Written By Carl, Feb 6th 2017
As a family of six we visited the killing fields of Choeung Ek just out of Phnom Pehn and due to the nature and having already exposed the kids to this we decided it was best that I visit Tuol Sleng Genocide museum alone. I did take our youngest as I could gauge what he needed to see/hear and knew he wouldn’t be able to fully comprehend the sights we would encounter.
This place was a real eye opener, its hard to convey in words what I experienced here. The brutality that a human being can possess is clearly evident and mind numbing. I thought I had a high tolerance for violent acts but this was on another level.
During the Khmer Rouge reign of terror a kiwi bloke by the name of Kerry Hamill unfortunately found himself in the wrong place and the yacht he was aboard got captured by a Khmer Rouge patrol boat. Despite proclaiming their innocence he and a Brit were savagely tortured and suffered horrific deaths.
Amidst this terrifying place I happened to met a remarkable local, Mr Chem Mey who was one of the seven lucky survivors. He survived due to his mechanical knowledge/know how. Via a interrupter he conversed with me and informed me that he had the privileged of meeting Kerry Hamill’s brother Rob who over the past few decades has actively pursued his brothers killers to ensure they were brought to justice. (I met with Rob during my Trans Tasman row venture)
The visit to S21 is definitely not for the faint hearted due to the graphic nature of the photo galleries on the display boards, and the torture chambers largely left unchanged since its liberation in 1979. Tuol Sleng provides some powerful insights not just into the Khmer Rouge brutality, but into the people who were the Khmer Rouge.