- Paperback: 251 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; 1st edition (January 7, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9747551152
- ISBN-13: 978-9747551150
- ASIN: 0520222474
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #931,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Chandler presents a grisly but lucid historical accounting of S-21, the secret prison where at least 14,000 people were interrogated, tortured, forced to confess to counterrevolutionary crimes and executed during the reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. This "anteroom to death," as Chandler labels it, was discovered by two Vietnamese photographers in the wake of the invasion that forced out the Khmer Rouge in January 1979. Drawn to the site by the smell of decomposing flesh, the men discovered the bodies of 50 recently murdered prisoners, an array of implements of torture and a vast abandoned archive of institutionally sanctioned torture and murder. (The area was immediately turned into a museum.) Chandler methodically reconstructs the history of S-21, working with both the archives discovered there and his own interviews with survivors of the camp; he offers some context for his evidence by drawing on his considerable knowledge of the region's past (the Australian scholar is the author of a history of Cambodia), for instance, identifying Chinese models for the camp. His assessment is of a government gone mad with paranoia, which must torture and murder its own citizens to protect itself against conspiracies that arise against it--"hidden enemies burrowing from within" who were viewed as more dangerous than outside threats. In attempting to understand how such evil arose, Chandler comes to the dismaying but arguable conclusion that places like S-21 and Nazi concentration camps originate in our own everyday capacities to order and obey, form bonds against outsiders, seek perfection and approval and vent anger and frustration upon the helpless. 13 b&w photos not seen by PW. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Grisly but lucid." --"Publishers Weekly
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During the reign of the Khmer Rouge S-21 was used as the prison, interrogation center, and finally, the place of execution for several thousand Cambodians who were suspected of counter revolutionary activity.
Chandler shows that the mania of the Khmer Rouge leadership could not differentiate between the truth and made up stories under torture. One example of this gross misconception of reality within in the minds of the Khmer Rouge leadership is the fact that people were thrown into S-21 and executed on grounds of counter revolutionary activity simply because they had broken farming equipment, thereby tried to hinder the outcome of the 4 year plan for the agricultural sector!
Chandler also manages to draw interesting parallells between the Nazi KZs and Stalin's terror in the 1930's, and the Chinese cultural revolution in the 60's. He shows that some ingredients of terror are always there, no matter if it happens in Treblinka, Moscow, the country side of China, or in the killing fields of Cambodia.
Chandler's book is more than just a story of an awful prison in Cambodia. It is about the mechanisms that make some humans commit unspeakable acts(apparently by their own free will) against their fellow human beings, simply because of a belief in a political ideology!
A must read for people interested in the thoughts and methods behind the slaughter of millions of people in communist and faschist countries in the 20th century!
This book served in some ways as an inspiration to Ysa Osman, a young Cambodian Muslim researcher at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, who in September 2002 published "Oukoubah - Justice for Cham Muslims under the DK Regime." The author profiles 13 Cham Muslims who were held at S-21, including one of the most vicious interrogators on the staff who was eventually himself executed there. Using biographical material in their confessions, this ambitious reseacher tracked down surviving family members and neighbors for the full details of how each prisoner was arrested and an overview of DK genocide against Muslims. Highly recommended for readers of "Voices from S-21."
Updates -- The 2005 DVD version of Pan Rithy's film "S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine" is an equally brilliant look at S-21. Two surviving prisoners and numerous former KR cadre assigned at S-21 discuss the insanity and barbarity that once filled S-21 and the its associated killing field at Choeung Ek. The 2005 book "The Chain of Terror" by the impressive young scholar Meng Try Ea of the Documentation Center of Cambodia provides an inside look at the horrors of the KR Southwestern Zone's prison system.