A secret prison during the Democratic Kampuchea, Khmer Rouge period between 1975 and 1979. S-21 (Security Office 21) or Tuol Sleng was transformed from the Tuol Svay Prey High School, into a prison and became the most secret weapon of the Khmer Rouge.
Tuol Sleng consists of a number of buildings that were formally classrooms for primary and high school students
Each building was reworked into single cell, mass detention, and torture rooms. The shackles remain were they were left.
Of the 10,499 people accounted for, and meticulously photographed both on arrival and in various throws of near death or just plain corpses, as proof of their elimination, estimates are of an additional 2,000 children lost here.
Incarceration for the ordinary citizen, or until some or indeed any confession was beaten from their bodies, lasted from 2 to 4 months. Farmers, workers, teachers, students, intellectuals, engineers, technicians and many Khmer Rouge cadre accused of treason. Entire families including new born babies were exterminated. Political prisoners, ministers and diplomats, suffered a little longer but their fate too, was sealed upon arrival.
This was the killing machine in action.
In each cell a list was posted.
1. You must answer according to my questions. Do not turn them away.
2. Do not try to hide the facts by making pretexts of this and that. You are strictly prohibited to contest me.
3. Do not be a fool for you are a man who dares to thwart the revolution.
4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.
5. Do not tell me either about your immoralities or the revolution.
6. While receiving lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.
7. Do nothing. Sit still and wait for my orders.
If there are no orders, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something. You must do it right away without protesting.
8. Do not make pretexts about Kampuchea Krom in order to hide the jaw of a 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 electrical discharge.
Many of the guards at Tuol Sleng were children between the ages of ten and fifteen years old. Trained by their seniors, they proved exceptionally brutal and disrespectful, not only to child prisoners, but also to people much older than themselves. Many, must also still be alive today. In their forties or fifties, with families of their own. It is hard to imagine the guilt or the nightmares they suffer.
One thing is for sure. Each and every family in Cambodia today is touched by the darkness that the Khmer Rouge regime released upon them with a so far, unanswered question.
Why did Cambodians kill other Cambodians?
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum stands today as a memorial not only to commemorate the thousands of Cambodian citizens who died here at the hands of the Khmer Rouge but as a reminder, and an extremely relevant one at this time, of how inhumanity can overwhelm the most ordinary of people throughout the world.
Lets not forget the Laotian, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, British, American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealanders, and who also perished here in the darkest period of Cambodias recent history.