The Horror of Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek

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Between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot, had exterminated 1/3 (over one million) of Cambodia's population in a reign of intense and brutal policies. Men, women, children and babies could not escape the horror that the Khmer Rouge brought when they arrived in Phnom Penh. Anyone and everyone was classed as an enemy and as such, was imprisoned in one of the many execution centres across the country, most notoriously S-21 known as Tuol Sleng. Once the party was finished with these 'party traitors,' many were sent to execution fields, known as 'Killing Fields,' where they were simply bludgeoned, beaten and then had their throats slashed before simply being dumped, forever a victim of the ruthless Khmer Rouge. Very few of the Khmer Rouge leaders have ever faced trial for their heinous crimes, in-particular the party's leader Pol Pot, who dies whilst under house arrest in 1998. And so, both Tuol Sleng, along with the countless 'Killing Fields' scattered all over the country stand as a reminder of Cambodia's dark past and how one man's reign caused the loss of so many lives.

Submitted: October 18, 2015

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Submitted: October 18, 2015



Behind it's ordinary looking facade,

Lies a history of unspeakable pain,

A history drenched in bloodshed and death,

Under the Khmer Rouge's evil reign.


They entered Phnom Penh in 1975,

Under the guise of freedom and peace,

But Cambodians were totally unaware,

Of their murderous intentions, tearing Cambodia apart piece by piece.


The Cambodian people were forced to gather their belongings,

Joining the work effort in the countryside on collective farms,

Many were worked to death and deprived of food,

The Khmer Rouge wasn't bringing unity, they were bringing mass harm.


To those deemed as enemies of the party,

They were sent to the hellish Tuol Sleng,

Never to return once they entered,

For it was here, many would ultimately meet their end.


Each and every prisoner was photographed,

Questioned in-depth about their past,

Made to confess to crimes that they didn't commit,

Unbeknownst to them, the life within these dreaded walls would be their last.


Those who didn't confess,

Were subjected to gruesome brutality,

Fingernails ripped from fingers,

For Cambodians, this was the horrifying reality.


Many prisoners were severely beaten,

Their flesh whipped with leather and cut with knives,

Their throats slashed like cattle for the slaughter,

The Khmer Rouge held total control over their prisoners' lives.


When they weren't being tortured,

They were shackled to the floor by monstrous chains,

Unable to move, to talk or to be free,

Their souls in Tuol Sleng, would forever remain.


Once the prisoners had outlived their use,

The Khmer Rouge gathered groups for transport,

To take them to the end of the line,

To the place where many more lives would be cut short.


They would arrive at the 'Killing Fields,'

Also known as Choeung Ek,

Where they would be brutally beaten,

Before finally succumbing to the blade through their neck.


In the pits they would fall,

Lifeless an simply left to rot,

Someone's Daughter, someone's Son, someone's Mother, someone's Father,

Victims the Khmer Rouge simply forgot.


The Khmer Rouge's reign of terror and hatred,

Cost over one million lives,

What on earth was going on,

In their leader's mad mind!?


Both Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek,

Stand as a constant reminder of Cambodia's troubled past,

Of a time where the country became a state of murder and paranoia,

Now maybe those lost souls, all those innocent people, can finally lay to rest at last.

 -- James William Cooper

© Copyright 2018 James William Cooper. All rights reserved.

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