Tuol Sleng

The Khmer Rouges led by Pol Pot, ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, imposing a reign of terror and killing around two million people. They displaced people, shot down infrastructures, confiscated private property and implemented forced labour. Moreover, starving and executing people, sending thousands to concentration camps, the Khmer Rouges ultimately organized the Cambodian Genocide. This highly organized crime is one of the horrors of the 20th century.

Today we decided to talk about Tuol Sleng, also known as “S-21” was a school in Phnom Penh, that the Khmers occupied in 1975. They transformed it into a concentration camp where they held and exterminated at least 17 000 people between 1975 and 1979. Of them only seven survived. Everyone could become a victim of the regime, for no reason more than another (from ethnic, class, religious or political reasons), since those who were first arrested were always forced to denounce their families and friends. With brutal practices of torture to extract confessions and ultimately executions, Tuol Sleng marked Cambodia’s collective memory. Unfortunately, this is only one of the many execution camps that were created by the Khmer Rouge.

When thinking about what were the ideas behind this massacre, one should maybe start by looking at the ideology of the Khmer Rouges. However, what is astonishing is that unlike other genocides the Khmers didn’t target a group more than another. Their ideology, based in part on Maoist communism and Marxist ideology, defended a society without any class whatsoever, leaving only “old people”, which were peasants in the fields. Nevertheless, they were profoundly xenophobic, killing many Chinese and Vietnamese. The Khmers Rouges ultimately created a reign of terror, because they believed that was the way they could impose their ideas and rule Cambodia.

Read this terrifying article about one of Tuol Sleng survivors.

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One thought on “Tuol Sleng”

  1. Cambodia’s history is terrifying. This building has actually been turned into a Museum and can be visited. It’s horrifying to see the pictures, the cells, the testimonies, etc. I couldn’t even finish the tour..

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