S21 - Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Phnom Penh
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is the most disturbing tourist sight of Phnom Penh, as it acts as a shocking reminder of the horrific brutality of Khmer Rouge regime that simply destroyed Cambodia. The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was converted from Security Prison 21 (S-21) - the capital’s most notorious torture and interrogation facility. Much of the prison has been retained as it was discovered by the Vietnamese army, who used the complex as a justification for their invasion in 1978.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum Details
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum S-21 complex was once a school and there are four main buildings known simply as Building A, B, C, and D. The buildings are situated around two courtyards that were once the school’s playing area.
The barbed wire was to stop prisoners from committing suicide
Each of the buildings has grim reminders of the horrific events that occurred within the prison. Building A was the torture facility and much of the equipment still remains there, where the Vietnamese discovered the last victims of the prison on the liberation of Phnom Penh.
The torture rooms have been left as they were found
Building B displays the black and white images of the prisoners on their arrival to the S-21 prison and few of these people were left alive. These sorrowful images look back at the visitors, haunting them with the worry and distress, clearly visible in their faces. Building C was the main prison with classrooms that were converted into cells and holding rooms. The prisoners were chained and kept in horrific conditions, each waiting for their deadly interrogation.
It has been estimated that over 16,000 people passed through the S-21 facility, but less than a handful survived. If you were sent to S-21 your fate was sealed. The grim fact that illustrates the barbaric conditions of the S-21 prison is the barbed wire that hangs down the front of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This was not installed to deter prisoners from escaping, but to prevent them from committing suicide and escaping the living hell.
The complex was originally a school
The prisoners were subjected to the most extreme of torture methods, which some had to endure for months. Once a confession was extracted, the prisoners were sent to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek for execution. A sick twist was the choice of building for Security Prison 21 (S-21). Prior to the formation of the concentration prison, S-21 was a high school (the Tuol Svay Prey School). Here once children played, learnt and enjoyed, but that was a forgotten memory of the building as tortures occurred within its walls and the classrooms were converted into holding cells or torture rooms.
Tourist Guide to the Genocide Museum, Phnom Penh
The Tuol Sleng Museum is open every day between 7:00 am - 11.30 am and 2:00 pm - 5:30 pm, and there is an admission fee of $3.50. The Tuol Sleng Museum is 3km from the Royal Palace and it’s located at the southern end of Sisowath Quay. A tuk-tuk ride from the Palace and the main tourist centre, to the museum should cost less than $4.00. It is common to combine the visit to the S-21 Museum with the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and the tuk-tuk price to visit both sites is $20.00-$22.00..