Dave in Thailand
Phnom Penh
- for the Cambodia TESOL (=CamTESOL) Conference, Feb 24-5 2007
Day 3, The Killing Fields and S-21

Well, one of the things anyone with an interest in history and trying to make a better world will be doing as we did, and taking a personal look at the historical legacy of Pol Pot and his short-lived but very deadly reign in Cambodia.

Under the Pol Pot regime, many people were declared enemies of the state and murdered, often being questioned and tortured before they were killed. There were torturing and killing places all over the country during the years of the Khmer Rouge terror, but the central torturing facility was Tuol Sleng, Security Prison S-21, formerly a high school, in Phnom Penh. We spent a couple of hours there one afternoon. the Tuol Sleng S-21 prison
looking down one ground floor area - looking down the outside of one of the corridors - these all used to be school rooms, but after Pol Pot took over -
- from the inside, with some of the tiny cells they used for individual prisoners waiting questioning -
looking down one ground floor corridor from inside
- and - one of the larger rooms on the second floor where most of the torturing was done -
torture room
- and a picture of what was on the bed when the Vietnamese invaded and drove Pol Pot out in 1979 - many of the rooms have similar pictures -
torture room picture

- a sign that was seen in various locations, a reminder that was not really necessary I think do not smile sign
- the 'gallows' where prisoners were tortured in various ways -
the S-21 gallows
- and finally some of the pictures of the slain prisoners - there were many wooden display stands and many, many pictures in the rooms throughout the buildings ....
pictures of the victims
more pictures of the victims

the road to the Killing Fields The whole country is still being re-built after the years of destruction, and even though the Choeung Ek Memorial (Choeung Ek was the name of the facility that came to be known as the Killing Fields) is only a few miles out of Phnom Penh, the last half of the trip was along this very dusty road. I wondered what it must have been like 30 years ago, in the middle of the night, blindfolded perhaps, perhaps only half conscious and in pain and terror ....

- the main Choeung Ek Memorial -
Choeung Ek Memorial (The Killing Fields)
- - the inside of the memorial is not fancy, just a tall column of shelf after shelf filled with human skulls, dug up from the fields that surround the central area where the administrative work was done -
- shelves of skulls skulls
- skulls skulls
- around the memorial from the killing fields

Well, there really isn't much to be said, in a short group of photos like this, but you can't help but wondering why so many people are willing to participate in horrors like this (Pol Pot may have been the instigator, but at the height of his power he had tens of thousands of accomplices obeying his orders to kill and torture, as did Hitler, as did Nixon as he bombed Cambodia and paved the way for Pol Pot, as did Torquemada and Madeline Albright and Attila and Caligula and a lengthy list throughout our history), and so many others are willing to stand by and let it happen, to others or themselves. It doesn't say much good about our species as a whole.

- you can find all the info you want on Pol Pot and the murderous days of the Khmer Rouge on the net - a couple of places to start:
Cambodian genocide, a short history
Tuol Sleng, Security Prison S-21
Pol Pot
- and a good film by John Pilger - Year Zero - the Silent Death of Cambodia

the other Phnom Penh pages in this little photo album are
Day 1, Arriving at Phnom Penh
Day 2, the CamTESOL conference
Days 4-6, touring around a bit

Other Dave in Thailand stuff:

Wien Tien
PSU AG Fair 2004
Loy Gratong at PSU 2004
Kuching 2004
Luang Prabang page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4

this site is mostly sort of a photo album for some friends and family, but if you have stumbled across it somehow on the net and want to contact me, you can write to siamdave at yahoo dot ca