Security Prison S-21, Phnom Penh
Security Prison 21 (S-21), now named Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh offers a glimpse at life and death at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.
The site of a former Phnom Penh high school, the museum leaves you with nothing but shock and a deeply moving sense of sorrow. The creative youth, the brightest teachers, the poetic thinkers were shackled, enslaved, tortured and finally killed. The first were murdered for being sympathetic to the previous Lon Nol regime but as paranoia in the Khmer Rouge leadership set in, many more were considered enemies of the State.
The museum exhibits row upon row of unnamed but numbered prisoner portraits, torture chambers and the confines of what purport to be solitary prisoner cells but appear and feel more like rough kennels for dogs.
It’s a dark and meticulous history of Cambodia in the years from 1975 to 1979. Each inmate numbered and photographed, tortured and murdered. The legacy is an archive of images and a treasure trove of negatives. Each one representing a brother, sister, father or mother. The woven fabric of Cambodian pre-revolutionary society unravelled and exposed in black and white.