Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Weather :

Tags : Historical Site

Timings : 8 AM to 5 PM

Time Required : 2 to 3 hours

Entry Fee : 5 USD. Audio guides cost an additional 3 USD. 6 USD extra for tour guides.

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Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields, Phnom Penh Overview

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a former secret prison well-known as S-21 established during the Khmer Rouge. It is here that thousands of innocent Cambodian civilians were accused of crimes to be imprisoned and tortured. Today, the prison has been converted into a museum that showcases the Genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge officials, including Pol Pot.

Many of these were executed in the nearby killing fields. It is not a pleasant attraction, but worth a visit for tourists traveling in Phnom Penh to understand the country's dark history.

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Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum tips

  • Since it is a disturbing place of interest, it is better to avoid visiting the museum if you are traveling with young children or those sensitive to extreme violence and crime.
  • It is expected to dress appropriately and respect the areas in the museum, and no inappropriate photography is allowed.
  • There are not many options for refreshment near the centre. So carry enough food and water when you plan your trip.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum History & Significance

Tuol Svay Prey was a high school that housed hundreds of local students. In 1975, the year the Khmer Rouge began all over Cambodia, this school was acquired by Pol Pot's security forces. They turned into a secret prison known as Security Prison 21 (S-21). Many such places were converted into prisons all over the country. It marked the beginning of the atrocities that would be inflicted upon the Cambodian masses. These prisons were not regular. Here thousands of civilians were imprisoned after being falsely accused of the crimes that they didn't commit. 

S-21 became the largest of all the torture centres in the country. More than 20,000 people including men, women and children were brought here to be beaten, enslaved and broken, after which they were deported in large batches for mass execution in the nearby Choeung Ek or the Killing Fields. Many of them died in the prisons unable to withstand the harrowing treatment of the forces, sometimes about 500 people dying every day due to intense torture. The establishment and plight of such prisons came into light when the Vietnamese army liberated Phnom Penh in 1979, which ended the Khmer Rouge. By then, hundreds of thousands had been tormented in gruesome ways and had been killed mercilessly here.

Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum Tours

It was later that Tuol Sleng was converted to a Genocide Museum as a testimony to the inhumane acts of the Khmer Rouge. Most of the rooms in the building have been untouched and gives a depressing first-hand account of how a school was transformed into a torture house. The museum consists of many places including instruments used for torment, things used by people to survive, and elaborate records of the prisoners including registers containing photographs of people who were killed.

Visitors can also check the Documentation Center of Cambodia located behind Tuol Sleng Museum. It was established in 1995 as a part of Yale University's Cambodian Genocide Program for extensive documentation of the horrifying crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge. The researchers have spent years to procure hundreds of mass graves, prison cells for torture, many significant collections of files containing details of the victims, and have even documented the life-altering experiences of the few survivors who were victims.

How To Reach Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields

Tuol Sleng Museum is located 50 minutes away from the city centre of Phnom Penh. You can reach by hiring a Tuk-Tuk for about 15 USD for a round trip ride that can also be shared. You can also get there renting a motorbike for about 8 USD per day.

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