Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tuol Sleng - Pol Pot's house of horror

Even if they die many times over, it would not be enough." This is what a survivor of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime that plunged the country into its darkest era ever, said when two senior members of the regime were sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday, Aug 7, 2014, for crimes against humanity more than 30 years ago.

Naturally its scant justice, for Khieu Samphan is 83 and Nuon Chea, 88. Pol Pot the main leader of the Khmer Rouge died in the jungles of Cambodia in 1998. As I write this, many former Khmer Rouge commanders are still free and will likely never be brought to justice.

In 2009, I went to Siem Reap with a group of friends to view the iconic Angkor Wat. The initial plan was to spend four days and three nights in the tourist hub, but after some deliberation, we decided that a trip to Cambodia would not be complete without taking in all of its history, so we took a ferry to Phnom Penh to visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

I have never shared the photos from my visit to Tuol Sleng (Hill of the Poisonous Trees), a former high school which was turned into the notorious Security Prison 21 during the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror. In the aftermath of Thursday's sentencing, I decided to share it here on my blog because like many other like minded people out there, I believe the world should never forget what happened in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 during the reign of Pol Pot and his cohorts. 


 It is said that of the 14,000 plus people who entered Security Prison 21 or S-21, only seven were believed to have survived. When you look at the following photos, you will know why.


The entrance to Tuol Sleng, before you enter, you have the option of hiring a guide. Some of the guides who work here are survivors of the regime or are those who have been affected by it in some way, which gives an eerie depth to their narrative of what happened within the walls of this prison of terror.


Our guide, a calm and serene woman in her 30s, lost her whole family during the Khmer Rouge era. Her husband and only child are the only family she has. I wondered what it must be like for her, working in a place where her own family members were tortured and met their end.




A prisoner's bed.




Classroom were divided into brick-walled cells for the prisoners.


The view from one of the cells.


A chair used to photograph victims brought to S-21.


These instruments were used to make victims suffer a slow and painful death.


Implements of torture.


The Waterboard - prisoners legs were shackled to the bar on the right, their wrists were restrained to the brackets on the left and water was poured over their face using the watering can. 
Source: Wikipedia


A victim of torture.


Photos of Khmer Rouge victims.


Photos from the Khmer Rouge era.


Photos of female victims as seen through a window.


Photos of male victims.


A "skull map" of Cambodia.


Images from the "killing fields"


Cabinet filled with human skulls.


A macabre tribute to those who perished during those dark years - skulls in glass exhibits.


Even children were not spared from cruelty.


Scenes of torture.


More scenes of torture.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lashawn goes to the mall

When you're a guide dog in Malaysia, being able to walk into a mall and not get kicked out is a big deal indeed. Infact it is such an achievement that it would warrant some amount of media coverage which it did. Breakthrough for the blind as guide dog is allowed into mall


Lashawn however has been creating history ever since he landed in Malaysia. For starters this professionally trained Labrador is the first-ever guide dog for the visually impaired permitted into the country. Can you believe it? After all these years of economic progress, having the world's tallest building and what not, and we did not even have something as basic as trained guide dogs for the disabled.

Lashawn and his master Stevens Chan the CEO and founder of Dialogue in the Dark (DID) as well as Save Ones Sight Mission Bhd (SOS Mission) and Malaysia Glaucoma Society are out to change all that through the "Dogs for Sight" campaign.

DID (www.did.my) is committed to bridging the gap between the visually-impaired and mainstream society to facilitate social inclusion on a global basis as well as raise awareness and create acceptance, thereby overcoming barriers between the visually-impaired and the general public through its Dogs for Sight Campaign. 

More mall visits for Lashawn?

Lashawn and Chan's recent trip to the Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall is a part of the ongoing Dogs for Sight Campaign.

According to Sunway Pyramid senior marketing manager Loo Hoey Theen, the mall had guidelines for blind people with guide dogs.

“When they enter our mall, the concierge staff will approach them to offer assistance,” she said.

She said the mall allowed guide dogs into its compound but the owners must adhere to its standard operating procedure (SOP).

“We will first ask the owner if he or she wants to leave the dog outside,” she said.

“If so, our security personnel will look after the dog.

“However, if the owner requests that the dog remains at his or her side, our concierge staff and security personnel will escort them around.”

Loo said this was to avoid people from coming up to the dog and disturbing it.

This is certainly a start, and a step in the right direction by Sunway Pyramid. Hopefully other malls and premises will follow suit. 

Lashawn and other guide dogs for the visually impaired who will come into this country in the future should not be impeded in their work because of narrow minded views and a poor understanding of how guide dogs function. Because in denying them the right to perform the tasks that they are trained for, we are denying the disabled the right to lead independent lives.

This certainly won't be the last we hear of Lashawn - the country's pioneer guide dog for the visually impaired, who together with his master are out to break existing social taboos.


As a fellow blogger friend rightly pointed out, why are toy dogs who fit into handbags ok to be taken about in public but not guide dogs who perform a necessary function for their disabled masters. The former serves as an accessory and are pets, the latter are working dogs. Why the bias?

Sunway Pyramid senior marketing manager Loo Hoey Theen said the mall had guidelines for blind people with guide dogs.
“When they enter our mall, the concierge staff will approach them to offer assistance,” she said.
She said the mall allowed guide dogs into its compound but the owners must adhere to its standard operating procedure (SOP).
“We will first ask the owner if he or she wants to leave the dog outside,” she said.
“If so, our security personnel will look after the dog.
“However, if the owner requests that the dog remains at his or her side, our concierge staff and security personnel will escort them around.”
Loo said this was to avoid people from coming up to the dog and disturbing it.
“This SOP applies to anyone who has a guide dog,” she said.
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/breakthrough-for-visually-impaired-as-guide-dog-is-allowed-into-mall#sthash.mCNFocbm.dpuf

“Dogs for Sight” campaign.
“Dogs for Sight” campaign.