Photos from the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields


Photo of a deceased prisoner chained to his bed

Image 4 of 9

Each torture room in the prison has a similar photo on the wall. These were taken when the Vietnamese army finally liberated the camp in 1979.

“This isn’t ancient history. This happened during our lifetimes.”
I heard this from several people I met while visiting Tuol Sleng and the Choeung Ek killing field. I’m glad I went and glad to never see it again. It’s a powerfully depressing experience, walking through the remnants and memories of true madness.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria Staal April 24, 2010 at 8:02 pm

I guess visiting this museum is like visiting Auswich or something alike. It’s not fun, but just something you should do.
.-= Maria Staal´s last blog ..Can a quirky Family Tree make things Clear? =-.


wes April 25, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Yeah, you really have to see it. So much different than reading about it.


Michael April 24, 2010 at 9:17 pm

the day we paid our respects at Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek was a heavy day indeed, difficult to wrap your head around the reality of it


SpunkyGirl April 25, 2010 at 5:34 am

Wow, some powerful photos! I have the killing fields on my list for when I’m that way later this year. Did you feel really drained when you left?
.-= SpunkyGirl´s last blog ..Earth Day| It’s not easy being green… =-.


wes April 25, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I think I felt more numb than anything when I left. It’s a strange place — none of us tourists made eye-contact with each other. Then I walked into a room full of human skulls and there was a sweet middle-aged Cambodian woman who saw the look on my face and just laughed loudly and gave me a big smile. Only in Cambodia…


Bethany April 25, 2010 at 7:01 am

some great pics. Love the one of the bird. I imagine what it will be like when I visit this place next year. I know it will be hard. I bawled my eyes out at Day of the Dead in Oaxaca and that’s supposed to be a happy event.
.-= Bethany´s last blog ..Somewhere In Time – Welcome to Panguitch. (Utah, USA) =-.


ayngelina April 25, 2010 at 9:03 am

I actually found outside the museum to be equally difficult as there were many landmine victims asking for money and they were horribly injured.

However, right across the street is an NGO store that gives these victims jobs and sells their crafts. The items are interesting and the prices are fair.
.-= ayngelina´s last blog ..Sugar and spice and everything nice =-.


wes April 25, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I had a similar experience. 2 guys approached me and I gave them both 1000 riel. One of them demanded more and I just said “Don’t be like that” while the other laughed at him.


Jolyn@Budgets are the New Black April 25, 2010 at 10:58 am

So many structures still intact makes is all the more powerful. Plus, it really is recent history. Your photos really captured the emotions.
.-= Jolyn@Budgets are the New Black´s last blog ..Why Wait to Stage a House? =-.


wes April 25, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Thanks, Jolyn. I think the creepiest thing is the appearance of the prison from the outside. It’s just a generic collection of 3 story school buildings. Then you step inside…


solotraveler April 25, 2010 at 11:03 am

Very poignant. Very powerful. Photos like these not only help us remember so that we don’t repeat (hopefully), they help us honor those who died and help us celebrate the fact that we, people, eventually stopped the madness. I explored this topic in a post on Solo Traveler called “Why do we go to sad places?”


half century April 25, 2010 at 11:14 pm

I had a moment of horror when I was at the Killing Fields, looking down at the dusty earth I saw remnants of clothing, for a moment I just thought ‘garbage’ then suddenly realised this was clothing from victims of the murders that had taken place on this spot while I was a carefree western teenager. In our lifetime indeed. Sobering and unforgettable.


Andy Hayes | Sharing Travel Experiences August 18, 2010 at 1:08 am

These photos bring back vivid memories. When we visited the museum, we were able (through a translator) to speak with Chum Mey, one of only a few survivors of this prison and one of just a couple of trial witnesses still alive and not in hiding.

He’s often at the museum, and his story is powerful. The translation wasn’t necessary – the look in his eyes and his determination to tell his story was explanation enough.
.-= Andy Hayes | Sharing Travel Experiences´s last blog ..Foodie’s Guide to the Best of Quebec =-.


wes August 19, 2010 at 7:14 am

Thanks for sharing that, Andy. I wish I’d had a chance to meet Chum Mey — sounds like an incredible experience.


Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World November 9, 2010 at 11:35 am

Thanks for sharing… those are really moving pics.


Federico February 1, 2011 at 9:31 am

I am totally with you- it is a depressing experience indeed. We were in a somber mood after visiting it, and only felt better after visiting a nearby orphanage- the kids brought a smile back to our faces


matt December 26, 2011 at 8:54 am

shame on you for plastering these photos on the internet. Dont you have any respect. The sign at Tuol sleng and Choeung Ek clearly states NO PHOTOGRAPHS… What gives you the right to plaster photos of deceased human beings… Did you ever think about there familys and there wishes…
YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


wes December 27, 2011 at 3:17 am

I never saw such a sign, nor did any of the other people nearby taking photos, apparently. Sorry if you’re offended but I think the families you mention would want people to know what had happened here and to –hopefully– prevent it happening again.


ali January 21, 2012 at 7:19 am

Good pics

Personally, i found it quite awkward taking pictures of the killing fields, skull tower etc.
Not sure if it’s a matter of respect but maybe just the attitude to death in the UK.

I saw a couple of tourists standing and smiling in front of the skulls which i thought was very weird.

Not sure the Cambodians would take offence being extremely friendly people.

A lot of people make a fair bit of money from it as well.

good work Wes


Chrissy Travels May 17, 2012 at 9:47 am

I didn’t get a chance to go to the museum while in Cambodia but I did read the book Somaly Mam before arriving. It changed my whole experience there. Real eye opening read about a girl, Somaly Mam, that grew up during the Pol Pot Regime and was sold as a little girl into the slave and then sex slave industry. Her story is gut wrenching, but she is now dedicating her life to rescuing other girls sold into that industry. Such a horrible history this region has…..and it is soo recent!


Lise Griffiths August 14, 2013 at 2:48 am

Sobering. I haven’t visited Cambodia before but my aunt said it was a real eye-opening experience to see the destruction the Khmer Rouge inflicted on the people.

I REALLY recommend reading ‘In the Shadow of the Banyan’ by Vaddey Ratner. It is a novel about the sufferings in the Khmer Rouge told from the perspectives of a little girl, and is based on the author’s true story. It is a very important and sad story.


wes August 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Thank you for the reminder — I’d heard of that title but had forgotten it.