Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Survivor reminds us of a dreadful past

Survivor reminds us of a dreadful past

Survivor reminds us of a dreadful past

“THIRTY days a month, even on Saturdays and Sundays, I come here to talk to the world, and to the next generation, about  living in the S-21 prison,” says Chum Mei, a former inmate of S-21, now known as the Tuol Sleng Museum.

Chum Mei, 80, believes it is vital for tourists to visit the museum to understand the tragedy of what happened during the three years, eight months and 20 days of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Security Office 21 of Democratic Kampuchea was created on the orders of Pol Pot on April 17, 1975. Commonly known as S-21, it was designed for the detention, interrogation, inhuman torture and eventual killing of its inmates after they had confessed.

The former classrooms of a high school were turned into tiny, 0.8 metres by two metres cells caging individual prisoners. The fronts of the buildings were covered with barbed wire to prevent prisoners leaping to their death.

The museum was opened on August 19, 1979, when the Kampuchea People’s Tribunal began the prosecution of Democratic Kampuchea leaders such as Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Khiev Samphorn, Ieng Thearith and Kang Gech Ieve.

“We have to broadcast widely to everyone in the world in order to avoid such things happening again and not to repeat what Pol Pot did,” Chum Mei says.

When he was detained in S-21, Chum Mei wasn’t allowed to speak to other prisoners. He simply waited for death to come.

Now he lives to tell tourists about what life was like in a Khmer Rouge death camp.

MOST VIEWED

  • Temi tourism project approved by the CDC

    The $500.4 million Tourism, Ecological, Marine and International (Temi) tourism project has been approved by the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), according to a notice on its Facebook page on Monday. The project is part of Chinese-owned Union City Development Group Co Ltd’s (

  • Rainsy will return at ‘favourable time’

    Opposition figure Sam Rainsy on Saturday suggested he would not return to Cambodia as he had previously promised, saying that like liberators King Father Norodom Sihanouk and Charles de Gaulle, he would only do so at a “favourable time”. “I will go back to Cambodia

  • NagaWorld casino sees net profit of more than $390M last year

    Phnom Penh’s NagaWorld casino posted a 53 per cent net profit increase last year at $390.6 million, a sum which is almost equal to the combined net profit of all Cambodian commercial banks in 2017. NagaWorld’s parent company, NagaCorp Ltd, is listed on the Hong Kong

  • US Embassy urged to stop ‘disrespecting sovereignty’

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation called on the US Embassy in Phnom Penh on Saturday to respect the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations after it called former opposition leader Kem Sokha “an innocent man” – a move deemed to be “disrespecting Cambodia’s