Day 26 – Phnom Penh 🇰🇭

Day one in Phnom Penh started with a filling breakfast served whilst overlooking the city from the restaurant on the 9th floor of our hotel.

Today we have a morning of sight seeing of a different kind, with a visit to S21 Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Both of us knew a little bit about the history of Cambodia… but neither of us were prepared for quite how shocking the reality of what had happened here just 41 years ago.

In 1974 Tuol Svay Prey High School was just like any other high school in Cambodia’s capital city, just one year later it was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and turned into Security Prison 21. During the 3 years of Pol Pot’s unimaginable reign over the country 17, 000 people were taken here. Only 7 survived.

The walk around this now museum was like nothing else we have ever experienced.

The audio guide was particularly harrowing in explaining what went on behind the concrete walls of S21. Blood stains can still be seen, along with cells, shackles and torturous weapons. It’s hard to put into words the cruelty of what happened here, but the photos of the dead victims that were discovered when the prison was finally shut down give you a graphic idea of the horror.

Wall upon wall of black and white photographs display the victims of Pol Pot. When each of these innocent people were brought to the prison, they were photographed and given an identification number, stripped of their humanity. Men, Women, Children, young or old it didn’t matter…  each tortured and made to confess to crimes against the communist country they could never have even committed. All part of one mad man’s plan for Cambodia. A country killing it’s own people particularly on such mass and in such barbaric ways is totally unimaginable. In just 3 years it’s estimated 1.5 million or 1 in 4 Cambodian’s died, either slaughtered such as the victims of S21 or dead from disease or exhaustion when forced to work in mass labour camps.

The museum was a place of such sadness.

On the afternoon we went out to explore more of the city including a nice sunset walk along the river. Stopping to have dinner at a training restaurant called Friends, which employs young people and gives them an education in food or hospitality.  The meal was really great and it was nice to support something positive in the city.