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  • Teissa Oxford

A Harrowing History

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Depart your hotel and spend the day learning about the dark side of Cambodia - its more recent turbulent and harrowing history.

Initially, you visit Toul Sleng, also known as S21 prison, ironically a former school, located in a quiet Phnom Penh suburb, this was the infamous Khmer Rouge prison / torture center. This prison was used by Pol Pot's security forces and became the largest center for detention and torture during the rule of the Khmer Rouge.

Once you have gained an initial insight of the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime you will be driven 9 miles southwest of Phnom Penh to visit the notorious Killing Fields. This is where Toul Sleng prisoners were forcibly marched and then executed during Pol Pot regime (from 1975–1979); it is now a memorial site located in a beautiful tranquil setting. On April 17th, 1975 the Khmer Rouge, a communist guerrilla group led by Pol Pot, took power in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. They forced all city dwellers into the countryside and to labor camps. During their rule, it is estimated that 2 million Cambodians died by starvation, torture or execution. 2 million Cambodians represented approximately 30% of the Cambodian population during that time.

As you return to the city, pause to visit the Pour un Sourire d’ Enfant (PSE) handicraft shop, spa and vocational training restaurant. This place was created in 1996 by the NGO aiming to rescue Cambodian children who are forced to scavenge through the rubbish dumps to survive, especially around Steung Mean Chey garbage dump in Phnom Penh.

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