- Irving Wallace
Tuol Sleng prison just outside of central Phnom Penh in Cambodia is one of the Phnom Penh attractions which one who is interested in learning more about the distressing history of this incredible country will want to see. S21 is another name for Tuol Sleng, which was a prison where the Khmer Rouge used to keep prisoners during their reign of power over the country. It was initially a school before it was taken over by Pol Pot's forces and used as a center for detention. More significant however is the fact that it was used to torture inmates to extract confessions or names of family or friend members, and where around 18000 (the exact figure is unknown) Cambodians were kept during a 4 year period between 1975-1979, during which time also an estimated 100 people a day were supposedly killed in the early part of 1975. What's more, the conditions were supposedly some of the worst imaginable with disease and other ailments being very rife, according to sources that have survived from the prison.
The prison was discovered and the world made aware of it's existence in 1979 when the Vietnamese invaders started to drive the Khmer Rouge out of the country and set it on it's path back to freedom. Nowadays it's a museum where visitors can experience the harrowing atmosphere of what was one of the most significant projects of the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot. It has however to a large extent been kept (except for important renovation) in the same state as it was discovered, particularly the buildings themselves and some of the contents of each rooms - including apparatus used for torture. Original photos of detainees now line the walls in some parts of the museum, as do skulls of some of those who lost their lives at Tuol Sleng.
ABOUTAsia advise caution before visiting this site as it may be disturbing for young children or anyone who may be easily shocked.
The entrance fee for the museum is US2. Children under 12 go free.
Tuol Sleng is open from 7.30am until 11am and also from 2pm until 5.30pm. We'd recommend at least an hour to look around all the museum.
Nearby are the Killing Fields and back ni the center of town are the Royal Palace, the National Market, the Russian Museum or Wat Phnom for example.
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