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A Cambodian Prison Portrait. One Year in the Khmer Rouge's S-21

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"This text is the harrowing tale of a survivor of a secret prison known as Tuol Sleng or S-21, where more that 14,000 men, women and children were tortured and executed during the Khmer Rouge regime. "This text is the harrowing tale of a survivor of a secret prison known as Tuol Sleng or S-21, where more that 14,000 men, women and children were tortured and executed during the Khmer Rouge regime.


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"This text is the harrowing tale of a survivor of a secret prison known as Tuol Sleng or S-21, where more that 14,000 men, women and children were tortured and executed during the Khmer Rouge regime. "This text is the harrowing tale of a survivor of a secret prison known as Tuol Sleng or S-21, where more that 14,000 men, women and children were tortured and executed during the Khmer Rouge regime.

30 review for A Cambodian Prison Portrait. One Year in the Khmer Rouge's S-21

  1. 5 out of 5

    Syed Shahrom Wafa

    Bought this book at the S-21 itself, so I just read it fresh from my visit to Phonm Penh, the Tuol Sleng Museum & Killing Fields before. To do an audio tour almost 2 hours at the museum, looking throughout author's drawing there whilst listening to the audio narrator, and finally read his story in this book, made it more sad & tragic as you can imagine what had happen during that short but horrifying time in Cambodian history. The author Vann Nath become only 1 out of total 7 adults to make it ali Bought this book at the S-21 itself, so I just read it fresh from my visit to Phonm Penh, the Tuol Sleng Museum & Killing Fields before. To do an audio tour almost 2 hours at the museum, looking throughout author's drawing there whilst listening to the audio narrator, and finally read his story in this book, made it more sad & tragic as you can imagine what had happen during that short but horrifying time in Cambodian history. The author Vann Nath become only 1 out of total 7 adults to make it alive during that 1975-1979 S-21 Prison time, that has seen around 20,000 people been go through that gate & never return home again. It all thanks to his good skills in drawing (and later making sculpture) that made him useful to the prison chief. In fact all the other 6 survivors also had their own expertise that had been manipulise by the prison chief to work for their own agenda. For this book, the author story begin just before Khmer Rouge got the power & authority to take over the Cambodia from Lon Nol, where he tell us about his everyday's life, and the other Cambodian at his Battambang province in general. Their life turned upside down when Pol Pot regime came to town. What made it more painful to read was when Vann Nath been separated by force from his wife & kids during that bad times. You can imagine how painful he has to endure mentally not knowing how his family been doing far away from him for years. The highlight of this book surely during his time in the prison. You can feel it first hand how to be treated by the prison guard during that gloomy era. Vann Nath tell the story precisely as it just happened yesterday, made it more sad & tragic to read. The story how the Pol Pot regime came down from his perspective also has been interesting. How he met & spoke to the ex-prison guard & the butcher also can make the reader's adrenaline going high just as how the author's feel at that time. As a conclusion, it a must read if you got a big interest to get to know further about the Pol Pot genocide in Cambodia long time ago. It just sad to think that even until today, still got many places been like this where many innocent people died just because of the man in power's fault. As a normal human being we can only continue praying that this bad things will stop sooner rather than later. If I got the chance to visit Phonm Penh once more, surely I will go visit Van Nath gallery there. I will try to get my hand on the other two books that had been written by the other survivors too. "This book is dedicated to all who perished in Tuol Sleng. By keeping their memory alive, my hope is that their deaths do not lose all meaning but can help a new generation of Cambodians, and people throughout the world, to understand what happened in my motherland in the 1970s - VANN NATH"

  2. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    You don’t learn this in History class. Human life seems to always be pushed aside in order to study the economic extravagances and political struggles of superpowers. This book made me see how people suffer as pawns, and how a painter — who saw beauty in his country with colour on canvas — experienced the reign of the Khmer Rouge.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    A Cambodian Prison Portrait. One Year in the Khmer Rouge's S-21 by Vann Nath A very compelling and powerful account of one of the few survivors of the notorious torture prison and death camp of Tuol Sleng (S-21) in Phnom Penh/ Cambodia. Without any literary pretences Vann Nath us his first hand account of the atrocities in this death camp. Between late 1975 and the end of 1978 at least 14.000 – possibly 17.000 – men, women and children were taken to the centre, tortured until they made confessio A Cambodian Prison Portrait. One Year in the Khmer Rouge's S-21 by Vann Nath A very compelling and powerful account of one of the few survivors of the notorious torture prison and death camp of Tuol Sleng (S-21) in Phnom Penh/ Cambodia. Without any literary pretences Vann Nath us his first hand account of the atrocities in this death camp. Between late 1975 and the end of 1978 at least 14.000 – possibly 17.000 – men, women and children were taken to the centre, tortured until they made confessions of their ‘crimes’ and then were killed. Vann Nath was one of the only seven survivors. During my visit to Phnom Penh I didn’t dare to visit the torture centre, now a museum in the city, nor the killing fields just outside the city, afraid that the spirits I would meet there, should hunt me long afterwards. But I did visit Vann Nath’s (how died in 2011) art gallery, and met his widow and oldest daughter. Next to this book, Vann Nath also shared his experience by way of his paintings, some to be seen at Tuol Sleng (S-21) some in his own gallery (street 169 huis 33b in Phnom Penh) A must read and visit for everyone how wants to understand anything about the recent history of Cambodia. " This book is dedicated to all who perished in Tuol Sleng. By keeping their memory alive, my hope is that their deaths do not lose all meaning but can help a new generation of Cambodians, and people throughout the world, to understand what happened in my motherland in the 1970’s. "

  4. 4 out of 5

    Eric Kirkman

    A very compelling quick read of the life of Vann Nath, one of only 4 survivors of the S-21 prison camp, also known as Tuol Sleng. It's incredibly gripping to hear the first hand account the extreme Maoist Khmer Rouge rise to power, and systematic torture and mass killings of anyone with even the slightest inclination to the old regime. While Nath is saved because the prison guards were ordered to find artists to paint pictures of Pol Pott, Nath is constantly surrounded by mass killings, forced c A very compelling quick read of the life of Vann Nath, one of only 4 survivors of the S-21 prison camp, also known as Tuol Sleng. It's incredibly gripping to hear the first hand account the extreme Maoist Khmer Rouge rise to power, and systematic torture and mass killings of anyone with even the slightest inclination to the old regime. While Nath is saved because the prison guards were ordered to find artists to paint pictures of Pol Pott, Nath is constantly surrounded by mass killings, forced confinement, torture and fear. This book is hardly a tell-all of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pott's rise to power, and independent knowledge of the regime and the history behind their coming to power and fall is really necessary to fully appreciate this book, which is unfortunately very sparse on detail and information

  5. 4 out of 5

    Korynn

    A simple powerful short book that one probably picks up in the gift shop of Tuol Sleng. It introduces us to Vann Nath, one of the few survivors of the notorious torture prison/death camp S-21. It consists of a brief and simple biography of Vann Nath, focusing mostly on his stay in the prison where, because he was an artist, he was spared death so as to paint portraits of Pol Pot from photos at Comrade Duch's order. This experience obviously deeply scarred him and the story continues to reveal hi A simple powerful short book that one probably picks up in the gift shop of Tuol Sleng. It introduces us to Vann Nath, one of the few survivors of the notorious torture prison/death camp S-21. It consists of a brief and simple biography of Vann Nath, focusing mostly on his stay in the prison where, because he was an artist, he was spared death so as to paint portraits of Pol Pot from photos at Comrade Duch's order. This experience obviously deeply scarred him and the story continues to reveal his involvement with the museum that exists today, the creation of art at his hand that portrays tortures he had witnessed or heard about from others, and his attempts to track down former torturers and guards from the prison to understand how they live with their guilt (obviously the injustice/karma being worse on them as perpetrators).

  6. 5 out of 5

    Daniella

    read full review at my blog A Cambodian Prison Portrait is a short, compelling book which is found in most second hand bookshops on the South East Asian backpacker trail. Although Vann did not witness any tortures himself, his words create an immediate portrayal of the conditions at the prison, and the reader finds themselves sitting next to Vann, looking out at the prisoners being removed from the prison. read full review at my blog A Cambodian Prison Portrait is a short, compelling book which is found in most second hand bookshops on the South East Asian backpacker trail. Although Vann did not witness any tortures himself, his words create an immediate portrayal of the conditions at the prison, and the reader finds themselves sitting next to Vann, looking out at the prisoners being removed from the prison.

  7. 4 out of 5

    TurtleMoon

    This is a short, easy read. If you are interested in the S-21 prison, it is worth reading. If you want to read ONE HISTORICAL STORY of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, I'd recommend "When Broken Glass Floats" by Chanrithy Him. This is a short, easy read. If you are interested in the S-21 prison, it is worth reading. If you want to read ONE HISTORICAL STORY of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, I'd recommend "When Broken Glass Floats" by Chanrithy Him.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marcos

    1975-79, Cambodia under the cruel Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot. Close to a million people died in the genocide. In the S-21 prison, over 14.000 men, woman and children were tortured, starved, raped, executed. Vann Nath was one of the only camp survivors and describes their life in captivity in gruesome detail. One prison guard confessed to have singlehandedly butchered 2.000 people. (They used wooden sticks, metal rods or machetes instead of 'wasting bullets'.) The actual number, Vann Nath belie 1975-79, Cambodia under the cruel Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot. Close to a million people died in the genocide. In the S-21 prison, over 14.000 men, woman and children were tortured, starved, raped, executed. Vann Nath was one of the only camp survivors and describes their life in captivity in gruesome detail. One prison guard confessed to have singlehandedly butchered 2.000 people. (They used wooden sticks, metal rods or machetes instead of 'wasting bullets'.) The actual number, Vann Nath believes, is far higher. As the man had defected according to the political guidelines of the new government, he gained the right to continue his life as a normal citizen and make a living. Many other Khmer Rouge followers were never put to trial. Main leader Pol Pot refused to admit his crimes or apologize to the Cambodian people. He died in 1998, unpunished, without ever having answered for his deeds.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dutch Leonard

    A short, first-hand account of Phnom Penh's infamous S-21 (aka Tuol Sleng) Prison. Vann Nath was sent to Hell, but somehow made it back, and was able to communicate his experiences there through his painting as well as this book. Indispensable for anyone interested in recent Cambodian history. Obviously not as scholarly or wide-ranging as David Chandler's very good "Voices From S-21", but Vann Nath was there. It's obvious that Vann Nath did not enjoy re-living these memories, and we should be th A short, first-hand account of Phnom Penh's infamous S-21 (aka Tuol Sleng) Prison. Vann Nath was sent to Hell, but somehow made it back, and was able to communicate his experiences there through his painting as well as this book. Indispensable for anyone interested in recent Cambodian history. Obviously not as scholarly or wide-ranging as David Chandler's very good "Voices From S-21", but Vann Nath was there. It's obvious that Vann Nath did not enjoy re-living these memories, and we should be thankful that he took it upon himself to reconstruct the darkness he experienced. Harrowing, depressing, but important. (118 pages + 8 pages of photographs and reproductions of a handful of paintings)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris Phillips

    This is a very very sad little book. It is a 120 page book about how one man was imprisoned for no reason by the Khmer Rouge, and actually one of the VERY few who survived. MAINLY because he was an artist, and he was told to paint portraits of Pol Pot. If you want to read about how horrific this period in Cambodia was, then do read this book. It is just incredible that this horrific period ever happened. I bought this book at the memorial exhibition after touring the "Killing Fields". One wonders This is a very very sad little book. It is a 120 page book about how one man was imprisoned for no reason by the Khmer Rouge, and actually one of the VERY few who survived. MAINLY because he was an artist, and he was told to paint portraits of Pol Pot. If you want to read about how horrific this period in Cambodia was, then do read this book. It is just incredible that this horrific period ever happened. I bought this book at the memorial exhibition after touring the "Killing Fields". One wonders how any human being could ever get this horrible, to do this to ordinary good people.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Annette M Guerriero Nishimoto

    A first hand account of survivor Vann Nath's experience of the secret prison, Tuol Sleg in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A first hand account of survivor Vann Nath's experience of the secret prison, Tuol Sleg in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mark Whiting

  14. 4 out of 5

    Juan Ospina

  15. 4 out of 5

    Claire Baxter

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mel Jackson

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eugen Stoica

  18. 4 out of 5

    Steven J.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tracee

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kara

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gabriela

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marcus

  25. 4 out of 5

    Indi Martin

  26. 4 out of 5

    Marcel

  27. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  29. 5 out of 5

    carol roberts

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

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