Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Waiting and sightseeing

Day 2 in Phnom Penh: We received a phone call early in the morning from the Cambodia Ministry of Tourism requesting another change in our typed letter of yesterday. We thought "Here we go - the slow wheels of bureaucracy." We immediately went there, made the change, and were asked to wait.

After about 10 minutes of cordial conversation with a staff member, we were given a file folder containing copies of all the pertinent paperwork and Jordan was ushered upstairs to the Deputy Minister who, to our happy surprise, quickly stamped and signed the papers and with a smile said we were done there, but must next go to Customs to finish up.

Arriving at Customs, we were requested to leave our file and pick it up at 17:00 so we left for more sightseeing.

We went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. We had previously read a non-fiction book entitled Stay Alive, My Son (by Yin Yathay) so were familiar with the tragic history of the Killing Fields and the Khmer Rouge.

During this horrific period, the Khmer Rouge indiscriminately rounded up thousands of persons for questioning, torture, and execution. One of the most notorious venues for their ghastly endeavours was the Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh, once a happy high school converted into dark and dingy cells of despair.

Catalogue photos of the prisoners were left behind after the fall of the regime and are now displayed as a poignant reminder of the brutality. Of the rough estimate of the 14,000 to 20,000 people imprisoned here, only a handful survived.

Tuol Sleng (also called S-21) was only 1 of nearly 200 secret prisons where people were tortured and executed by the Khmer Rouge.

Reverent contemplation

At 17:00 back at Customs, we happily picked up our stamped and completed file of our motorcycle permit from Customs, albeit in a sombre mood after our visit to S-21.

No comments: