Asia for Visitors

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Toul Sleng Genocide Museum

The deceptively sedate buildings of Toul Sleng
A few people have graves at Toul Sleng, and many come to visit
A bed to which torture vistims were chained for interrogation
Photo on display of one of the victims of Toul Sleng when he was found
Some of the thousands of photographs of Toul Sleng's vistims
Being a child didn't preclude you from being an enemy of the state
A section of the buildings showing the barbed wire that turned a high school into a prison
Some of the makeshift cells of the prison
Interrogation Cell
One of the interrogation cells in Building 'A'

The prison officially known as "S-21" was established by the Khmer Rouge regime at the Toul Svay Prey High School in Phnom Penh in May 1976. The classrooms were converted to prison cells with barred windows, while the open-air halls were covered with barbed wire to prevent escapes. Small individual cells were just large enough to hold one person, who was chained to the floor. People were held in large groups on the upper floors, chained to long iron bars.

People suspected of being against the Khmer Rouge government ("anti-angkar") as well as people believed to be educated or high-born were sent to S-21 for interrogation and ultimate execution. In all, estimates put the number of men, women and children killed at around 12,000. The KR were equally ruthless in documenting their atrocities. Every prisoner was photographed on arriving at the prison.

It's these pictures, hundreds of them, that form the bulk of the poignant exhibits. Room after room are filled with display boards covered with black and white photographs of numbered prisoners. When the Vietnamese captured the prison in January 1979, they found just seven prisoners alive and several others who recently died chained to the iron beds in the interrogation rooms. The graves of these poor souls can be seen in the courtyard in front of the buildings.

Once you get past the pictures, there are even more chilling things on display. One of the final rooms you pass through is a very real torture chamber, where some of the devices used to coerce confessions out of prisoners are shown and explained in far too much detail. Along side these is a case of skulls found in the mass graves operated by Section 21.

Hours and Admission Fees

The museum is open every day from 8:00 to 17:00. Admission is US$2, paid at the booth just inside the gate.