What is Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre?
Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre is a unique and special place which reflects the most barbarous, cruel crime committed by the Ultra Communist Khmer Rouge Regime during 1975-1979. Here, about 20,000 people including foreigners were executed and murdered. Obviously, 129 mass graves and about 8,000 human skulls at the site bear testimony to this unspeakable crime.
In order to remember the spirits of the victims at the site as well as over 3 million victims thought out the country, a Memorial Charnel was built in the centre in 1988”. Narrowcasters, Audio Tour of the Killing Fields at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre.
Choeung Ek memorial
There is now a memorial built on the site with a Buddhist Stupa, that has large glass walls and features human skulls on show. Visitors to the site can enter the building and view the skulls and pay tribute to those who were brutally murdered here by the Khmer Rouge.
How to get to Choeung Ek
The Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre is located approximately 15km southeast of Phnom Penh. The trip is quite a bumpy and very dusty, extremely busy road. I arranged with a tuk-tuk driver to take me to both the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (in Phnom Penh city) and then the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre and wait for me while I was at both.
Most drivers will be more than happy to do this for you. You can also hire a car and driver to take you, or a public taxi, both of which are very easy to find, and I can assure you that most drivers will find and offer you services without you actually looking for them!
Entry Cost for Choeung Ek
At the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre entry for foreigners is US$3. And at the entrance, you will get a map, and tape audio system, where you stop at all the points along the trail and can listen to stories and information about that particular area. This can take as much or as little time as you want.
There are plenty of seats and shade to sit under and take in the information. I would not recommend taking younger children here, as it is very quiet here, and the stories and information on the audio are quite horrific.
If you are interested in learning more about this site, there is a film named ‘The Killing Fields' that is based on the events at Choeung Ek.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
This museum is in the heart of Phnom Penh (take a tuk-tuk or taxi if you are staying in the ‘touristy' area near the Mekong). It is set up in an old high school building that was converted to several prison-like chambers during the Democratic Khmer Rouge regime. The prison was well known as S-21, where prisoners were murdered, or held and then transported to Choeung Ek (The Killing Fields).
History of Tuol Sleng
At Tuol Sleng, there were over 20,000 people were killed by the Khmer Rouge. The old school buildings themselves were turned into small cells and torture rooms, and the surrounding yard was surrounded by barb wire and electrified fences.
An interesting point to mention is that when prisoners first arrived at Tuol Sleng Prison, they were made to write quite lengthy autobiographies starting back to their childhood. These autobiographies, along with photographs of the prisons are on display at the museum.
What you will learn at Toul Sleng
Some of the detailed information you can learn here about the torture and treatment of the prisons is very hard to accept that people could actually do this to one another. If you do not wish to hear some of the horrific stories then if you choose to get a guided tour politely ask the guide to not include such information, or you can simply opt to explore the museum yourself without the guide.
A very brief overview of the types of horrific treatment (skip to the next paragraph if you do not wish to know) that would occur regularly at the Tuol Sleng Prison include; electric shocks, hot metal burns, hanging of prisoners, stabbing and cut with knives, fingernails pulled out, alcohol poured on fresh wounds, suffocation, drownings, organs cut out of prisoners without any anaesthetic, prisoners drained of blood as well as some prisoners actually being skinned alive.
Personal Tours at Toul Sleng
There are personal tours available once in the centre, or you can get an information sheet and walk around on your own. The guides offer a lot of information about the centre that you would not know if you walked around on your own. There are also photo displays and memorials at this site. Again, I would not recommend taking younger children here, as some of the photographs are quite confronting.
Entry to this site is approximately US$2. At both the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum there are signs as well as a polite reminder on the ticket to ‘Please dress modestly, speak quietly, and do not smoke during your visit.
For more information relating to these sites
- Khmer Rouge Tribunal www.eccc.gov.kh/en
- Yale University's Cambodian Genocide Program www.yale.edu/cgp
- Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre www.cekillingfield.com
The Top 10 Things to See in Phnom Penh – Capital City of Cambodia
Where to next? —> Ho Chi Minh City? Siem Reap? Angkor Wat