The Killing Fields and S21 Prison Museum


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A place of enormous and eternal sorrow

Ian and I had been to Perm-36 in 2010. Perm-36 was a Russian prison camp where political prisoners were held. To visit a place such as that really affected us both in a big way. It was a place of extreme sorrow. However, the Killing Fields we visited in Cambodia were worse (in my opinion) than even Perm-36. It took your breath away in its awfulness.


Khmer Rouge - The Killing Fields

Learn about the atrocities in Cambodia - Information and references


The Killing Fields Memorial buildingMemorial building at the Killing Fields



Whether by execution, starvation or disease, the Khmer Rouge and its policies were responsible for almost a quarter of Cambodia's population perishing in the 1970's.

We solemnly walked through some of the grounds of the Killing Fields with our guide So Pohl. His family had been massively affected by the regime. He lost siblings. His Mum was one of eight children and she was the only one of the eight to survive. The tales he told us were immensely horrifying and our hearts bled for him.

These photos will tell a very small part of the story.




Skulls at the memorialSkulls and other bones on display at the memorial


Speakers woudl hang from this tree and blare out music so loud that others coudl not here the exections taking placeSpeakers once hung from this tree and music was turned up very loud so the cries of those being executed could not be heard


Tree used for killing childrenApparently children were grabbed by the ankles and swung up against this tree until they died


Mass graveMass grave for those whose heads had been removed


A place of silence

For the first time on our cruise our group stayed silent. There was no chatter. Most folk didn't take photos out of respect. I took them so that I might never forget what I had seen or heard. I also took them to display here on this website so that readers will understand a little about what went on back in the 70's in Cambodia.

I feel physically sick writing these words. It was a most awful place. It just shows how easy it was to commit genocide even in such recent decades. It really does beggar belief that such a crime could have happened.

Where was the United Nations when this took place? Why weren't we all jumping up and down with outrage? We travelled on to S21 Prison.



Prison rules at S 21Prison rules

Security Prison 21 Museum

The official title of this dreadful place is Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

It was hard to believe this building was, until 1976, a school. The Khmer Rouge "needed" it as a prison, torture chamber and place of execution. The Khmer Rouge established at least 150 execution centres.

Over seventeen thousand people entered this particular prison and it is believed that only seven survived to leave it.

Take a look at the Security Regulations in the photograph to the right.

The ground floor classrooms in one building have been left exactly as they were in 1977. Shackles are in evidence on the bed in the photos. some prisoners were shackled to the concrete walls or floors and some to iron bars.

Prisoners lived in inhumane conditions. They were hosed down once every four days and fed a tiny amount of rice gruel each day. They were often forced to eat human faeces and drink human urine. Water was very much rationed and taking it without permission resulted in severe punishment.

One form of torture involved being bled to death to see just how long a prisoner could survive and another was being skinned alive.





S21 Prison cellPrison cells were spartan
Photo of child survivors at S21Photo of child survivors at S21



Photographs of prisoners

As each prisoner arrived at S21 he/she was photographed. We saw a massive area of walls where these photos were hung. It was heartbreaking to see the looks on the prisoners faces - each one knowing full well their fate. It was absolutely harrowing and so haunting.


S-21 Museum - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Information on the prison - Wikipedia page

Before we left the museum grounds we passed an older man sitting at a desk under a tree with books in front of him on a small table. He was a survivor of the prison camp. His imprisonment and story are detailed in his book. We didn't buy his book. We couldn't bear to learn any more about this awful place. It was heart breaking enough already.

What a terribly sad and memorable excursions we've had today.

After dinner back on board the Adventurer, we decided to go onshore and check out the night markets which were really close to the wharf. There were masses of clothes for sale along with watches and jewellry.


Next page: A day unwinding on board