Monday, May 16, 2011

№ 3. Backpacking in IndoChina: All Soul’s Day at S.21

A room on the third floor
The sign at the entry mandated propriety: no laughter. But noises no longer have to be contained. Or drowned with music. Only the enlarged pictures in each quarter have remained stoic sentinels of the violence inside.

Tropical weather and time have worn away visible traces of evil. The implements are now blunt, dry and rusting. The chains, spikes and electric switches appear like innocent metals in a mechanic’s workshop. These utensils, however, were accomplices in extracting reams of confessions from the flesh and veins.

Barbed wires wrapped the windows

A quick trip to the other school houses earns a comparison too: foreigners, high ranking Khmer officers and other special guests had roomier accommodations. In Building C, the rank & file and the common folks had cramped cubicles which subdivided the rooms. In life, as in death and all the horrors in between, economic stratification underscores the details.

After thirty years, Kampuchea’s interrogation techniques still remain in wide use elsewhere: waterboarding, electrocution, pulling of nails, et cetera. 

Alas, it is still the creative human mind that animates the reaper’s tools.

Bento Box:

1. My photos are of the rooms of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 2 November 2009.


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