On 7 January 1979, the Khmer Rouge fell to the invading Vietnamese forces and the genocide they had perpetrated upon the Cambodian population came to an end. This day is not a national holiday, however; 20 May is their National Day of Remembrance in which they honor those lost to the genocide.
I took the family to visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum here in Phnom Penh. It is the former secret prison where confessions were tortured out of bewildered and frightened Cambodians and then they were shipped off site for execution at the Killing Fields outside of Phnom Penh. That site is now the Choeung Ek Genocide Center.
Tuol Sleng was established in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge took the country and forced the residents of Phnom Penh and the other cities into the countryside to work in some crazed misinterpreted fantasy of an agrarian paradise where peasants were idealized and everyone held hands as they ate their heart-shaped cupcakes and rode unicorns over rainbow bridges and sang the Cambodian equivalent of Kumbaya… at least they did in Pol Pot’s head. In reality, they were all working themselves to death.
Of course, there were thousands who tried to escape or otherwise pissed off their guards, so they had to be sent somewhere. There were the thousands of educated Cambodians who were untrustworthy and those who had somehow supported the Lon Nol regime or in some way transgressed the mad hellscape of Khmer Rouge ideology. One of those places was Tuol Sleng or S-21.
It was established on the site of two schools in Phnom Penh. The site sprawled through the area of Phnom Penh to accommodate all the prisoners, administration, and support staff. Nowadays, the museum occupies only the core of what once was. The pressure of the burgeoning population of Phnom Penh having encroached upon the campus.
Here it is estimated that over 18,000 people were detained, tortured, and executed during the four years of Khmer Rouge rule.
As we commemorate the 6 January Insurrection in the US and watch the light of our democracy dwindle and the flame of authoritarianism flare, remember that those who rampaged through the Capitol screaming for the heads of Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi will gladly lock you up in an American equivalent of S-21 to be tortured and executed.
It can happen here and will if we do nothing to prevent it. Once the impediment of laws and courts are removed, MAGA Nation will be out of control to avenge all of the make believe slights, injuries, and wrongs that they have perceived themselves receiving at the hands of Blacks, Browns, Muslims, and liberals.
Join me in wishing Cambodia and the world a happy Victory Over Genocide Day and avow to do everything we can to stop such atrocities from happening again in any of our countries.
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“Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – Phnom Penh, Cambodia” by whl.travel is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
These were all taken by me during our visit and as such are unlicensed are free to be used however you see fit.