A warm welcome in a warm country, but cruel memories
Phnom Penh Travel Blog› entry 23 of 45 › view all entries
If thereâ€™s one place about Cambodia that will propably always remain in my memory, it wonâ€™t be Ankor Wat, it wonâ€™t be taking a boat over the Mekong, it wonâ€™t be the people being friendly, it will be Toul Sleng, aka S21, aka museum of genocide.
Thereâ€™s really no other place in Cambodia that left that big an impression on me. To be honest, I really had a hard evening after visiting this place.
The formal school is now a museum about the cruelty that took place in there years ago. Cruelty commited under the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. What originally used to be a school for children, changed into a prison where extreme rules were explained to be the security of regulations.
The second building took me to some prison cells. The first and second floor of the building were reserved for the isolation. Almost as expected, the people were locked up in inhumanly small cells, with their legs attached to the floor by chains.
The top floor of this second building was reserved for the imprisonment in group. This room is used as a room filled with anecdotes, these days. Anecdotes from relatives of former prisoners of Tuol Sleng. Anecdotes that tell stories about how people chose to join the Khmer Rouge, seeing it as their only way out of the miserable life they had, but in the end they ended up tortured and murdered in this â€śwhat once used to be a school for innocent childrenâ€ť.
At 10am and 3pm, a documentary is shown in the tv-room. A documentary that tells the story of two lovers living, and suffering apart under the Khmer Rouge regime, told by letters they wrote eachother that were found later. The most chocking part in the documentary, to me, was actually the part where they take a former guard back to the prison, together with an ex-prisoner. Both of them show a lot of respect for eachother, I think, but when I saw the guard telling a story how he didnâ€™t kill any people on the Killing Fields (which is a different story, but with the same bases), but just hit them on the head, so someone else could kill them, with a smile on his faceâ€¦I was astonished.
The former prisoner is a painter who made paintings showing the cruelty that took place in S21.
Not being a person that visits museums often, and most of the time I get out faster as I get in, this place really made me walk around for over three hours, but its impression sticked with me until this day on. The regulation that you couldnâ€™t scream during electrification or lashes even made the biggest impression on me. I donâ€™t know why, but the cruelty of the whole place is in that one sentence, to me.