Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Remember those stories we used to hear about how ghosts would walk the corridors of our schools late at night? Those stories probably had their origin in the Japanese Occupation from 1941-1945 when many schools were converted into detention and torture centres.

Reading Martin Spice's article "Unholy Halls" in yesterday's Star brought flashbacks of my visit to Tuol Svay Prey High School in Phnom Penh last March. Now known as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the building houses grim reminders of a time when the most vile and barbaric acts of torture were inflicted on the populace, especially the educated middle class.
There was no escape from these chambers of death. Barbed wires prevented any attempt at suicide by leaping from the upper floors.

From 1975-79, under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime of terror, an estimated two million Cambodians died or went missing. Of this number, at least 17,000 passed through Tuol Sleng. Only seven survived to tell their tales of horror, one of them doing so through his paintings.

Walking along the corridors, one can almost hear the screams of men, women and children. The air is heavy with the smell of death. The photos below depict the horror that took place within the walls and behind the barbed wires of Tuol Sleng.

Our tour guide lost several family members at Tuol Sleng. His voice still chokes with emotion as he repeats the stories to visitors.
This picture of a woman with her baby taken minutes before her death haunted me for days. There were tears in her eyes when the picture was taken.
One wonders what kind of madness would drive a man to devise tortures like those above to get a fellow human being to talk? Unfortunately, evil like this still lurks in the world today.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." 
~ Edmund Burke ~

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