The first memorial is a former school that was turned into a prison when schools were outlawed. The prison was called “S-21” or “Tuol Sleng” and it played a central role in the identification and execution of those accused of treason within the Khmer Rouge itself. Of the over 20,000 people sent to the prison, only 7-12 reportedly survived.
Pol Pot and the others running the show became increasingly paranoid and convinced that CIA and KGB agents were operating within their ranks. Unbelievable means of torture were used to bring out “confessions” including electricity, mutilation and burning. The accused were forced to name other “spies” and faced a choice of naming other innocent people or dying. This created a vicious circle of needless death as these soldiers named one another in an attempt to save their own lives. In the end of course, all involved were executed.
Many of the deaths actually occurred at what is now known as the “Killing Fields” which are mass graves about 30 minutes outside of
While these memorials are sad, gruesome and effective, I think it is a bit unfortunate that Cambodia is known more for genocide than it's beautiful beaches, waterfalls or incredible ancient ruins. I'm seeing a nation on the rebound who is ready to shed all the baggage and move on.