Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cambodia 's Cruelest Prison - Tuol Sleng Detention Center




Tuol Sleng Detention CenterWe're to learn more from our failures, but seeing this failure both reminded me and re-asserted to me that nothing has changed. This site was once the brutal Tuol Sleng Detention Center, where thousands of citizens, including children and foreign tourists, were tortured and lost their lives.

Tuol Sleng, which was once a high school, was a somber stroll. I experienced a sense of peace because in essence, it is a graveyard. Souls are finally at rest after the horror, at peace. It is somber and existential. Visitors are respectful of one another, moved by how others have been treated.

Six Cambodian university students approached me as I was looking at broken skulls and torture instruments, and they asked me what I thought about the museum. I told them I thought it was terribly sad. I asked them if they had lost family, and their smiles dissolved. One of the girls pointed to the upper floor, where her aunt had died. They had all lost family, if not at Tuol Sleng, then at Cheoung Ek, or in the desolate countryside. The Khmer Rouge killed teachers, professors, doctors, anybody who worked for Lon Nol's government, anyone educated, and pushed the rest out of town. Over one-fifth of the population died. I read a book while I was there about a woman who lived through the horror and who now resides in the States. Her story talked of the deprivation, sickness, and starvation of the people. The remnants of this catastrophe still wander the country. I talked with the students for a while and they told me they'd like to practice their English. I told them to call me at my guesthouse and I'd be happy to have coffee with them.

The life expectancy in Cambodia is 59 years.


The older pictures show the forced relocation of the people of Phnom Penh to the countryside.

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