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The four-year reign of blood by the Khmer Rouge has left indelible marks upon Cambodia. Its policies caused a massive death toll, whether it be from famine, purges motivated by politics, racism, and bigotry, or disease (even treatable ones such as malaria). It inflicted near-total destruction on every imaginable facet of Cambodian society: culture, economy, education, scientific progress, politics, governance, etc. 

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum began life as the Tuol Svay Pray High School. “Tuol Sleng”, the name of its location, bears an appropriately horrific meaning: “hill of the poisonous trees”, or “strychnine hill”. It was converted into Security Prison S-21 as a detention center. An estimated 20,000 people were imprisoned in S-21: workers, farmers, engineers, intellectuals, teachers, and even military personnel. Initially, S-21 was used to remove sympathizers of the previous regime or any foreign influence. As the Khmer Rouge became paranoid, some of its leaders and loyalists were detained, ostensibly for “espionage”. Under torture and coercion, inmates named others as spies and traitors, who then were arrested and tortured. Living conditions were abominable. Prisoners were shackled at all times in cramped cells, made to sleep on the cold floor, and conversations were forbidden. Spoons of rice porridge and watery vegetable soup were their meals and main diet. Exhaustion and disease were as murderous as the torturers and executioners. 

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Today, museum visitors can see chilling evidence of what happened. Bloodstains remain on the walls and floors. Photographs show each room as the Vietnamese army found them, some featuring mutilated and chained corpses. Leg-irons and torture instruments are on display.

Reviewed by

Diep Van

Phone: +84901166884

Email: diep.van@ftripvietnam.com

Diep Van

Founder & Photography Guide

Specialties: Culture, landscape, portrait, hiking, active and adventurous tour

Besides my unlimited passion for traveling, a professional tour guide for over a decade, I have been taking photographs since sitting at Hanoi of the University of Culture in the early 2000s. Photography started as a hobby but it was seriously taken due to my work relations and my significant passion for the beauty of our world, especially in Southeast Asian parts such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

Within a few years of taking photographs, my works began to be recognized by many reliable international publications such as AFAR Travel, The Times, and The Daily Telegraph newspaper. In addition, I continuously add to my growing profile by winning numerous major awards: 3rd Position of The Independent Photographer 2018, 1st Position of Amateur Photographer of the year 2018, Grand Prize Winner of the AFAR Travel Photography 2019, and a Gold Award of San Francisco Bay International Photography 2020.

I photograph a wide variety of subjects, from travel to landscapes to street scenes. I enjoy documenting the East’s rich cultural heritage and its land soaked in glorious sunrise or sunset light in remote and secluded spots. And, I am very happy to share my knowledge and experience with you. You can visit Luminousvietnamtour to explore tour!


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