Tuol Sleng Museum, Phnom Penh

4.5 out of 5 stars 79 Reviews

Corner of Street 113 and Street 350

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  • so_alex's Profile Photo

    Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

    by so_alex Updated Apr 4, 2011
    Interrogation Room

    Former Khmer Rough Concentration Camp, Security Office 21 (S-21). During 1975-1979, innocents were tortured, interrogated & executed here. Their bodies would be buried at Choeung Ek mass grave.

    After the liberation of Phnom Penh, only 7 survivors were found in Tuol Sleng.

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    Pol Pot's secret prison

    by sweetie_inc Written Mar 12, 2011
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    Be prepared to feel, see, smell the horrors that happened here..

    Between 1-2 million Cambodians and many thousands of foreigners were starved to death, tortured, or killed, during this reign of terror.

    When the Vietnamese Army invaded in 1979 the S-21 prison staff fled, leaving thousands of written and photographic records. Altogether more than 6,000 photographs were left; the majority, however, have been lost or destroyed.

    Admission $2.00

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    Tuol Museum

    by easterntrekker Written Feb 16, 2011

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    This is the site of the S-21 dentention center. Once a school in the middle of the city it became in 1975 a center or torture and death.
    For some horrific reason the Khmer Rouge deemed it necessary to photograph each victim before they were killed.

    Today their face line the walls of the Museum and help us to visualize this sad a shameful time in History.

    Admission $2.00

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    VISIT TUOL SLENG GENOCIDE MUSEUM & PRISON

    by DennyP Updated Sep 30, 2010

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    TUOL SLENG GENOCIDE MUSEUM AND PRISON
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    TUOL SLENG S21 I visted the "Tuol Sleng" Museum while in Phnom Penh and the Museum is part of ,and situated in the Genocide Prison that what was known as "Kampuchea Democratic Office number S 21" ..Created and put into operation by Pol Pot the so called Office of S 21 and was designated for the detention of people arrested , and who were mostly government workers and all of the educated population were detained by political police (soldiers) photographed, interrogated and then brutally tortured until a cofession was obtained ,these mostly completely innocent people that had been detained and for those who did not succumb to the torture were then killed either at S21 or taken by truck on the outskirts of the city to the notorious "killing fields" at Choeung Ek..
    Set up on the seventeenth of April 1975 as a detention Centre for political prisoners this previously was the Tuol Sleng Primary School and also the Tuol Svay High School and had four major buildings that were designated A,B,C,D and most were divided up into different rooms for interogation and detention some were fitted with panneled windows to reduce the noise made by the prisoners while being tortured...

    My arrival on a very wet and overcast day was to first see this grey walled prison with its barbed wire and previously having second thoughts of my visit here, I thought I knew what to expect but , was really amazed at the sense of forboding that I felt upon entering the gates and immediately looking at the surrounds I thought how different it was for me to just walk in and out , compared to the terror the detainees must have endured upon entering this frightening establishment..So many innocent men women and children..
    The different buildings here are open for visitors and contain the photos of the many thousands that were detained and died here, some, just innocent travellers...backpackers and the like..so noticeable it is that this is an extremely eeriely quiet place and that while looking at all the different rooms of torture and the implements used, the many visitors that are here this day are all quietly in awe of their surroundings and noticeably disturbed by what they are viewing..A truly mind altering experience..Some 20,000 people died here.. A true view of mans inhumanity to man..
    There is an admission fee of US $ 4.00..goes to aid museum upkeep and poor childrens education..

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    Cells

    by Willettsworld Updated Jun 16, 2010

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    These are some photos of the tiny prison cells that were built in the former schools classrooms using bricks and wood fashioned into cell walls in a hurried fashion. A typical cell measures about 2ft wide by 5-6ft long. You'll also find passageways knocked through the interior walls from one classroom into another in order to provide access for the guards instead of using the external balconies.

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    Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21)

    by Willettsworld Written May 2, 2010

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    Security Prison 21 (S-21) or Tuol Sleng (meaning "Hill of the Poisonous Trees" or "Strychnine Hill") was the Khmer Rouge's primary interrogation and extermination centre, designed to purge anti-Khmer Rouge elements from the new society Pol Pot and his henchmen were hell-bent on creating. Before the 1975-79 regime, the building was the Chao Ponhea Yat High School, named after a Royal ancestor of King Norodom Sihanouk. Smaller interrogation centres were scattered across Cambodia, but S-21 was by far the largest and most important. All of the classrooms were converted either to tiny prison cells or interrogation rooms, while the upper balconies were covered in barbed wire so that prisoners could not kill themselves by throwing themselves off.

    Like the Nazis before them, the Khmer Rouge were meticulous in their record keeping, taking photos of every new arrival and painstakingly retaining detailed confessions made by prisoners. Many of these haunting photos are displayed in the museum along with torture equipment such as a water board where the prisoners legs were shackled to a bar, their wrists restrained to brackets and then water was poured over their face.

    Up to 16,000 people were interred, tortured and eventually executed here or at the nearby killing fields. Victims included Khmers, Vietnamese, Laotians, Thais, Indians, Brits, Pakistanis, Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders and Australians. The vast majority, of course, were Khmer, and many were former Khmer Rouge themselves, victims of the regime's systematic and paranoid internal purges.

    When the Vietnamese ousted the Pol Pot regime, they arrived in Phnom Penh far faster than expected and the authorities at S-21 barely had time to execute the last prisoners before fleeing. The first row of cells on the left as you enter the school have been left largely as found by the Vietnamese, including photos of the remains that were found in each cell. At the time, the Vietnamese kept S-21 largely as it was as a means to justify their invasion.

    While it makes for a rather grim couple of hours, a visit to S-21 is an integral part of understanding what happened during the Khmer Rouge period.

    Open: 7-11.30am & 2-5.30pm. Admission: $2.

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    Nothing can possibly prepare you.

    by planxty Updated Feb 23, 2010

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    Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

    I would like to start this tip by saying that my intention is not to distress anyone writing a tip about what is an essentially heartbreaking subject. I will construct a seperate travelogue with a suitable advisory and further details and content myself with one of the less graphic images here. Should you wish to know more, have a look at the travelogue.

    I am not normally a sensitive soul. My time in the forces exposed me to things that were less than pleasant and I have learned to deal with that. I first visited the Tuol Sleng (S21) Genocide Museum nine years ago, and lef the place in a state of physical shock. It had a profound effect on me, and I had thought that I would be slightly immune to it the second time round. Wrong. As the title suggests nothing, not even previous exposure, can prepare you for the sheer calculated evil and brutality that it represents within (my) living memory.

    For readers not aware of the history, let me give you a brief outline. After the French colonial power had been ousted in the late 1950's and a period of various political changes, in 1975 the Khmer Rouge (Red Khmer), led by a card-carrying psychotic called Pol Pot took over the country and began a regime lasting nearly five years in which up to 25% of the populace were killed in a search for a socialist agrarian utopia, the results of which are still crippling the country to this day. Naturally, Pol Pot was not his real name, that was Saloth Sar or Blood Brother #1. Blood being the operative word. All the professonal classes were slaughtered purely by virtue of the fact they were the professional classes and therefore, by some perverted logic, against the people. Everyone else was worked literally to death producing rice, much of which was exported whilst the poeple starved.

    Imagine, if you can, a country where you could be tortured to death for wearing spectacles. Ridiculous as it sounds, that was the case. If you had spectacles it meant you read too much, therefore were one of the intelligentsia and therefore guilty of some sort of crime against the working people. The hypocrisy is interesting as most of the leaders were not themselves workers and were all pretty well-educated. Many of the high officials themselves were not even Cambodian but from neighoburing Vietnam.

    What followed for about five years has been well-documented and by people much better equipped than I, including many who were there. There are many books on the subject and I would urge you to read them. I have read many of the VT pages on the subject, and would not hope to equal them, I recommend you read them yourselves.

    This was a regime that surpassed anything the Nazis ever did and managed to reduce an already poor country to a state of ruin not often equalled in the modern world. What, for me, makes it even more disturbing is that, unlike the Nazis, it was not done in pursuit of some imperialist ideal, world domination was never Pol Pot's thing. He concentrated his evil on his own people. And evil it certainly was.

    Central to the Khmer Rouge apparatus was a system of Security Centres, of which this was number 21. What is shocking is the sheer ordanariness of the place. It was a converted school building in the Southern suburbs of Phnom Penh, and that is still what it looks like, save for the (once-electrified) barbed wire fences outside and the further barbed wire on the balconies, put there to stop inmates jumping to their death to avoid the horrors of the place. To visit today is like walking into a school complex, at least until you enter the first room. Then it becomes a place of nightmares.

    I shall leave the narrative here, and continue it on the travelogue. As I said, I have no wish to offend and the descriptions and images are beyond horrific.

    My advice? I think everyone should see this although if you are sensitive, perhaps it is best left alone. Open except Monday from 0800 - 1700, admission and the (recommended) film show is in Block D, top floor at 1000 and 1500.

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    S.21 - the premier security institution

    by CEP1863 Written Dec 23, 2009

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    Two of the victims of S.21
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    I visited Toul Sleng on my way back from the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and I can't begin to describe the exteme contast of emotions that I went through. I had experienced unexpected feelings of peacefulness at Choeung Ek, but here the real horrors of what went on hit me with full force. Why? I still honestly don't know - was it because formerly S.21 had been a primary school, was it because of the hundreds of photographs of the prisoners who passed through here? I think that it was the sheer ordinariness of the place that hit me, it was a school in a suburban setting, "monkey bars", where children had previously played, were used as instruments of torture, classrooms had been converted into cells, barbed wire was strung up on the walkways of the upper floors to prevent prisoners committing suicide by jumping to their deaths.

    The figures are startling: over 14,000 prisoners passed through Toul Sleng being tortured here before being sent out to Choeung Ek to be exterminated. This number included children and babies to conform to the theory, "To dig up the grass, one must dig up the roots". There is room after room of harrowing black and white photographs of prisoners. Only seven prisoners survived, they had skills that were useful to the regime - carpenter, electrical engineer, painter, photographer. The corpses of fourteen prisoners who were found by Vietnamese troops are buried in the courtyard.

    Overall, I was glad to leave. I think that it is one of those places that you need to see in order to realise how cruel man can be. I will go back to Phnom Penh again in the future, but here never.

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    Tuol sleng.

    by cachaseiro Written Feb 19, 2009

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    Tuol Sleng.
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    Tuol sleng is what used to be the torture chambers of the khmer rouge.
    They are located in a former school in Phnom Penh and is as grueling to watch as the KZ camps from the second world war.
    People who were considerd a threat to the regime were tortured and forced to sign papers saying they were guilty of crimes against the nation and then they were taken to the killing fields for execution.
    In many of the rooms you have a photos of the people who went through Tuol slenf before execution and you will see that it was not just grown men who was totured to death in there but several women and children too.
    As i am writing this, in march 2009, the former leader of Tuol sleng "duch" is finally going to trial for ordering the torture and executions of thousands of people here.
    Tuol sleng is a cruel place, but it's an absolute must in my opinion if you want to understand the modern history of Cambodia.

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    Toul Sleng Genocide Museum

    by kenningst Written May 28, 2008
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    Whoever who plans to visits Phnom Penh should have Toul Sleng Genocide Museum at the top of their “must places to visit” list. I have read a couple of reviews and comments about this place before I came and knew what to expect but then never have I expected that it would be that unpleasant. When you enter the school, you will have to pay USD 2 for entrance fees. All looks good from the entrance but as I walk around the school ground, I could feel my guts starting to curl like a fur ball. The first room you will visit will be the infamous class room with metal bed where Pol Pot order his prisoners to be tortured before being electrocuted till they are burned to charred remains. To make matters worst, he took a picture of everyone he killed. All these pictures were found later and is display in the school. One advice is to do this museum before your meal as I almost puke after I finish this school.

    There is also a video shown everyday only on 10.00and 3.00pm. I completely missed it because I arrived there around noon. Make sure you make it for the video. I bet it will be very “interesting”.

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    WHAT MAN'S DARK SIDE CAN DO

    by wanderingbilly Updated May 22, 2008

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    S-21 TORTURE CENTRE
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    GOING TO TUOL SLENG MUSEUM IS NOT GOING TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT THE HUMAN RACE..THIS PLACE SHOWS WHAT DEPTHS HUMAN BEINGS CAN PLUMIT TO.
    TUOL SLENG OR S-21 AS IT IS BETTER KNOWN WAS USED BY THE KHMER ROUGE TO TORTURE AND KILL OVER 17.000 PEOPLE DURING ITS REIGN OF TERROR BETWEEN 1975-1978.
    S-21 WAS JUST A NORMAL SCHOOL IN THE CENTRE OF PHNOM PENH BEFORE IT WAS TURNED INTO CAMBODIA'S TORTURE CENTRE.
    EACH POOR SOUL THAT HAD THE MISFORTUNE TO PASS THROUGH HERE HAD HIS OR HER PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN AND GIVEN A NUMBER..BEFORE BEING TORTURED.
    PRISONERS WERE FORCED TO LIE IN CRAMPED CELLS AND KEPT SHACKLED TO THE WALL.
    PRISONERS HELD IN THE LARGE MASS CELLS HAD ONE OR BOTH OF THEIR LEGS SHACKLED TO SHORT OR LONG PIECES OF IRON BAR. A SIX METRE BAR COULD HOLD UP TO 30 PRISONERS.
    THEY ALL LAY ON THE FLOOR IN ONLY THEIR UNDERWEAR WITH NO MATS, BLANKETS OR MOSQUITO NETS.
    THE VICTIMS IN THE PRISON WERE FROM ALL OVER CAMBODIA AND OF DIFFERENT NATIONALITIES WHICH INCLUDED THAI-INDIAN-VIETNAMESE-BRITISH-CANADIAN-AMERICAN-NEW ZEALANDERS AND FRENCH, BUT THE VAST MAJORITY WERE CAMBODIAN.
    OVER 10,000 PEOPLE WERE MURDERED AT S-21 THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN KILLED AT S-21.. THIS FIGURE STANDS AT 2000.
    THE REST WERE SENT TO CHOEUNG EK (THE KILLING FIELDS) FOR EXECUTION.
    WHEN THE VIETNAMESE LIBERATED S-21 ONLY SEVEN PEOPLE WERE LEFT ALIVE.
    WHILE VISITING TUOL SLENG MUSEUM IS A DEPRESSING EXPERIENCE I FEEL THAT EVERYONE SHOULD COME AND SEE THIS PLACE..AND LEARN.
    I HAVE VISITED ALCATRAZ AND I HAVE TO SAY THAT IT IS A FUN PARK COMPARED TO THIS.
    YOU CAN PAY A EXTRA $2 FOR A GUIDE TO TAKE YOU AROUND, THEY CAN HELP TELL THE STORIES BEHIND THE MANY PICTURES.
    EACH DAY AT 10AM AND 3PM THEY SHOW A MOVIE ABOUT A YOUNG WOMAN AND A REGIONAL KHMER ROUGE LEADER WHO FELL IN LOVE BUT PAID FOR THEIR CRIME WITH DEATH AT S-21.
    ALL IN ALL A VERY VERY MOVING PLACE, BUT ONE YOU MUST SEE. THE BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOS OF ITS VICTIMS WILL HAUNT YOU.
    OPEN FROM 8AM-11.30 AND 2-5.30 PRICE $2US $5 FOR VIDEO CAMERA.

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    A must see!

    by Lunaina Written May 3, 2008

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    The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a museum in Phnom Penh. The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979. Tuol Sleng in Khmer means "Hill of the Poisonous Trees" or "Strychnine Hill". It is a must see, it is horrible but is part of the history of Cambodia.

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    S21 Prison Camp - Tuol Sleng Museum

    by pehsan Updated Mar 15, 2008

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    Preserved evidence of Khmer Rouge crimes
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    School should be a safe place for kids to obtain knowledge and a play ground for them. you can never imagine this school eqiuped with roughly cemented partition into cell room that enough to fit a person, torment chair, bed, water tank, class room turn into torment room and etc. you can never imagine how brutal human being can be to figure out ways to torture their same kind. you think the cell rooms, handcaffs and chains on the bed disturbing enough, no.. there are more shocking scene whereby you can really SEE those people who got tortured then. there are photograph/pictures and stories shared by close family and friends on the wall, one by one, as if you were standing there watching the history live infront of your eyes.
    there was this story about the school was actually haunted. believe it or not...
    **you may request for a english/french/chinese/japanese speaking guide to bring you around with a little charges.

    Documentation Centre of Cambodia (established in 1995) through Yale University's Cambodian Genocide Program to research and document the horrify history.

    Admission: USD2
    Opening hour: 8am - 11.30am & 2pm - 5.30pm

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    Get some persepective @ Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

    by Snipernurse Updated Feb 7, 2008
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    Make sure you visit the Cheung Ek killing fields along with the genocide museum. I felt like they did a pretty good job with the museum in giving good insight into what went on here. I felt that I should get as much out of being there as possible, envision myself there as a prisoner, and I grew increasingly nauseated as a I looked at the torture tools and the explanation of their use and photos of the bodies of people that had been chained to metal mattresses, tortured and left to die. It was a good experience and I learned a lot of lessons there that I hope I carry with me. It was a great wake up call to one of the things that has happened in history yet the standard educational system in the United States likes to ignore, and it also helps you respect the Cambodian people more to get a feel for what this country has been through only recently. It is a disturbing display that you will not forget and will enrich your experience of Cambodia.
    Make sure you have some background information on the history of the Pol Pot regime and the politcs of everything that was going on at the time for better understanding.

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    S21 Toul Sleng Genocide Museum

    by Etoile2B Written Sep 7, 2007

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    An example of one of the larger cells.
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    Among the many tourist attractions in Phnom Penh is the Genocide Museum. With strong ties to the Killing Fields, this reminder of the atrocities endured by the Khmer people under Pol Pot’s regime at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. If you don’t have the time to visit the Killing Fields (located 9 miles / 14.5 kilometers) outside of the city, the Genocide Museum is accessible and educational. We didn’t have time to visit both sites, but were told by many to visit the Genocide Museum if we didn’t have time for both. It is a cheap and easy ride from the waterfront and it is easy to pick up a ride back once you have finished your visit. The museum is a sobering experience and a good way to learn more about the very important and eerily recent history of this country. In the 1970s Pol Pot turned the former High School into a detention center for political enemies of the Khmer Rouge. Here many people were imprisoned, tortured and eventually murdered. The building remains largely untouched with haunting reminders of the horrific events around every corner. Bed frames with shackles attached and schoolrooms converted into cell blocks serve as a reminder of man’s … Other rooms serve to educate visitors on the people that were incarcerated here, most who met their end behind these walls. Guests my tour the facilities on their own, or may hire a guide. We explored the grounds ourselves, sans guide, and still felt we were well educated by the experience. I can equate this experience to that of visiting the concentrations camps of WWII, much less aneseptic than Dachau but slightly less gritty than Birkenau but moving all the same. You won’t leave this place the same person.

    Admission: USD2

    Hours of Operation: 7a–11:30a, 2p–5:30p

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