One morning she journeyed there. On entrance, she noticed four multistoried buildings that originally housed a high school, later transformed into torture centers. Building windows were reinforced with iron bars and barbed wires preventing escapes and suicides, especially jumping from upper floors. Estimated fourteen thousand prisoners were brutally tortured here and then murdered in killing fields throughout countryside. Most of the original victims were from previous government including soldiers and officials, along with intellectuals and suspected rebels. Later dictator’s own paranoia would turn him on his own ranks in purging the senior members of the regime. The site was liberated by neighboring Vietnamese army, handing over to a new government that converted the place to current museum to educate world citizenry about the danger of the rise of a genocidal dictator in a democracy.
Karen entered the first building, hallway lined with torture chambers. The regime carried out their hellish work here till the very last moment, killing the last victims. Thus, several rooms contained only a rusting iron bed frame, beneath a black and white photograph showing the room as it was discovered. Each photograph displayed the mutilated body of the last prisoner, chained to the bed and murdered by fleeing captors. Recovered bodies of fourteen such last victims were buried in a plot just across from this building. Karen felt a sudden chill flowing down her spine, same kind she’d experienced standing inside a preserved gas-chamber in the Auschwitz complex.
Several rooms in next building were lined with some of the prisoners’ photographs found in regime’s archives. As she strolled past those haunting black and white photos, their sorrowful gazing reminded Karen atrocities taken place here. There were also photographs of the leaders of the regime unmasking the human faces of the perpetrators. In another building, the class rooms were partitioned into smaller cells for imprisoning the victims, both for torture and isolation over a long period of time. Various instruments of torture were displayed in the final building along with the paintings of horrific torture scenes. They were created by a fortunate surviving artist, based on his memory. He was spared to paint the propaganda portraits of the dictator. A depiction of a water-boarding in progress reminded Karen about its very recent use by the American interrogators in the Guantanamo Bay prison sites.
Later, standing in front of an outdoor memorial dedicated to the victims, Karen reflected how quickly the promise of “Never Again” from the Holocaust was forgotten by humanity.