On Monday, we got a tough lesson in the history of Cambodia as we visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (aka S-21 Prison) and Choeung Ek (aka The Killing Fields) to learn about the tragic events that occurred in Phnom Penh during the 1975-1979 reign of the Khmer Rouge.
History as Recounted on the Choeung Ek Museum Website:
“On April 17, 1975, Phnom Penh fell under the control of the Khmer Rouge, the communist guerilla group led by Pol Pot. They forced all city residents into the countryside and to labor camps. During the three years, eight months, and 20 days of Pol Pot’s rule, Cambodia faced its darkest days, an estimated 2 million Cambodians or 30% of the country’s population died by starvation, torture or execution. Almost every Cambodian family has lost at least one relative during this most gruesome holocaust.
On January 7, 1979, Vietnamese invaded and freed the Cambodian people from Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror. 600,000 Cambodians fled to Thai border refugee camps. Fearful to return back to Cambodia, many Cambodians had no choice but to emigrate to the United States, France, or Australia…
S-21 was a high school when Pol Pot turned it into an important secret prison operated in Phnom Penh from mid-1975 through the end of 1978. Kaing Khek Iev (also known as Duch) was the governor of the Tuol Sleng detention center. Those that were brought to S-21 were those inside the Khmer Rouge, and thought to have betrayed the movement. The families of offenders were often brought to the prison as well in order to keep the deaths of their loved one from being avenged.
Almost all of the prisoners had worked in the armed forces, factories, or administration. Upon arrival at S-21, the prisoners were photographed, tortured until they confessed to whatever crimes their captors charged them with, and then executed in Choeung Ek or the Killing Fields.”
Walking through the halls of Tuol Sleng and the fields of Choeung Ek was a truly horrifying and humbling experience.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum & Choeung Ek
In attempts to leave the past behind us, we spent the day yesterday just exploring all that Phnom Penh has to offer today. We went for a walk along the riverfront and visited one of the several community movie houses to see “This is the End”.
We’re looking forward to the last leg of this amazing journey in our final destination country, Vietnam! 🙂
Amanda & Adam