Forty years ago, the Maoist-inspired Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia. Despite only being in power from 1975-79, they managed to wipe out an estimated 1.4 to 2.2 million Cambodians and others. Cambodia at that time only had a population of 7 to 8 million.
The Khmer Rouge’s victims were from all sections of the population, including its own members. On the outskirts of the nation’s capital Phnom Penh, the Khmer Rouge turned a high school into a secret torture, interrogation, and execution center.
It was called S-21, one of at least 150 execution centers established through the country, which the Khmer Rouge had renamed Democratic Kampuchea. More than 14,000 people are known to the have been sent to S-21, but only 7 are believed to have survived.
All types of people were sent to S-21, even young children.
Kampuchea was the kind of hell hole where if you got into trouble, then your whole family would suffer terribly as well.
In this 2.40 minute report below, one of the few S-21 survivors talks about how he survived this hell hole, and how justice has yet to be served to the former leadership of the Khmer Rouge:
While the vast majority of S-21 victims were Cambodians, there were also foreign victims, especially Vietnamese of whom nearly 500 were killed there. Among the Westerners who were sent and murdered at the center were four French, two Americans, two Australians, one Brit, and a New Zealander.
The varied torture methods used in the center’s interrogation process were designed to ensure a confession to a political crime, no matter how ludicrous the charges may have been. Searing hot metal instruments, electric shocks, and even skinning people alive were some of the cruelties put into practice.
There were also cases of medical experiments being conducted on some prisoners.
Prisoners were typically held at S-21 for 2-3 months. If the degradation and torture did not kill them, they were taken to a killing area where the Khmer Rouge soldiers would use iron bars, knives, axes, or clubs. Bullets were being rationed.
One of the most haunting aspects of the museum are the portraits that the Khmer Rouge took of their prisoners, of which 6000 have been recovered. Some of them are featured in the top video and you can see others below as well.
Each image, in itself, tells an immeasurably sad and tragic story.