After visiting The Killing Fields, next stop is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. It used to be Chao Ponhea Yat High School before it became the breeding ground of evil during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979. They renamed this place to Security Prison 21 (S-21).
Brace yourselves to see deformed victims of landmines asking for alms as you enter the complex. That is just the start of a depressing journey within the sprawling complex of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.
More than three decades have passed since the brutality of the Khmer Rouge but this place cannot mask the desolation and despair these walls have witnessed.
This place is not for those with weak hearts and queasy stomachs. But I urge you to toughen yourself up and brave this journey through. It is an experience you’re not likely to forget and regret. Ever.
You can hire a tour guide at the office located near the entrance so you can have a better grasp of the events but we opted to tour on our own.
I can’t remember how much exactly is the entrance fee; I think it’s between US$2.00-3.00. Part of it is for the upkeep of the museum and children’s education.
Upon getting your brochure at the entrance, start your journey to the left as this is where the first building is located.
In front of this building are the gallows and the regulations when a prisoner is brought in for questioning.
Prisoners who are brought in for questioning are photographed and ordered to write an autobiography from childhood until their arrest. There is a part of the museum where photographs are displayed. I was able to control my emotions until I came upon the display of the children’s photographs. That did it in. I was a mess after that.
Once the prisoners are done writing, they will be stripped for inspection and brought to a cell which tyically looks like this:
Building B houses several brick cells where prisoners use boxes for defecation and ammo bottles for urination.
On the third floor of Building B (I think), you can write a dedication or prayer to the victims and it’s so heartwarming to see unity amidst diversity in language.
Building C is fenced with braided barbed wires so that desperate prisoners cannot commit suicide.
There’s a souvenir shop beside Building C and I got myself a DVD of The Killing Fields movie and a documentary of the Khmer Rouge. The vendor is so pleasant, just like the ones we encountered at the Central Market, that we wanted to buy everything in his store.
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