Initially operating as Tuol Svay secondary school, this building was later used as a prison which eventually transitioned into a full-blown torture house. Now known as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the building is in Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh.
Tuol Sleng saw an estimated 20,000 prisoners pass through it before being executed at the killing fields between 1976-1979 during Cambodian Genocide which was led by the Khmer Rouge under the orders of Pol Pot, unquestionably one of history’s most evil men.
Named ”Security Prison 21” or ”S-21”. The prison building were equipped with electrified barbed wire, the school classrooms were converted into small torture chambers and all the windows were covered with iron bars and barbed wire to prevent anyone escaping.
Prisoners were repeatedly tortured until they were forced into giving up the names of their family members and close associates who in turn met the same fate of torture and death.
The few survivors of the prison shared insight into some of the grisly events that took place, including electrocution, waterboarding and finger and toe nail removal. Other included pouring water up prisoners’ noses and suffocating prisoners with plastic bags being fastened around their head.
One witness recalled a torture method in which a woman was stripped to her underwear and beaten throughout the evening. She was beaten until the inflicter of her pain was tired, where as another torturer took over.
Some were subject to inhumane medical experiments such as a live autopsy without any anesthesia and experiments that saw people bled to death. Many of the victims were accused of being enemies of the revolution or foreign government spies.
The prisoners were the only ones in danger though. The guards were warned that if they allowed a prisoner to die or commit suicide before torture was completed, the guards responsible would be considered traitors and would find themselves subjected to the same torture.
Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times: ”the prisoners brought to Tuol Sleng were presumed guilty. Even if they had been mistakenly arrested, they were killed to preserve the secrecy of the prison”, according to the testimony given at the March 2009 trial of the Kaing Guek Eav (Duch) at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.
One family who managed to escape the killing fields and flee to America, saw the horrors of the events follow their son in his dreams. After staying awake for days, he finally fell asleep, putting the parents at easy, but soon after falling asleep he was heard him screaming in the night, they rushed to aid him, but he’d mysteriously died by the time they arrived.
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