A display of photographs in the Tuol Sleng Prison, a former high school used by the Khmer Rouge ...

Accession Number P03258.260
Collection type Photograph
Object type Black & white - Film original negative 35mm safety base
Maker Smith, Heide
Place made Cambodia
Date made 1993
Conflict Period 1990-1999
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC

A display of photographs in the Tuol Sleng Prison, a former high school used by the Khmer Rouge for torturing and killing between 14,000 and 17,000 intellectuals, officials, monks, nuns, men, women and children, and which remains in the state in which it was discovered by the Vietnamese army after they entered Phnom Penh in January 1979. A small shrine with a container of incense sticks sits below the display. Among the material discovered by the Vietnamese were detailed files of virtually every prisoner who entered Tuol Sleng. Every prisoner was photographed, either when they arrived, after torture or just before or after they were killed, the method of their torture documented, along with the specious 'confessions' extracted from them. Seven thousand images survived and thousands now cover the walls of the facility, now a museum. This particular group shows men and women after they have died from the effects of prolonged torture. Tuol Sleng was a top secret facility, known only as S-21 to a small number of high ranking Khmer Rouge officials, and as 'konlaenh choul min dael chenh' ('the place where people went in but never came out') to factory staff working nearby at the time. By 1977, the Khmer Rouge revolution was searching for internal scapegoats and S-21's cramped schoolrooms started filling with Khmer Rouge cadre; new gangs of torturers were brought in to work on the old groups of torturers, most of whom were aged between 17 and 21. According to the prison's seven survivors, anyone who lasted the torture process was taken to the nearby killing fields of Choeung Ek where adults were hit on the back of the head with a hoe or a pick to kill them, and babies and children were grasped by their legs and their heads bashed against tree trunks.

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