Today I visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum lit translation: "Hill of the Poisonous Trees" or "Strychnine Hill". Located in Phnom Penh, the site is a former secondary school which was used as Security Prison 21 by the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 until its fall in 1979. From 1976 to 1979, an estimated 20,000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng and it was one of between 150 and 196 torture and execution centres established by the Khmer Rouge and the secret police known as the Santebal (literally "keeper of peace").
From 1976 to 1979, an estimated 20,000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng (the real number is unknown). At any one time, the prison held between 1,000 and 1,500 prisoners. They were repeatedly tortured and coerced into naming family members and close associates, who were in turn arrested, tortured and killed.
As with Mao Zedong's "Long March" where in 1934 only 8000 soldiers survived out of a 65,000 force and the 1994 Rwanda massacre where there were a reported 800,000 Tutsi deaths, this genocide perpetrated between 1974 and 1979 by Pol Pot and the Khymer Rouge was more than 2 million. Who was this young lad, maybe at school, a young student, dragged to S21 to be tortured and killed simply he was named by someone else, maybe he was educated, wore glasses and forced to make false testimony about his own family and friends so they would receive the same fate.
These unbelievable situations happened in living memory and there are a few survivors left. I met Chum Mey who sold me a copy of his book.
"I am Chum Mey and I am one of the few survivors of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum"
And so I continued my ride across the flat landscape of Cambodia. Here at a roundabout is without doubt the strangest sculpture I have ever seen to grace a highway intersection. I'm not exactly sure what it is.
And dinner for me was in the same spirit as the roundabout; snot, rats eyes and something else but it tasted alright.
Map of the Day