From 1975 to 1979, under the leadership of communist dictator Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge carried out a mass genocide in Cambodia that led to the deaths of more than two million people. Here are a few places in and around Phnom Penh where you can learn more about this dark period of the nation’s history.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is housed within a high school that was turned into Security Prison 21 (S-21 Prison) during Pol Pot’s regime. It quickly became the largest facility of its kind in the country. Today, the museum testifies to the crimes of the Khmer Rouge against the 17,000 people held here.
Choeung Ek Killing Fields
A peaceful, rural area outside of Phnom Penh was the site of 17,000 executions of men, women, and children during the Khmer Rouge regime. Most of the mass graves have been left untouched, but a tower of 8,000 human skulls arranged behind clear glass panels give an idea of the scope of the atrocities committed here— an area now known as the Killing Fields.
Phnom Ta Reach
While not as well known as the Genocide Museum or the Killing Fields, this off-the-beaten-track site was where Pol Pot ordered prisoners to carve a tunnel through a rocky mountain over 650 feet (200 meters) long.
National Museum of Cambodia
While the National Museum isn’t directly tied to the Khmer Rouge, it puts the era into a greater historical context through one of the biggest collections of Khmer art and artifacts in the world.