Sadly, the most popular and highlighted segment in Cambodia’s history is neither a national achievement nor historical feat: it is the horrendous, inhumane regime of the Khmer Rouge and its supreme leader, Pol Pot. This group executed millions of innocent Cambodians, including their own relatives, friends, and neighbors, including women, the elderly and children. Many of their gory and bloody acts against humanity are too vicious to even mention. Today, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is an eerie reminder of this dark history not only of Cambodia but of all humanity. Tuol Sleng in Khmer means “Hill of the Poisonous Trees”. The museum stands today so that the bloody acts of yesteryears should never happen again.
Below is a brief historical account on how the museum came about.
The facility that is now the Genocide Museum was originally a high school, the Chao Ponhea Yat High School. In August 1975, four months after Khmer Rouge took control of Phnom Penh, the school was converted into a prison and interrogation center. It was called S-21 or Security Prison 21. After a short time, the buildings lost all semblances of what it used to be – a place where children received education – into a place of torture and death. Classrooms were converted into tight prison cells and torture chambers, the school perimeter was enclosed with electrified barbed wire, and the windows were fortified with iron bars plus more barbed wires. [Read more…]