After visiting the Killing Field, should I visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum?
As shared in our previous article, it is recommendable for you to visit the Killing Field during your stay in Phnom Penh. No matter how depressing and sad the visit will be, it is necessary to do so. At least, we can learn about the heart-rending history of Cambodia and appreciate the freedom that we had. However, after the visit to the Killing Field, you might be asking yourselves, “should I visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum?“. If you are in doubt, let us clear it. You SHOULD also visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.
Where is Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
The museum is situated not too far from the Killing Field. In fact, the victims who were executed at the Killing Field were brought in from the Tuol Sleng Prison, the former name of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. So, if you hire a tuk-tuk to the Killing Field, tell your tuk-tuk driver to wait for you. Alternatively, ask them to come back after at least two hours so that you can ride the same tuk-tuk to the Genocide Museum.
Should I visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – Yes. So, what is the place?
If the Killing Field was the site for the executions during Khmer Rouge’s regime, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was the prison. It was the place to imprison the victims before the execution. Its buildings were initially used as a school before being turned into a prison once Pol Pot came into power.
How much is the entrance fee?
The entrance fee to visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is USD 5 per person and USD 3 for the audio device (As at 2020).
Our experience visiting the Genocide Museum
Once we have entered into the Museum, we kept quiet whilst walking along the silent corridor. All visitors are encouraged to be silent in order to appreciate and to feel what the victims endured. To be honest, if the Killing Field is depressing, this place is more heartbreaking.
The Museum building consists of several blocks. There are blocks which have beds in which the victims will be tied up and left to suffer. Normally, this type of room would be reserved for Pol Pot’s higher ranking comrades who were detained. There are also small cells made from wood for the low rankings victims.
The lower the ranks of the victims, then the more miserable the treatment would be during detention. As we walked into the rooms, we looked at the real photos of the detainees who were once here. It was heart-wrenching and at the same time, uncanny.
You could feel the goosebumps as you enter every single room in every single block of the Museum. There were mixed feelings as I read the descriptions beneath the photos in the museum. I felt hatred, resentment, queasiness, scary and sad – everything mixed up.
We read the pamphlet that was given to us when we entered into the Museum. It states that when the people came to the Museum to rescue the victims, not everyone was saved. Some victims had already died at the Killing Field whilst some died in the Museum’s compound itself.
Pol Pot’s cruelty remains unanswered
As we walked further, we saw a photo in one of the rooms, showing some of the people who died in the Museum’s compound. We read the description and we could feel how cruel and psycho Pol Pot was.
Before he tortured the victims or send them to the Killing Field, he made a proper documentations of the victims. He would give them serial numbers and took photos of each victim. It is unimaginable to think that one day, the photo was taken and the next, the end of life for them.
We left Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum thinking, how can an educated man behave like this? How can he tortured his own people? They were questions which we do not have the answer till this very day.
But if you are in Phnom Penh and thinking “should I visit Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum?“, again we reiterate, go and visit the Museum. There are so many things that you can learn from this dark tragedy.
(This post was first written in Malay and translated in 2020)
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