Security Prison 21

Toul Sleng (Formerly a High School)
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

by Chan Snguon
Lowell, MA

Pol Pot controlled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.  During his control close to 2 million Cambodians died due to torture, execution, starvation, and disease.  Formerly a high school in Phnom Penh, S-21 became Pol Potís secret prison, where his Khmer Rouge soldiers tortured and executed thousands of Cambodians accused of being enemies of Pol Potís Democratic Kampuchea. 

  Written during my visit in November 2002

I forget to laugh and I forget to cry
I forget to feel the pain trapped inside
I forget to wonder, forgot to ask why

Endless tears afraid to cry, scared of death if I show it in my eyes
The world sees not what I see, never realize
Never hear the falling tears of my silent cries
Mentally Iím already dead
Every breath is death after death
Before they destroy my physical
Iíve already died a million times
Genocide injected in me
Raped of my emotions, trapped in my heart
Raped of my thoughts, trapped in the dark
Beaten like a drum, relentless pain till Iím numb
Cell after cell, death is the smell
Ask me why and I cannot tell
In 3 years, 8 months, and 20 days
Cambodia fell into a spell
S-21 completely hidden from the sun
1.7 million dead at the hands of ďBrother # 1Ē

I visited Toul Sleng with my mom in November.  It was my second trip to Cambodia in 2002, my momís first since migrating to the U.S in 1981.  Tears that had been held back for over 22 years began to fall endlessly and immediately as my mom entered the grounds of her former high school.  I cannot even begin to imagine what her emotions were at that particular time.  The writing above is my attempt to begin to understand.  As Cambodian children we have many heroes, they begin with our parents.


© 2003 Khmer Institute. All rights reserved.