Field notes from S21 Prison, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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S21 Prison. Not sure what to make of it.

For something so rich in history, nothing has been documented well. The exhibition doesn’t do much justice to painting the real scenes of torture and pain prisoners here had to go through. It definitely doesn’t do their bravery justice.

There’s a wall where you have tonnes of photos of anonymous faces staring back at you. There are empty cells of wood and brick and vacant, rusty bed frames. The only stories presented are factual records from prisoners who wouldn’t have dared to speak the truth about injustice.

Don’t think we will every know what exactly happened here or why. I don’t think any of them understood either. All we know is people were treated with cruelty, suffered a lot, and many died for no apparent reason.

The Khmer Rouge needed confessions, took innocent people, and tortured them to force them to “confess” – even if they weren’t guilty at all.

Standing in one of those cells, I thought, if I were one of them, I’d probably given up on life and on hope.

The atmosphere is somewhat peaceful though.

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