In the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, there was a high-school named Tuol Svay Pray High School. In 1976, the Khmer Rouge, with Pol Pots instruction renamed the high school S-21. It was a torture centre for many Khmer victims. We listened to an audio tour when we went there earlier this year, but there was also the option of hiring a tour guide as well. When we were visiting the site, the audio informed me that, most Khmer people didn’t even know that this was happening at the time. Everything was kept in secret. What really makes me think is, how can something that horrendous be kept secret from the country from that long?
According to the Lonely Planet website, between the years of 1975-1978 more than 17,000, people held at S21 were taken to the Killing Fields. S21 includes brutal images in each room of the victims before and sometimes after their torture/death, and sometimes both. There were many photographs, in black and white capturing the raw emotions of the Khmer people. They aged from old to young and even children and babies were photographed.
The rooms gave an icy chill when I walked in each one. They were bare, sometimes with beds and sometimes with left-over parts of a weapon the guards used to torture the people who were being held hostage. The rooms were the same yellow-walled rooms in each room.
I normally like to take photos wherever I go, especially when i’m travelling, but these two sites were just so depressing and knowing that people had been tortured and killed there, my common sense told me not to, so I apologise for not having an image for this blog post.
Overall, I learned a lot from that audio tour. I didn’t really know what to expect by going there and i didn’t know that much about the history of the Khmer people, and now I feel like i’m more informed.
It’s just crazy to think that this happened in history. Phnom Penh is supposed to be Cambodia’s busiest hub, its Capital, a relaxing place filled with bars and restaurants, but after visiting the sites I just wanted to leave the place, because I felt like I was too informed in a way and I just wanted to visit other places It was all overwhelming. Also the fact that the air smelled very heavy with sewage in Phnom Penh didn’t help and I would advise people that if they decide to go to Phnom Penh please stick to eating Khmer food. I ate a different nationality food that I was really craving at the time, and I ended up having the worst stomach sickness. I was thankful that the pharmacist could speak English, so in hind-sight i didn’t enjoy Phnom Penh that much, but that’s the thing with travelling, you don’t know unless you’ve been there.