© Bartay | All Rights Reserved

Toul Sleng (S-21), Kampouchea

Trying to learn and understand some of the many wars that have gone on in Cambodia just over the last 60 years, I’m finding it’s extremely complicated. My first disclaimer is I am no historian and I am only at the beginning of under- standing the many smaller wars that made up Cambodia’s larger civil war. Please bare that in mind and ‘consider the source’ while I ‘try’ to give you a very short timeline of today’s post.

Cambodia’s civil war started and overlapped the end of the second Indochina War, which we in the west know as the Vietnam War. The civil war is roughly considered to have started around 1970 with a coup of the government, which I alluded to in the previous post when King Norodom Sihanouk was overthrown. Then when the U.S. pulled out of the Vietnam War in 1975, that left a vacuum where the Khmer Rouge was able to gain control, with Pol Pot as their leader. Pol Pot reigned from 1975 to 1979 until the Vietnamese came in and over threw the Khmer Rouge. Then they were in control of the country till the end of the civil war in about 1989, with the Paris Peace Accords. It’s been a struggling country ever since. It was during this time (1975—1989) that so many anti personal and anti tank mines were laid along the Cambodian border with Thailand, they are still killing over 200 people every year.

During the reign of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot, they called Cambodia the Democratic Kampouchea. Under Pol Pot’s rule and the Khmer Rouge’s socialism, people fled the cities to the country. Anyone with an education, wealth, had a professional background, were considered suspect, along with former government officials and later even Khmer Rouge high ranking leaders, who some say Pol Pot feared as possible coup leaders. Between political executions, forced labour, malnutrition, and starvation, it is estimated that 2+ million people died during the reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Roughly 25% of the population of Cambodia at the time.

During my travels here in Cambodia I’ve run into many places where the Khmer Rouge tortured and killed people. Such as the caves at Phnum Sampov just outside of Battambang, where there are memorials to all those taken inside the caves, tortured and killed. But the most famous is Toul Sleng (aka ‘S-21’) here in Phnom Penh. I read that an estimate of about 17,000 were imprisoned and tortured here in S-21 during it’s operation (1975–1979), forced to confess to the crimes they were arrested for. Then most all were taken the 15 km south of Phnom Penh to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek where they were killed and buried in mass graves.

I visited Toul Sleng the other day…

  ( All Blog Post Photos:  © Bartay )

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

A steel bed spring to be tied by leg irons and interrogated.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

They broke through the walls between classrooms to make one very long room. Then built very crude steel structure’s to reinforce brick walls to create small cells for detainment. These cells were approximately 4 ft x 6 ft.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Out in the exercise yard of the high school was a high bar. They had three long ropes hanging from it where they would hang prisoners upside down till they passed out. Underneath them were three large vases about 3 feet high filled with waste water, they used to water outdoor plants. They would lower the unconscious prisoners into the vases till they were shocked awake, so they could torture and interrogate them some more.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Even though the entire school was surrounded with double walls of corrugated iron and barb wire, they enclosed the individual buildings with barb wire to prevent prisoners from escaping and committing suicide.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Some of the exhumed mass graves at the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. With the dry season, wet season, and time, bone fragments are continuing to rise to the surface. It is now a memorial park with a stupa for the thousands that were killed in this one field alone.

.

.

.

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Cambodia.

3 Comments

  1. Kat February 17, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    I appreciate that you share and document the history of such horrid captivity of emigrants, innocents, and those slain, in Toul Sleng “schools” and prisons. Reminds me of Checkpoint C—and every bit as important for us to realize!

  2. Jennifer February 19, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    This is so chilling- how long does it take fora country to recover? Many generations, I would think….

  3. Maria Epes February 20, 2013 at 6:09 am #

    This is amazing to revisit this part of Cambodia’s history, remembering what we heard in the post Vietnam war era and realize how it still their present. I wonder when all of those mines will be gone. Thank you for the history too and putting it in context. Haunting photos.

Post a Reply to Jennifer

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*