NaPoWriMo 2018 – #13 Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21)

Warning. This post contains disturbing material.


He recognises the structure of the building. It had once been a high school like those he’d  taught at in Vietnam: three or four floors high, each level having a long balcony overlooking a playground. Doors opened off the balcony onto side-by-side classrooms.

But in S-21, the classrooms were sub-divided by roughly built brick walls, making multiple torture chambers out of each classroom. Prisoners were shackled to iron bedsteads, tortured until they confessed to being anti-government subversives working against Pol Pot. The torturer was practiced in the art of taking the prisoner to the brink of death and then pulling back. A death without a confession was a failure, which did not reflect well on the torturer. After the confession had been extracted, the prisoner was taken to the edge of a pit where the playground had been, hit on the head with an iron bar and throat slit. The pit was then covered with DDT, to mask the stench and finish off any unlikely survivors.


Laughter with screams

Skipping ropes with manacles

Desks with racks

Homework with confessions

Rulers with iron bars

Chalk dust with DDT

Innocence with corruption



Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Image: By Nefelimhg at Dutch Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)