Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Visits Tuol Sleng Detention Camp/Museum in Cambodia
The prison museum is dedicated to the victims of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot:
Pol Pot’s secret prison, codenamed “S-21” during his genocidal rule (1975-79). 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.
Former prison staff say as many as 30,000 prisoners were held at S-21 before the Khmer Rouge leadership was forced to flee, in the first days of 1979. This website contains most of the photographs that were printed for the book Killing Fields (Twin Palms Press) and for a traveling exhibition, which was on display at the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), as well as many other locations.
Currently the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide, which is located within the former prison grounds, has the original negatives and a catalog of all 6,000 remaining negatives. Cornell University also has one of the catalogs, and the DCCam Project has also incorporated scanned versions of the images into their database, as well as Yale University.
Props to Secretary Clinton for visiting the prison and acknowledging this brutal period of recent history:
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed hope Monday for accountability for atrocities committed by the brutal Khmer Rouge regime during an emotional visit to Cambodia’s genocide museum.
A sombre-looking Clinton, on a two-week Asia trip, studied black-and-white photos of gaunt-faced prisoners on display, along with dozens of skulls of victims and paintings of people being tortured.
She later described the tour of Tuol Sleng — the main torture centre of the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s — as a “very disturbing experience,” but said she was impressed that Cambodia was confronting its dark history.
“Countries that are held prisoner to their past never break those chains and build the kind of future your children deserve,” she told an audience of young Cambodians at a town hall-style meeting in the capital Phnom Penh.
“I was very proud to see firsthand the willingness of your country to face that past bravely and honestly.”
Thousands of inmates were taken from the jail — now a major tourist attraction — for execution in a nearby orchard that served as a “Killing Field”.
Clinton said Cambodia’s UN-backed war crimes tribunal “is bringing some of the people who caused so much suffering to justice … The work of the tribunal is painful but it is necessary to ensure a lasting peace.”
Cambodia is opposing a third trial of regime leaders, but in comments written in the museum guestbook, Clinton appeared to back further Khmer Rouge prosecutions.
“In memory of the tragic suffering of the people of Cambodia and in hope that there will (be) a future of peace, prosperity and greater awareness of all that needs to be done to move the country forward, including trials, accountability and reconciliation,” she wrote.
In July, a UN-backed war crimes court sentenced Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, to 30 years in jail for overseeing the deaths of 15,000 men, women and children in the late 1970s.
Last month the court indicted four top regime leaders for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in connection with the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and execution between 1975 and 1979.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told visiting United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon last week that a third case was “not allowed” because it could plunge the country back into civil war.
The international community keeps saying “never again” but genocide not only keeps occurring, it continues to go largely unpunished.
Here are some photos from Secretary Clinton’s visit to the prison/museum. There are some other photos in the post immediately below this one:
There is a great website which documents photographs from the prison here.