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'Hard to Comprehend', Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21)

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Below is an excerpt from my travel blog. Cheers.


This eerie looking room is one of the holding and torture chambers in Tuol Sleng, used during the years 1975-1979 when the Khmer Rouge came to power. Tuol Sleng was a former high school before the years of the KR's regime but converted to a 're-education' center during Pol Pot's reign of terror. Most of the prisoners there were former KR cadre suspected of treason by the paranoid madmen who led the KR. Of the 20-30,000 persons imprisoned there, only 6 or 7 survived.


I think people are aware of the Khmer Rouge, but I think the genocide and the terrible acts toward mankind that took place during this time are often overshadowed by the more publicized Vietnam War. In short, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge came to power after a long civil war. Its attempt at 'social engineering' led to widespread famine which was prevalent throughout many of the communist regimes during that time. The Khmer Rouge believed urban life was a detriment to society. For instance, during the KR's time in power the city of Phnom Penh was completely evacuated and remained a ghost town during their reign. Everyone in Cambodia was reassigned to the countryside where they were expected to work on collective farms for the greater good. All produce and goods grown were to be given to the government where they would be rationed off. This, for the most part, is your classic communist revolution.


Where the Khmer Rouge differed from other communist states was the extent of the murder and mayhem done under the guise of social engineering. The KR sought to murder anyone who was thought to be involved in capitalist, free market activity. This included many scholars, urban dwellers, anyone with foreign contacts and even high ranking government officials. Tuol Sleng, shown above, was one of the centers for 're-education'. What it really served as was a place where the Khmer Rouge would practice its social cleansing, known to everyone else as genocide.


Horrible acts of torture and death were performed in these rooms. It still serves as a horrid reminder of the atrocious acts of the Khmer Rouge and of how a relatively few perverted paranoid maniacs can break down such a beautiful place and culture such as the Kingdom of Cambodia.

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Taken on June 18, 2010