Gloomy in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh Travel Blog› entry 134 of 174 › view all entries
January 26th, 2010 – by: domnicella
I had two goals for Phnom Penh: tour Tuol Sleng prison and check out the palace. We were told the palace was closed until 2pm, which was later contradicted by another source saying of course it was open in the morning, it was open every morning. Of course by the time we heard this it was well into the afternoon and we were on our way to Tuol Sleng. Whatever the hell the story is with the palace's hours, we missed it.
Before the Khmer Rouge era, Tuol Sleng was a school just like any other school. During the Khmer Rouge reign, Tuol Sleng was transformed into a prison where thousands upon thousands of Cambodians were brought to be held for weeks on end, questioned, starved, and tortured. If you were taken to Tuol Sleng you didn't make it out alive. (For all the thousands of people imprisoned in this place, only seven survived. SEVEN. And those seven escaped their death on the killing fields once escorted out of the city; no one ever escaped the prison itself.) It's a horrible place. Horrible.
To put things into perspective, the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge far outweighs the genocide committed by Hitler. It's a fact that is often touted to help nail home the WHAMMO factor for westerners. More than Hitler? Come again? The Khmer Rouge directly (imprisonment, torture, bludgeoning to death) and indirectly (nationwide starvation) killed upwards of three million people. And Cambodia is how big? Try to wrap your mind around that. The nation was nearly obliterated.
Please be warned, the photos are not pleasant. It's not a place I enjoyed photographing, but felt compelled to do so. I didn't vomit or faint or even cry, but I hated every second I was there. It is a horrible, horrible place. I don't want to ever go back.
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