Now available as an E-Book!

Now available as an E-Book!
Save money and a tree- get the downloadable PDF version of "Southeast Asia on 2 Wheels!"

Previews from the book "Southeast Asia on 2 Wheels."

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135 full-color pages of photos, stories, anecdotes, illustrations, journal pages maps and more!In addition to the four major sections on Yunnan, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand I have included some back story on both my first (and unsuccessful) attempt to motorcycle through China as well as how the planning for the trip came together.I have chosen the very best of the more than 4,000 photos from the trip as well as the most humorous, moving and fascinating of the several hundred anecdotes for Southeast Asia on 2 Wheels.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Tuol Sleng (S-21) Prison and the Khmer Rouge

Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Tuol Sleng Prison

UPDATE: March, 30, 2009. Former operator of Tuol Sleng Prison, "Comrade Duch" goes on trial for war crimes in Phnom Penh.



I took a visit to the infamous Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh. Originally a high school, the Khmer Rouge (under the leadership of the despot Salath Sar, AKA Pol Pot) converted it into a one of the worst torture centers of modern times. Between 1975 and 1979, thousands of men, women and even children were rounded up and brought to Tuol Sleng prison where they underwent cruelty beyond description.


Dictator Pol Pot (Salath Sar)

Crimes warranting a visit to Tuol Sleng ranged from political dissidence against the KR to simply 'being educated' or 'literate.' Pol Pot envisioned a Cambodia of the "Year Zero" in which all modern knowledge, all education, all technological advancement was erased, and the people would all be starting from "zero." Friends and neighbors turned on each other and a dark paranoia settled over the country. As the years passed, Pol Pot became more and more suspicious of his populace and the torture at Tuol Sleng reached a fevered pitch. It is estimated that over 17,000 persons (including 9 westerners) were imprisoned, tortured and then later dragged to the "killing fields" south of town where they were executed. Mass graves are still being uncovered around the country.


Victims of S-21 Prison

History repeats itself.

Although Tuol Sleng appears much cruder than our 21st century Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) Delta Camp prison, there are ghastly comparisons to be drawn between the Khmer Rouge's actions and our own. Water-boarding was a favorite torture technique of the KR. And like the U.S. the KR harvested little useful information from their torture (or should I say "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.")


A Cambodian Artist's depiction on water-boarding used by the KR


The Last Straw.

Pol Pot and the KR, possibly over-estimating their power and abilities, began to antagonize their neighboring Vietnam (who had recently rid itself of US military forces and enjoyed support from the USSR). Regular border incursions and attacks on nearby Vietnamese villages as well as the tales of the horrors taking place in Cambodia finally awakened the ire of the Vietnamese leadership. It was communist Vietnam that finally put an end to Pol Pot's reign and genocide in the year 1979.

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