One of the most daunting I've done in my life is walk through the Tuol Sleng torture chamber
and the killing fields in Cambodia. The only other thing that compares would be Dachau
concentration camp in Munch, Germany. Both countries endured great loss at such a high
number. When you walk through these places, you can feel the darkness to them all,
the fear of those who never came out of these places, sometimes the smell leaks out of the
walls and grounds, and disturbingly enough...bones & clothing are still washing up under your
feet at the killing fields in Cambodia as you walk the guided path.
If you don't have any background on the Khmer Rouge and have some time, we always suggest
the movie "The Killing Fields" and/or picking up some books to learn more. Below are
only a few photos and explanations to help you understand the mass genocide and what
those who survived, had to live through. I work with a woman who lost her newly wedded
husband (at the time) at the Tuol Sleng torture chamber, her family, and even her unborn
child due to the conditions she had to work through for many years. She SURVIVED. I just
stand in awe when she lets me in on that part of her history. I also stand in awe wondering,
how did she even make it out?
Here's your Friday history lesson...from our Cambodia travels to home,
take a peek at what the Cambodians had to endure:
Back in 1975, The Khmer Rouge took over Phnom Penh in order to implement a new way of life.
By doing so, Pol Pot and his regime killed all those who had an education, glasses, could speak a foreign language, or anybody who was or was connected with wealth or any sort of knowledge.
Those who were left were required to work 15-20 hours/day, typically with very few short
breaks...if any at all. They worked in some of the worst conditions we could all ever even think.
The meals, well, if you even want to consider it a meal...they received a tiny portion of a
few pieces of rice watered down in a small bowl. If you survived, again, I'm not sure how you
Prior to the Khmer Rouge, Tuol Sleng torture chamber had been a place for kids to gather each
day. It was comprised of several buildings such as the one above to make a primary & high school
for the kids in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Pol Pot and his terrible gang used TS to kill nearly
20,000 people...all by torture & interrogation.
Blood stains remain all over the walls and floors of each room from year after year of the torture.
Metal beds the Cambodian people were tied to as the Khmer Rouge tortured them
and watched some of them slowly die. I've decided to hold off on sharing
a photo we have of various ways they were tortured and bodies that lay dead
in these metal beds. It is quite disturbing to even think about, let alone see.
Barbwire was mainly placed throughout the buildings as the Khmer Rouge did not
want the Cambodian people to have a chance at committing suicide themselves.
They, of course, wanted them to suffer through their death...nothing quick about it.
They kept track of each and every individual that arrived to this awful place. Each person was
photographed, interrogated, and had to write down what they could about themselves
and their family. It was one of the only ways some people knew their family member (both
women and men, old and young) had died after the Pol Pot Regime had fallen in the late 70s...
by this terrible torture chamber. Otherwise, there are still ads in the newspaper and along
the streets for families who are still looking for a family member.
This area of the the building were where individuals were held in small spaces made of brick.
A bucket may or may not have been there for those to defecate in, most likely had no food,
and sat alone hearing those moans and groans from their neighbors. They were usually
tied to a metal pole and only few had ways to see the outside world.
Death after death...they suffered, were tortured, and eventually never made it out of this
Khmer Rouge hell.
Pol Pot himself, such a dark, awful man. Of all those who ruled during the Khmer Rouge,
only ONE...yes just ONE...confessed to being a part of this. And the other sad thing,
Pol Pot died before he was charged of his convictions. The rest lived their lives until
the late 1990s before they were convicted. That's 20+ years since the time they killed off
1/4 of their population!
Looking out of the building you can see to the bottom left, large pots and an arch made for torturing individuals by hanging them for some time and placing their heads in the water filled pots..and to the right, grave sites for those who were for the last bodies found here at Tuol Sleng...
It's a no wonder why some Cambodians fear becoming knowledgable or having more money
by means of working. The Cambodian people have come a long way in the 30+ years (which is so crazy to even think it was not long ago and that most of us had no idea what was happening on the inside of the border of that country), but there is so much more ruling to overcome in the future.
THE KILLING FIELDS
A way of remembrance for those who visit...leave a bracelet around the fenced areas where
many of the bodies were found.
Over time the grounds have shifted, but as you look throughout you can see the large holes
that were dug out to place body after body over the top of each other. This is how it
became known as the killing field. An unbelievable amount of people were brought here by
truck, dropped off thinking they may have a chance of survival, listened to loud music (although
it was used to drown out the screams and yells of death), and worked hour after hour, day after
day...that was if they even survived the working conditions. And trust those who survived,
you did not want to go to your knees to show any weakness nor did you talk back...or else you
would never make it.
They used this tree to bash baby's heads against it time after time to torture and
eventually kill the babies and children.
Please read the above sign in the photo to learn more.
Things that are being washed up over time after various downpours and storms...
clothes, means of torture, and of course....bones
This memorial now stands for all those lives that were lost in another place of hell.
They are still collecting the skulls as they wash up
In remembrance of all those who lost their lives during the terrible
Khmer Rouge. We now know, understand the history, but will never understand
what you all went through individually.
So pick up a book, ask a Cambodian family of their struggle during this time,
and learn about what went on during this time.