Cambodia’s Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, established in what was once a torture center operated by the radical Khmer Rouge regime, will be renovated, officials said on Friday.
The museum, formerly a high school in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, was turned into Security Prison 21, or S-21, after the Khmer Rouge took power, in 1975. Of the estimated 16,000 men, women and children who passed through its gates, only a handful survived. An estimated 1.7 million people died as a result of the Khmer Rouge’s radical policies from 1975 to 1979.
UNESCO is also working with the museum to preserve copies of the original documents by storing them digitally on a computer network server.
The existence of S-21 was a well-kept secret until discovered in early 1979 by Vietnamese troops who invaded Cambodia to oust the Khmer Rouge from power. They discovered the corpses of recently killed prisoners, as well as an astonishing quantity of photos and documents that the prison’s overseers failed to destroy in their haste to flee capture.
The museum’s archive includes 4,186 confessions — often falsely given by prisoners under torture — 6,226 biographies of prisoners, 6,147 photographic prints and negatives of prisoners, and other items.
The prison was commanded by Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Comrade Duch, who is currently being tried by Cambodia’s UN-backed genocide tribunal.
His trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity began last year and the verdict is expected later this year.