In Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot imprisoned, tortured, systematically documented their confessions and then murdered 17,000 men, women and children, in a hastily converted school in the centre of Phnom Penh, that became infamous as “S21”.
Today, S21 has been preserved, along with nearby Cheoung Ek (the Killing Fields) as a memorial to the 1.7 million people (official figure) who were slaughtered by the regime in the space of 4 years. UNICEF estimated that almost 3 million were killed – nearly 40% of the population.
I made this short film from still images that I took inside S21.
At Cheung Ek (the “Killing Fields”) a few kilometres outside the capital, and in the rest of Democratic Kampuchea (as the Khmer Rouge renamed Cambodia) 1.7 million people were slaughtered in four years of madness.
The facts of this period will be debated for many years to come. Did the West sit on its hands while Khmer Rouge leader and “Brother Number One” Pol Pot systematically murdered his own own people? Was the US with its anti-communist policies responsible for the Khmer Rouge coming to power even? Steering a logical course through the “what ifs” and events that brought about the deaths of nearly 2 million people in Cambodia alone is a minefield, just like like many parts of Cambodia still are, quite literally, today.
For anyone wanting to know more Wikipedia has an interesting piece on the period of Khmer Rouge rule