T he Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a museum in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979. Tuol Sleng means “Hill of the Poisonous Trees” or “Strychnine Hill”. Tuol Sleng was only one of at least 150 execution centers in the country, and as many as 20,000 prisoners there were later killed.

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was originally a high school and later became the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979. Tuol Sleng was one of at least 150 execution centers in the country, where an estimated 17,000-20,000 people were imprisoned and later killed. The prison is well known for the atrocities committed within its walls and its walls are “telling” the story both vividly and disturbingly.

Most prisoners at S-21 were held there for two to three months. Within days torture has begun and prisoners were made to confess to crimes they were charged with by their captors. Prisoners were routinely beaten and tortured with electric shocks, searing hot metal instruments and hanging, while women had their nipples ripped while being awake.

Chum Mey, imprisoned in 1977, is one of only seven known survivors of the Khmer Rouge imprisonment in the S-21 He survived two years of torture sustained by thoughts of his pregnant wife and unborn child. His life was spared due to his competence in machine repairing for Pol Pot’s soldiers.

Following the Vietnamese invasion a group of prisoners was marched at gunpoint by the fleeing Khmer Rouge jailers. It is by chance that he stumbled upon his wife and son, but that meeting ended abruptly as his captures murdered the two while he could hear his wife screaming for him to run away and his son crying.

Today, one can find Chum Mey at the prison telling the story of the prison, his life within its walls, and other prisoners’ tragedies.  It is his goal to continue fighting until justice is made and the story of torture is told to as many with the hope that history will not repeat itself in Cambodia or any other place.

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One Response to “Cambodia, Phnom Penh’s Prison 21- A Place of Horror” Subscribe

  1. Robert Schwartz January 23, 2015 at 11:13 pm #

    So sad; thanks for sharing the story and the images of hell on earth.

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