S21 Prison - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
After seeing the killing fields, we went across town to visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was infamously known during the Khmer Rouge genocide as Security Prison 21, or S-21 for short. In Khmer Tuol Sleng literally translates "Hill of the Poisonous Trees" or "Strychnine Hill". The site, one of 150 execution centers in the country, was ironically home to a high school before Pol Pot began his crazed vision of a communist utopia to Cambodia. Much like the Choeung Ek Killing Field Memorial, you're given an audio guide to help you along the tour of the museum. At the entrance of the Museum lies a marker along with 13 graves. At the end of the Pol Pot regime most of the evidence was burned and remaining prisoners moved and executed. The 13 graves represent the 13 individuals found dead at S-21 and left there by the retreating Khmer Rouge soldiers. Many of the victims that spent time at the prison for interrogation were taken to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields for their execution. Many of the prisoners there also succumbed to death after the hideous torture and interrogation techniques used by the Khmer Rouge. S-21 was a house of horrors. Hearing stories of what prisoners went through during their stay there sickening and saddening all at once.
Of all the people who made their way through S-21, only seven survived to tell their stories. We had the honor of meeting one of these survivors - an artist by the name of Bou Meng. Meng was able to survive because of his skill as a painter. Like every megalomaniac, Pol Pot was obsessed with himself. Because of this obsession he forced Bou Meng to paint portraits of him. Meng did so and survived his time in S-21. His wife on the other hand did not. In later years Meng paintings depicted his tortures and ordeals he suffered while at S-21. His paintings that adorn the walls of the prison look as if they are straight out of a horror movie.
Looking for an excellent read? You can pick up a copy of Bou Meng's book for yourself right HERE.