ABSTRACT

On 9 May 2014, the Phnom Penh Post published an article by Poppy McPherson titled, ‘Memorial Plan Prompts Debate about Victims and Perpetrators of Genocide’. The story, which was reprinted and reposted in multiple news outlets, focused its attention on two survivors – Bou Meng and Chum Mey – from Cambodia’s notorious Tuol Sleng Prison (known more widely as ‘Security Prison 21’, or ‘S-21 detention center’).1 Formerly a high school, Tuol Sleng Prison was repurposed soon after the 17 April 1975 takeover of Phnom Penh by the authoritarian Khmer Rouge. Between 1975 and 1979 – the duration of the Khmer Rouge regime – Tuol Sleng would be home to an estimated 20,000 inmates, the vast majority of whom would perish.2 Catastrophically, such mass death was emblematic of what those outside Cambodia refer to as the period of ‘the Killing Fields’ and those within term ‘Pol Pot Time’. Indeed, over the course of three years, eight months, and twenty days, approximately 1.7 million Cambodians (21-25% of the extant population) died from disease, starvation, forced labour, torture and execution.