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Sawatdee!

We are Michael and Pinky, a Bangkok-based couple who loves to travel, explore, and go on adventures all over the world. We are always looking for the greatest experiences for adventurers on a budget.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh: A Heartbreaking Window to Cambodia's Past

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh: A Heartbreaking Window to Cambodia's Past

About the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

The Khmer Rouge, under dictator Pol Pot, ruled Cambodia under one of the most oppressive and genocidal regimes in history. It’s unclear exactly how many people were killed by the Khmer Rouge, but high-end estimates put the death toll around 30% of Cambodia’s population.

In the past several decades, Cambodia has come a long way in recovering from its heartbreaking past, and today, with its reestablished monarchy, is developing and moving forward into a brighter future.

Part of ensuring that nothing like the Khmer Rouge ever happens again is spreading awareness and educating the world about what happened in Cambodia during the 1970s. Although it can be hard to hear, it’s important to learn about it when visiting Cambodia.

Tuol Sleng Prison, code-named S-21, was a brutal prison for Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime. Today, the former prison has been turned into the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

Tuol Sleng Prison, code-named S-21, was a brutal prison for Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime. Today, the former prison has been turned into the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

One of the most tragic and important places to learn about the Cambodian genocide is at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in the country’s capital, Phnom Penh. This school turned prison (code-named S-21) was one of the regime’s most brutal prisons. An estimated 20,000 prisoners were executed there. Seven former prisoners survived.

I really do recommend paying the extra $3 to rent an audio guide, or better yet, hiring a guide to take you around the museum. Hearing the personal stories of the brutalities that took place at Tuol Sleng makes the experience much more powerful than just wandering around on your own.

If the photographs of the victims on display or the stories about what happened to them gets to be overwhelming, there’s a very nice rest area in one of the buildings called the White Lotus Room. It’s a sort of meditation room with comfortable cushions, quiet music, air-con, and cold water where visitors can sit to meditate or pray.

The prison was built inside of an old school. Classrooms were turned into cramped prison blocks and torture rooms.

The prison was built inside of an old school. Classrooms were turned into cramped prison blocks and torture rooms.

As a teacher, it breaks my heart to see a school, which should be a safe place where students can learn and grow, turned into a prison camp. Walking around the old buildings, I was struck with a really eerie and uncomfortable feeling. Many of the buildings were laid out exactly like the school where I teach in Thailand.

a memorial to the martyrs of the Khmer Rouge regime at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh

a memorial to the martyrs of the Khmer Rouge regime at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh

It’s not a fun place to visit, and it’s not a happy place to visit. But it is an important place to visit. I think that it’s important to take a step back to remember the horrible tragedies that took place here just decades ago.

prisoners were held in terrible conditions in the S-21 prison

prisoners were held in terrible conditions in the S-21 prison

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum Location

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is located at St 113, Phnom Penh. It’s not far from the Russian Market, and technically within walking distance. I walked from my hotel, which was located near the Russian Market, but with the traffic in Phnom Penh, I recommend hiring a tuk-tuk. If you are not used to walking in Phnom Penh, or are staying far from the museum in another part of the city, definitely hire a driver. It’s too far to walk to Tuol Sleng Museum from the Royal Palace or riverfront area.

It’s not hard to find the museum. It’s very clearly marked, and as the prison was built in an old school, the area is quite large - making up the entire block.

https://goo.gl/maps/WSf7YELi2i12

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum Opening Hours

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is open daily from 8:00 - 17:00.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum Admission Price

Admission to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is $5 for adults. The audio guide costs $3 extra. I highly recommend paying the full $8 for the entry ticket and audio guide. The first time I visited the museum, I opted out of the extra audio guide, and definitely didn’t get nearly as much out of my visit as I did the second time, when I did take the audio guide.

$5 - entry ticket only

$8 - entry ticket and audio guide (definitely take this option!)

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