Phnom Penh is, unfortunately, best known as the center of the Cambodian genocide of the Khmer Rouge in 1975-79(precipitated by the destabilization caused by the abrupt American withdrawal from Vietnam and Cambodia in 1973). We will honor this history by visiting the Genocide Museum at Tuol Sleng Prison, otherwise known as S-21.
There were only 7 survivors from the prison, where over 14,000 were tortured before being transported to the fields outside town (known as the Killing Fields) then bludgeoned to death. We watched a movie where three of the survivors; two prisoners and a guard, described their experiences with the Khmer Rouge.
We walked through the dark rooms of the school, where rows of photographs give faces to the victim numbers. Whole families were imprisoned here, accused of being CIA or KGB by a neighbor, who was tortured to provide names. By the time the genocide was over, 25% of the Cambodian population had been executed.
The Khmer Rouge, like the Nazis, kept meticulous records of each prisoner. I will spare you, dear reader, from the photos of torture, starvation, and ultimate death, but they are on display here.
We we walked through the classrooms that were subdivided by rough brick and mortar into cells 18 inches wide where the prisoners were kept. In lieu of restrooms, the cells were hosed down occasionally.
Two of the prison survivors sit outside the displays, available to answer questions. They do not want the genocide to ever be forgotten.
After touring the museum, many go out to view the Killing Fields, but I had had enough for one hot day.