This former high school (turned into prison and then now into a Genocide Museum) is a good place to start learning about the horrible Khmer Rouge regime. The  official name of the prison was Security Prison 21 (S-21). From 1975 to 1979, an estimated 15,000- 20,000 people were imprisoned here, where were repeatedly tortured and coerced into naming family members and close associates, who were in turn arrested, tortured and killed, thus creating a cycle that only ended when the Vietnamese army entered Phnom Penh in 1979 in response to Khmer Rouge attack on Vietnam. 


The ticket costs $6 with audio guide, $3 without it. The museum has a very good exhibit consisting of photos and explanations of how the Khmers came into power, the terror years, and the regime fall. The audio guide is still useful. When you enter the prison you will see these impossible prison rules that illustrate the horror of this place. The imperfect translation was done by the Khmers themselves:

1. You must answer accordingly to my question. Don’t turn them away.

2. Don’t try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that, you are strictly prohibited to contest me.

3. Don’t be a fool for you are a chap who dare to thwart the revolution.

4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.

5. Don’t tell me either about your immoralities or the essence of the revolution.

6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.

7. Do nothing, sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.

8. Don’t make pretext about Kampuchea Krom in order to hide your secret or traitor.

9. If you don’t follow all the above rules, you shall get many lashes of electric wire.

10. If you disobey any point of my regulations you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric discharge.


The most interesting part of exhibit are the photos of Pol Pot and other important party figures, history of Cambodia civil war (we had no idea that they endured 10 years of U.S. bombings in the north of Cambodia where fighters from North Vietnam were often hiding), and the heart breaking photos of happy people in Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975 happily greeting the Red Khmers not knowing what comes next. Also interesting is the exhibit with many of the photographs of S-21 prisoners taken upon their arrival. Some still have hope, some are scared, and some defiant. Seeing their faces and knowing most of them were tortured and then killed is really heartbreaking.


If you come here after the Killing Fields, chances are you won't have the strength to stay here too long and will want to leave and see something that will make you happy. Regardless how difficult visit to this museum is, it should not be missed.