Thursday, April 12, 2012

Holiday In Cambodia: Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum / S21 Prison

I remember my dad used to tell me stories about leaders like Pol Pot, Mao Zedong and also Idi Amin when I was a kid, maybe thats one of the reasons why I love Dead Kennedys' "Holiday In Cambodia" when I first heard the song. I always told myself that someday I gotta go to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, and finally I did. I spent 4 days in Phnom Penh, it was not for vacation anyway. I came there to work on a project, "company stuffs" if you know what I mean. So after I make sure all my work has done, I decided to go to the museum on Friday (April 6th) by myself - my friends were going to visit another place. I left my hotel around 10.30 am, and arrived there around 11 am. The trip took about half an hour by Tuktuk (a traditional transportation), its not as far as you think since there's a regulation in Cambodia not to drive fast (below 40km/h for cars, and below 30km/h for motorcycles). You need to pay $2 admission (US Dollar) to enter the museum, every visitor got a photocopied brochure. The horrors started as you walk into the area, you can feel the eerie atmosphere on this place.


The museum formerly was a high school with 4 buildings - each has 3 floors (which was used as Security Prison 21 / S-21 by Khmer Rouge), the place that once was known as hell on earth. Well I'm not good in explaining, according to Wikipedia that "the site has four main buildings, known as Building A, B, C, and D. Building A holds the large cells in which the bodies of the last victims were discovered. Building B holds galleries of photographs. Building C holds the rooms sub-divided into small cells for prisoners. Building D holds other memorabilia including instruments of torture". Although I dont understand Khmer language, but I assume there's a sign for visitors not to laugh on this place (well anyway, there's nothing funny about this museum at all). The feeling of uncomfortable and intimated started as I walked into building A, and I'm not joking about this. I often caught myself being in one floor alone - since the visitors mainly following the tour guide while I didnt, thats when the feeling just getting worse...seriously. As the previous explanation from Wikipedia, building B used as galleries of photographs. You can see pictures of the Khmer Rouge cadres and leaders also the prisoners here, the faces of the prisoners looks very afraid..what a sad imagery. While building C has small cells for prisoners, the building also one of the most uncomfortable place here in my opinion.

One of the most interesting place is building D which displays instruments of torture, skulls of victims and also paintings by one of the survivors Vann Nath (see more of his paintings here to get the idea of how the prisoners tortured). From what I read, the tortures include skinning alive, waterboarding, forced to eat human feces and drink human urine, cutting with knives, pulling out fingernails while pouring alcohol on the wounds, and other horrible things. I left the museum around 1 pm, there was a mix of sad and uncomfortable yet excited feelings as I walked out the building. Excited as one of my dreams came true, sad as I already heard about the story before, and uncomfortable as the aura of the place was really negative. I cant erase the image of a lady holding her baby from my head, she looks terrified and sad. Definitely not a place for "a nice visit", but if you ever decided to go to Cambodia (and if you love history just like me) I would recommend you to go to this museum. I took some pictures with my digicam and my cellphone, check out more images below. Sorry for the poor image quality.

For more info about Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum:
- From Wikipedia
- Tuol Sleng website


  1. man, awesome trip! lady with the baby is inspiring to make some raw digital apocalypse, haha and also vann nath! though cannibal corpse must have one of his painting for their merchandise, ^) will going to visit this terrific horror place someday.

    good luck!

    1. Thanks man! Yeah 'twas a great experience indeed, you should go there if you ever decided to go to Cambodia. Goodluck with you too, Abomination Imagery rules!

      P.S: Looking forward to see your 'tribute' to this haha!