Visiting the S21 prison and Killing Fields

Cambodia is an amazing country rich in culture and history. You probably know it because of the ancient city of Angkor, the largest religious site in the world. Despite that Cambodia is an impressive country, they have been through some horrific events not so long ago. With a visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21 Prison) and Choeung EK Killing Fields (The Killing Fields) we learned a lot of those events. Usually we don’t like visiting places like this, but we are glad we did and hope to make as much people as possible aware of what happened during the Khmer Rouge regime so it will not happen again.

While writing this article we immediately feel the same vibe that we felt when visiting both sites. It still gives us goosebumps when we think about what happened.

 
Tuol Sleng in the center of Phnom Penh

Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian Genocide

During the Khmer Rouge regime that lasted from 1975 till 1979, anyone with an education was a threat. Almost everyone that matched the descriptions and a lot of other innocent people were arrested, tortured and executed by Pol Pot and his followers. It was Pol Pot his mission to create a country that was built on an agrarian society.

Under the Khmer rouge they divided people in two categories. The ‘old people’ usually farmers and working-class citizens. And the ‘new people’ educated people like doctors and teachers. The ‘new people’ were arrested for having an education, speaking a different language or because they were wearing glasses.

The estimated number of victims are between 1.5 and 3 million people, thats a quarter of Cambodia’s population. And if we tell you that this was done in only four years you instantly know why this is one of the most horrific genocides in history.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21 Prison)

The Tuol Sleng Museum also known as ‘the Genocide Museum’ is a former secondary school and was used as Security Prison S21 by the Khmer Rouge regime. The prisoners were forced to confess their sins although they didn’t do anything wrong. Approximately 20,000 innocent Cambodian people were held prison and were sended to Choeung Ek afterwards to get executed.

Price: $6 USD + audio guide tour.

Opening hours: 7AM - 5.30PM

Website


When you enter the museum you see the 10 rules that were used in the S21 Prison.

  1. You must answer accordingly to my question. Don't turn them away.

  2. Don't try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that, you are strictly prohibited to contest me.

  3. Don't be a fool for you are a chap who dare to thwart the revolution.

  4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.

  5. Don't tell me either about your immoralities or the essence of the revolution.

  6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.

  7. Do nothing, sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.

  8. Don't make pretext about Kampuchea Krom in order to hide your secret or traitor.

  9. If you don't follow all the above rules, you shall get many lashes of electric wire.

  10. If you disobey any point of my regulations you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric discharge.

The memorial pagoda with 9,000 skulls of the victims killed at Choeung Ek

Choeung EK Killing Fields (The Killing Fields)

You can find around 300 Killing fields spread throughout Cambodia. But just outside Phnom Penh you will find the notorious Choeung EK Killing Fields. In the middle of the field you will find a tall memorial pagoda with 9,000 skulls of the victims killed at Choeung Ek. When you walk around the site you have a more serene atmosphere then at the S21 prison, but when you listen to the stories on the audio guide it is still horrific. One story told us about the triumphant Cambodian music that was played while the executions were held. They did this to avoid that the surrounded people would be suspicious of what really happened. It sounded like they were having communist meetings and where having a party afterwards. But in reality they were executing innocent people while trying to hide the sound of the screaming.

Price: $6 USD + audio guide tour.

Opening hours: 8AM - 5PM

Although the experience can be really shocking, we recommend you to follow the audio tour.


We can’t give you any advice on how to prepare yourself for what you are going to see or experience. We also think that we can’t describe how horrific this event was. So we chose to give an impression of our photo serie combined with some quotes of Pol Pot.


photo serie

S21 prison and the Killing fields

 
One of the beds in the S21 prison
 
To kill the grass you must also remove the root

— Pol Pot
 
Barbed wire on the outside of the Tuol Sleng prison
 
Better to kill an innocent by mistake
than spare an enemy by mistake.
— Pol Pot
 
 
It’s up to history to judge.
— Pol Pot
 

It still leaves us speechless what happened to all those innocent people…

When you visit Cambodia, you still see and feel the impact the Khmer Rouge regime left behind.

 

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Visiting the S21 prison and the Killing fields
 

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