A former longan orchard, this deceptively peaceful setting was the scene of one of the most disturbing acts of violence in contemporary history. Some 17,000 men, women, and children kept as prisoners in the torture chambers of Tuol Sleng Prison, also known as S-21, were brought here to be killed, often by blunted hoes to conserve bullets. Of the 129 communal graves, 49 have been left intact, and it is still possible to chance upon bone fragments and bits of clothing. Signposts close to the graves tell visitors about the number of people buried there; another one marks a macabre tree against which babies were flung by their ankles and killed.
In 1988, however, a fittingly dignified pavilion was erected within the complex in memory of the 9,000 people found here. Through the glass panels of the pavilion one can see some 8,000 skulls arranged according to age and sex. A museum in the corner of the grounds offers detailed back- ground information not only on the founders of the Khmer Rouge, but also its victims, who included doctors, politicians, and actors.