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.