Published: July 14th 2012July 14th 2012
Tuol Seng Genocide Museum was firstly a secondary school in the capital of Phnom Penh before it became an Education Centre for the torturing and killing of Cambodian people who were caught up in the internal conflicts of their country with this genocide perpetrated by Pol Pot and his leaders.
The centre was surrounded by a double wall of corrugated iron and on the top densely rolled barbed wire that was electrified during the war. The rooms in the school were turned into cells with the VIP prisons having half a room each and the other prisoners living in 16 cells per room for the men and smaller cells for the women on the second floor. Other rooms were used for people of less importance and all were expected to sleep on the floor in an open space.
Thousands of peasants, workers, technicians, engineers, doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers, Buddhist monks, soldiers, politicians, foreigners and anyone who might be a threat to the Pol Pot regime, were bought here and housed for short periods of time for questioning and torture before being exterminated at the killing fields along with their husbands, wives and children. Here they were expected to dob
in their neighbours, friends and relatives.
Many families that survived realised early on that they needed to separate themselves from their children and sent them to live in children’s camps away from their homes, sometimes never to be seen again. The soldiers visited the villages and took into custody anyone that wore glasses, had soft hands or and had light skin, sure signs that they were not agricultural workers and a death sentence was the only outcome.
The methods of torture were as you might imagine. Victims had chains around their ankles, and an ammunition can for excretions. This was emptied once a fortnight and if it spilled on the floor the victims were forced to lick it up with their tongues. For other crimes like talking they hung them from gallows upside down and dropped them into a fetid pot of fluid, where they were held long enough for some of them to die. The other two pictures also tell the story of torture methods, but included in this was skin peeling, nails being pulled out and starvation. Of course women were raped repeatedly with some taking their own lives, but that was stopped by stricter boundaries
and more barbed wire.
There is a lot of evidence that proved what Pol Pot was doing. In particular there were seven male survivors who have been able to tell their stories. At the fall of the Education Centre, weapons of torture, photos of victims and their clothing and belongings were found as well as tortured and maimed corpses found in the VIP rooms and photos of the soldiers. Some had limbs missing, gallbladders cut out, skin peeled off, and heads smashed in. The gallbladders were also removed from many victims and exported to China for medicinal purposes. None of the atrocities involved bullets as they were considered too expensive to use on killing the people but instead they were beaten and hacked to death with saws, bamboo sticks, choppers etc., and attacked around their heads, neck and back mostly.
There was evidence of burials having taken place here too, but most people were taken out to another place about 15 kilometres from this, the biggest Education Centre of which there were dozens of, and transported by truck with the belief that they were being rehoused, given a job or reunited with family to encourage them to want
Once there they were blindfolded, hands tied behind their backs and pushed off the trucks. They were led to ditches already prepared and executed and thrown into the ditch. To ensure they were dead, the soldiers sprinkled chemicals on the graves. They managed to kill about 30 and up to 100 people per day.
One must wonder if the women had it harder. There is an excavated grave with many women in it. They were all naked, whereas most other skeletons showed that they were executed with clothing on. The babies were killed first by bashing them against a tree next to the burial spot and after they had watched the brutal killing of their babies they were then killed too. To ensure they were not heard in the neighbouring countryside, they placed a large speaker device in the top of the “magic” tree and played music from it as they killed the people.
This extermination of the Cambodian people went on until just before the end of the war that lasted five years. Pol Pot died several years ago after being under house arrest for many years. People from this war are still being
tried today or are under house arrest or unbelievably are now a part of the current government in high places, so politically the country is still not safe for many people. Pol Pot soldiers work for the government now and work along the Cambodian and Thailand borders.
The population of Cambodia currently has a very high percentage of women and children with many extended families wiped out and many other families with sad stories of fighting and defying death. The sadness is that Cambodian did this to Cambodian. There are stories of sons killing parents and other relatives.
When Pol Pot took over Phnom Penh he requested that all the citizens attend a meeting to hear how things were going to go. At these meetings in the city they asked for everyone to leave the capital city immediately for three days and to leave possession behind and then got the people to attend further meetings while they ransacked houses and buildings in the city At these meetings they rounded up the intellectuals or people that might oppose Pol Pot and took them away to be never seen again. No one was encouraged to return to the city and
for the years of the war it was very much a ghost town. Pol Pot wanted all people to be agriculturalists and all free Cambodians especially children were used as child labour being fed two times a day a meagre gruel made of rice but little rice itself. To steal food was the death penalty if caught.
The trip to the killing fields and the visit to the stupor where many of the skulls and bones are housed was just too much. I found myself standing on the steps sobbing my heart out with the latent grief experienced by the same race of people; the soldiers who did what they did out of fear and the victims’ family members who survived the atrocities. The lost childhoods’ and the children without parents or extended family and the ones that never came home still haunt the people today. Due to their belief the buried dead will not be able to go to the spirit word easily, but linger in this world instead. Just too much.
After arriving back at the hotel I tried to work on the blog from yesterday. I had to reflect on the visit to the genocide
museum and the killing fields before I could think about putting this blog together.
The afternoon was an opportunity to visit some of Phnom Penh and the markets although it rained heaps and was hard to move around the town as there was flooding in many places. The tuktuks were only a couple of dollars to use each way and that helped as well as using the umbrella.
Everything is amazingly cheap. Garry, a friend I met up with in Phnom Penh has decided to stay here for a month and his rent is $100.00 per month. Food is really cheap as is clothes and jewellery, actually everything is very inexpensive. Garry has been travelling all around Asia and he has liked Vietnam the most so I am looking forward to seeing it. We had tea together and then went off to his part of town to find a pool table and enjoyed a couple of hours playing pool and I even managed to win a game. We also met up with a young couple from Katikati who arrived in town too and we were all able to share our experiences.
The evening ended with a lovely
massage next door to the hotel and then sleep. The massage cost $7US. Amazing eh!
We are off to Vietnam in the morning.
There are more photos below