Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia

by Emiel van den Boomen on April 20, 2014

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Some people ask me about our trip to Cambodia and whether we were confronted a lot with the cruel part of its history. Everywhere in Cambodia you will encounter evidence of this terrible period. You can escape it by closing your eyes. But closing your eyes to me equals denial.

History should and cannot be denied. As much as the Cambodian people we have to learn from what happened and value the importance of hope. Hope that this will never happen again.


Maybe you know what happened in Cambodia. During the gruesome reign of the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979) between one and two million Cambodians were killed: a quarter of the total population at that time. Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime tried to create a purely based agrarian society and all people with the slightest sign of intellict were seen as a traitor. These innocent people were arrested, interrogated and killed. Most of them were killed at the so-called Killing Fields, like Choeung Ek near Phnom Penh.

Interrogations took place in prisons. This is the story of the Tuol Svay Pray High School that was transformed into Security Prison 21 (S-21); hardly anyone survived from this place… The former school is now known as Tuol Sleng and has been turned into a museum.

Barbed wire, Tuol Sleng

In an earlier post called Texture of a good travel life I wrote about why we travel with our children: “The world inspires but it’s important to know its truth. The world’s truth can bring us to tears or make us smile. We want our children to encounter different cultures and people early in life. We think it’s important that our children know the truth and understand people’s hope for a better life.

That’s why our family headed for Tuol Sleng in the outskirts of Phnom Penh. It was a tough visit. But I am so glad and proud that we did it.

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