With the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia now starting the process of prosecuting the top planners and directors of the Khmer Rouge atrocities, I thought it of utmost importance to visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, or Security Prison 21 (S-21), as it was known, in hopes of coming to a better understanding of the present day Cambodia in which IBJ does its work.
The shock and horror that the people of Cambodia were put through for those three years, eight months and twenty days that the Khmer Rouge were in power and the following near 20 year civil war are beyond my powers of comprehension. All I can do is bear witness, listen, observe, contemplate and attempt to share this experience for those of you who are unable to come to Cambodia to experience this emotionally draining museum yourself.
No Cambodian living today has been unaffected by this tragedy. Children have lost parents, parents have lost children, a brother, a sister, a wife, a husband…whole families. Those that survived live with the horrors of the past. Even those born after 1979 are not immune to the endless personal tragedy that their elders still suffer from. A whole nation suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not something easily comprehended.
I hope this small and insignificant photo essay of just one part of the Khmer Rouge horror story provides some context to what Cambodian have gone through and live with on a daily basis. More importantly, I hope it encourages you, as it has done me, to dig deeper into the complicated challenges facing modern day, post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia.
text source: wikipedia
music: John Williams, Schindler’s List-Theme