Again, it's hard to image that what happened here occured in the same generation of my parents.  You feel like your visiting somewhere which is hundreds of years old beacause it so hard to comprehend that something like this went on so recently - and i'm sure, somewhere in the world, something like this is sadly going on today.

Life of Torture

~ Adam

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