Tuol Sleng

Tropical green foliage does little to hide the stark horror of a decaying concrete prison built by the bloody hands of Pol Pot and his Red Army. You can hear the screams echo still. Wandering the levels, one finds cells divided floor to ceiling by brick and wood, barricades acting as temporary homes to the accused rebels, rebels chained to the cold stone floor awaiting their personal integration.

A processing room, interrogation chamber, confession box, call it what you will. A solitary iron bed frame as naked as the soul shackled to it stands alone in the silent room. What little light falls through the shuttered and barred window highlights the stark rusted metal once spattered with glistening blood, life force dripping from a battered pulp of an unrecognizable human form raggedly gasping for air.

There is no re-education in this place, only forced admissions of an unfounded guilt worthy of a death sentence. A guilt shared by over 1,700,000 men, women and children, a guilt of being educated, free and ultimately unworthy of the Red Army’s redemption. A guilt of essentially being human. The punishment is unavoidable death by the most inhumane means; of hacking and slashing and hanging and raw chemical intoxication until final ragged breaths are drawn, bodies clinging on to life but crushed at the bottom of a hundred other buried souls, deep below the surface forever more. A curtain is finally drawn, but as the light fades but there is no applause, only silence.

Time erodes virulent passion, ushers away outdated evil, condemns and punishes those who sought to rule in vein, but history lives on forever. Saturated graves littered with horrifying evidence of mass cruelty remain visible to the hordes of tourists learning anew of the Red Army’s genocidal attempt at reaching for a Utopian state. No one will forget. In Cambodia, only anger and fear remain, a fear of returning to the dark days, another attempt at Utopia. A fear all too real in this state they still call Kampuchea.


Photographer & Artist

All content copyright Barnaby Jaco Skinner 2018









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