Unique experiences with Hanuman.
S-21 survivors, Chum Mey (left) and Bou Meng. Photo by EPA.
Hanuman pride themselves on bringing their guests a selection of unique personal experiences whilst they are enjoying the delights that Cambodia has to offer. Whether it’s flying by helicopter to remote temples, or enjoying exclusive dining at Angkor, or a one-to-one meeting with one of the survivors of the former high school in the suburbs of Phnom Penh, that the Khmer Rouge turned into a detention and torture centre known as Tuol Sleng, or S-21 during their murderous reign in the late Seventies. 17,000 people passed through the gates of this prison and only a handful survived to tell the tale. Just two are alive today, Bou Meng and Chum Mey, and one of them can give you a personal insight into the Khmer Rouge’s Democratic Kampuchea during your tour of the Tuol Sleng Museum.
Bou Meng survived S-21 because he was a painter and was singled out from a row of shackled prisoners to produce portraits of the Khmer Rouge chief, Pol Pot. He was taken to S-21 in June 1977. The long-term effects of his one and a half years of detention have left their scars. During the first few years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Bou Meng returned to work in an office at Tuol Sleng, which was converted into a museum of genocide. Now he uses it as a rest stop, sometimes spending the night there on a cot when he visits the capital, Phnom Penh, from the countryside, where he paints Buddhist murals in pagodas. Boug Meng keeps in his wallet a snapshot-size reproduction of the prison portrait of his wife, Ma Yoeun, who was arrested with him but did not survive. He gave evidence against the S-21 commandant, Duch, at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in 2011.
Fellow survivor, Chum Mey, comes from Prey Veng and was a mechanic, who was taken into S-21 in October 1978, just a few months before the regime fell. There he was imprisoned in a brick cell about two metres by one metre wide, blindfolded and shackled to the floor. For twelve days and nights he was tortured, as his interrogators tried to make him confess to spying for the United States and Russia. He was allowed to live becuase he was of use to the regime, fixing sewing machines in the prison workshop. On 7 January 1979, Vietnamese troops captured Phnom Penh from the Khmer Rouge, and the prison staff fled. Chum Mey was marched at gunpoint by prison guards into the provinces, where he had a chance meeting with his wife, and held for the first time, his fourth child, a boy, just two months old. Two days later, soldiers shot dead his wife and baby, as Chum Mey escaped. He too gave evidence at the Khmer Touge Tribunal trial against the former 2-1 commander Comrade Duch in 2011.