16.000 people were killed. Only seven survived. One of them was Chum Mey.
S-21. Tuol Sleng.
Those are words that for Cambodian people more than anything else symbolize the horror of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime. Tuol Sleng was the prison where suspected traitors were brought for torturing before being shot at the Killing Fields.
No less than 16.000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng from 1975 until 1979. Only seven of them survived. The rest were brutally killed.
The short documentary Survivor was made in cooperation with the Norwegian editor and former Asia correspondent John Einar Sandvand. Survivor tells the story about Chum Mey, a previous mechanic who was one of only seven survivors of the Tuol Sleng prison.
In the twelve minute long video Chum Mey shows us the Tuol Sleng prison and tells in his own words how he was tortured and beaten.
The communist movement Khmer Rouge, under the leadership of Pol Pot, ruled Cambodia from April 1975 until January 1979. It was one of the most brutal regimes the world has known in modern history and it is estimated that up to two million people – one fourth of the population – died during the Pol Pot years.
Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh was the biggest of many socalled security centers where suspected traitors of the Khmer Rouge were sent after being arrested. For days they were tortured until they agreed to write a detailed report of how they supposedly had worked against the regime. Almost all of them were then sent to Choeung Ek – better known as the Killing Fields – to be killed.
Why did Chum Mey survive?
Because of luck. The prison needed a mechanic. Chum Mey had the necessary experience. It was decided to let him stay alive to perform necessary reparations at the prison.
But Chum Mey also witnessed the killing of his wife and newborn child at the end of the Khmer Rouge period. And he had to live with the gruesome memories of the torture and pain in Tuol Sleng.
Today he is dedicated to share his pain and experiences with anyone who wants to listen. Almost every day he travels to Tuol Sleng where he talks to visitors about what went on in the buildings. He was also a key witness when Tuol Sleng boss Duch went on trial in the international tribunal set up to try the senior Khmer Rouge leaders.
It is a story of meaningless torture and the darkest sides of human nature. I cried when I first heard him tell about how his nails were pulled out from his fingers and how he was given electric shocks through his ears.
This film was screened at Meta House in Phnom Penh in January 2011 with more than 200 people, including Chum Mey himself, present.
Enjoy watch a film SURVIVOR below: