A somber visit to one of the Killing Fields of Cambodia and the S-21 Prison

Phnom Penh:

Kampuchea’s capital and biggest town is Phnom Penh, its political, economic, and cultural center. It has an international airport that receives flights from all over the world. (Read about my detailed account of Phnom Penh in this post).

Choeung Ek:

Entry fee: $6 (includes the Audio Tour by Narrowcasters available in several languages).

Choeung Ek is one of the 300 Killing Fields in Cambodia and the most important one. The Khner Rouge killed several political prisoners between 1975 and 1979. Choeung Ek is about 15 km from Phnom Penh. There are mass tombs of 8985 males, females and kids at Choung Ek. One can still find fragments of human bones and clothes around the pits of the field. At Choeung Ek, 5000 human skulls and bones have been preserved at the memorial stupa. These remains are arranged in 13 levels and are open to tourists between 7:30 AM – 5:30 PM. 

Audio Tour:

The audio narrates vivid accounts of prisoners from the S-21 detention center who were executed at Choeung Ek. It includes a chilling account of Him Huy – Choeung Ek guard and executioner, Former Prison Director Duch, and a few heart-wrenching survivor tales. The Choeung Ek Museum describes the brutalities perpetrated at the Killing Field.

Mass grave of 450 victims of the Khmer Rouge. You can still see fragments of clothes lying around
Mass grave of more than 100 women and children
Executioners thrashed children against this tree, killing them immediately
Bones, teeth and a shoe of the Khmer victims unearthed at Choeung Ek
The Choeung Ek Memorial
Skulls of the Khmer Rouge victims
Skulls and bones of the victims are arranged in 13 levels. They are segregated on the basis of age, sex and how they were killed

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21 Prison)

Tuol Sleng entry fee: $5 (additional $3 for the audio tour).

We toured the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum after reviving the horror of the Khmer Rouge at Choeung Ek. Pol Pot and his men transformed a high school into the notorious Security Prison 21(S-21). The soldiers turned the classrooms into small prison cells. There are only 7 survivors out of an estimated 20,000 prisoners.

The soldiers used to shackle the inmates to the walls with minimal room to curl up to sleep. There are red markings on the floor and we weren’t sure if it was blood or paint. The cells on the other 2 floors were worse. The cells were dark, gloomy and smaller. Pol Pot’s soldiers turned the classrooms into torture chambers. Each cell had a single bed and ankle chains to shackle the detainees.

We had climbed upto the 2nd floor and there was almost noone around. We started getting an eerie feeling and was feeling claustrophobic. Immediately, we rushed downstairs to the ground floor.

Prison cells at the Tuol Sleng
Prisoners were shackled to the walls of the cells with chains
Rows and rows of cells at the Tuol Sleng, which was once a high school

Tuktuk fare for Choeung Ek and Tuol Sleng: $15-18 (stopover at the Russian Market would incur an additional $3-4).

The visit to the Choeung Ek and Tuol Sleng was a harrowing one. We got to know how much the people of Cambodia had suffered and the world knows so little of it!

Read about our Siem Reap adventures here

0 Replies to “A Grim Visit to the Killing Fields & Genocide Museum – Phnom Penh

  1. Cambodia is definitely top of my ‘must go to’ destinations. I used to run an adventure group and helped people achieve their bucket list dreams. I post about this on my blog. Good luck with your travels.

    1. Cambodia should be on everybody’s “go to” list. Beautiful country with lovely people! That’s great Jane! Hope you have been able to tick off all from yours!

  2. Some really useful info on prices etc. and your photos of AW give a much better sense of what I will see than the pages of text in guide books. I quite fancy the cheap drinks overlooking the river at the FCC. Also, you are a more ‘upmarket’ traveller: spending a bit more for a comfortable experience. Bit more useful than reading only about the ‘least-cost’ approach. Thanks for posting.

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