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S-21 & The Killing Fields

More commonly known as S-21 (Security Center 21), Tuol Sleng is best described as a torture center. A former High School, S-21 was used for interrogating and torturing roughly 17,000 people. Out of this number only around seven people survived – most of these were artists, writers, or photographers who found themselves employed to document the hundreds of prisoners entering S-21 on a daily basis. Opposition forces, women, children, monks, and even Khmer Rouge loyalists were interrogated at S-21

Cheoy Ek (17 km south of the capital), one of many “killing fields”, was the final destination for prisoners from all around the Phnom Penh area including those from S-21. To conserve on bullets the Khmer Rouge would used blunt farming instruments, natural objects like the sharp edge of a sugar palm branch, rocks, and the sides of trees to execute their prisoners. Some eight thousand skulls and bones have been place in a memorial stupa while the remaining bodies rest in and around the property.

Leaving objectivity for a moment walking around S-21 and Cheoy Ek invoked anger, sadness, and confusion in me. To say anything more on this subject is difficult to do.

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