Photographer's Note

Cambodia has a grim recent history and the Toul Sleng Genocide museum helps to explain what happened during the time of the Khmer Rouge. What it doesn't answer is 'why?' - a question that Cambodians still cannot answer.

The US intervention in Cambodia (early 1970s), including carpet bombing of communist controlled areas, left the country in a terrible state. The Khmer Rouge increased its military strength and advanced to Phnom Penh in 1975. Cambodia became Democratic Kampuchea and the inhabitants of the capital were sent to the countryside. Pol Pot became the dictator and year zero began with the population forced to work the land as peasants. The Vietnamese liberated Phnom Penh in 1979 and the true level of the atrocities were then revealed. At least 1 million Cambodians died (population of about 7 million) through savage killing, starvation and disease. The Vietnam invasion, led to further war between the Soviet backed Vietnamese and the Chinese and US backed anti-Vietnamese rebels. In 1989 the Vietnamese withdrew and civil war escalated but in 1991 the Paris Peace Accord started the road to peace but the Khmer Rouge continued guerrilla warfare and disruption of elections. Normality did not start to return until about 1999. Of course the politics and recent history of Cambodia are far more complicated than I have been able to describe here so apologies for the simplification.

The Genocide museum in Phnom Penh was Security Prison 21 (once a High School) and was the main torture and interrogation centre for the Khmer Rouge from 1975- 1978. The horror of the appauling conditions and brutal acts of genocide cannot be described easily. The photograph (apologies for poor quality)looks through a door into a former classroon that was divided into small cells which were overcrowded with tortured people. The WS shows some of the 'regulations'.

The Cambodians that we met all lost family members and some remember fleeing to the jungle to escape the Khmer Rouge. They talk about the painful era as a way of reminding the world that true evil can emerge. When asked 'why?' this happened they have no answers.

Photo Information
  • Copyright: Ann Jackman (annjackman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1768 W: 0 N: 4456] (21903)
  • Genre: Places
  • Medium: Color
  • Date Taken: 2012-11-01
  • Categories: Ruins
  • Exposure: f/4, 1/15 seconds
  • More Photo Info: view
  • Photo Version: Original Version, Workshop
  • Date Submitted: 2012-11-08 22:24
  • Favorites: 2 [view]
Viewed: 3399
Points: 56
Additional Photos by Ann Jackman (annjackman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1768 W: 0 N: 4456] (21903)
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