blogged by: JC (@kingceejay)

This is a late post about my first trip to Cambodia on 1 July 2011. As the title suggests, you would not count this as a very nice memory.

The first time I heard about the Khmer Rouge I thought it was a joke. A friend had told me the Cambodians massacred all the intellectuals, even those who were wearing glasses because they looked learned or smart. Until I set foot in S21 museum, I didn’t realize how painful that part of their history was.

My travel buddy and I arrived at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former S-21 and in my own words, I’d call a concentration camp or torture facility-turned-museum at about 4pm. On the outside, it merely looked like an old school building. It had been, in fact a secondary school (later I learned) before it was used as interrogation cells. The ambiance was rather gloomy and quiet as if it were a cemetery. After paying a small amount at the entrance counter, we explored the area ourselves.

First sight: dark dilapidated room with a rusted bed. Rusted shackles with stains of blood were on the floor & a framed picture of a cadaver was mounted on the wall. The next four rooms where we went in looked similar, except the shackles were either bigger or smaller plus there were other sharp metals that looked like spear or handcuffs and others like shovels and axes. Almost every room or cell had an iron bucket or plastic water-container which was used to ‘dispose the prisoner’s body waste’. And there was the first floor- all full of gory images and creepy sights I would not lay my eyes on-that was Building “A”.

Curious as we were, we carried on exploring the whole facility. There was a graveyard next to the building. Fourteen tomb stones-one of them was of a female. According to the info board, the bodies of fourteen victims were discovered by the United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea, were the last people to be torturedย  by S-21 personnel before they fled.

Buildings ‘B”, “C”, & “D” were a bit different. In them we saw a pile of old clothes, presumably from the victims. I guess if you’ve watched “Schindler’s List” or any Holocaust movie, you’d see the picture I’m trying to paint. Also there were enumerable photos, mug shots and I’d captured some of them. The most moving one which I’d sometimes dream of was of a mother carrying a baby. Her occipital lobe was bored with a metal-I bet this was taken during an interrogation. There were also skulls and other bones you must have seen in your Biology or Anatomy class. The only difference is that some of them had fractures and smell of human agony and pain.

Walking balk to the gate, I noticed that the premises were surrounded with barbed wires. Before leaving the place, I said a little prayer for the souls-according to records: of twenty thousand people-and for healing of the Cambodians. That museum experience was unnerving. I can only pray it (genocide) never happens to any place in the world.

For more information of the museum, please check this site: http://www.tuolsleng.com