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Published: January 1st 2019
View over what was the school playground. The climbing equipment was used to torture inmates. The white blocks seen are memorials to the 14 people found tortured to death, chained to their beds when the Vietnamese liberated the prison.
This morning was very interesting but upsetting and somewhat depressing. After breakfast we got a ‘grab’ taxi to the genocide museum.
This museum is in the site of the old S21 prison, used by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. It was originally built as a high school and the plain buildings surrounded by houses in the middle of a city seem out of place with what occurred there.
We chose to get an audio guide which was well worth the extra cost.
The Khmer Rouge came into power by force in 1975. Initially most people were pleased the corrupt monarchy had been overthrown. Within hours the soldiers were ‘evacuating’ Phnom Penh and sending it’s inhabitants to work in the countryside instead. Families were split up and anyone who resisted killed.
Once in the countryside people were made to work in communal farms in very little food. Neither the Khmer Rouge nor the people from the cities knew how to farm so despite hard work the people starved.
Anyone who objected to the Khmer Rouge was seen as an enemy and killed. All intellectuals were killed - doctors, lawyers, teachers, people who wore glasses.
S21 was used as a prison
What the buildings looked like when used as S21
The barbed wire was to prevent suicide attempts
to get confessions from people so they could then be sent to the killing fields and executed. Most of them were tortured relentlessly until they wrote out the confession wanted. There were no trials. The conditions they were kept in were awful.
When the Vietnamese overthrew the Khmer Rogue only 7 prisoners who had been at S21 survived.
The museum has rooms full of the faces of prisoners and guards. So many are so young. It’s heartbreaking.
Most of the Khmer Rouge were never bought to justice. Many of the current government were involved. But then so was much of the population - you either joined or were killed.
From the museum we walked down the road a little way and found a lovely, air conditioned cafe & bakery for lunch. I was struggling with the heat a little bit after getting a large water bottle and sitting in the cool for a while I felt much better. Most places in Cambodia seem to offer free WiFi so we were able to order a ‘grab’ tuk tuk as well rather than fight with the hoards of tuk tuks charging tourist prices just outside the museum.
Of note we’ve been
Holes were knocked through what were classrooms so guards could see down the whole length of the building where prisoners were kept. You can see the wooden partitions used to make individual cells. On the floor above the partitions were brick
reliably informed that’s it’s easy to get a cheap Cambodian SIM card, we just never got round to it.
The tuk tuk took us to the Central Market. An undercover market selling pretty much anything you could want. The building it’s in was built by the French in the 1930s and has a huge central dome with 4 arms branching off it. It’s interesting architecture is worth a look at and we enjoyed seeing all the different things for sale, particularly weird fishes, pink eggs and all sorts of fruit & veg.
From the market we walked over to Phnom Wat. This pagoda is situated in pretty but small gardens surrounded by a main road. They charge tourists a $1 entry fee to get into the grounds. Inside the pagoda is covered in paintings of stories of Buddha.
Tired we retreated to an air conditioned cafe and enjoyed our first Christmas cake of the season - a chocolate log. After being sufficiently cooled and rehydrated we walked along the river front. Initially to look for somewhere reasonably priced to eat, but then just to watch the boats and enjoy the lights. The palace is beautifully lit up at
Pink eggs, meat and sleeping in your hammock.
night. The river front was full of people exercising and there are loads of stalls out selling things. It has a great atmosphere.
Well walked we ate and then headed back to our hotel.
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