December 5, 2022

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UN chief warns of dangers of hatred and persecution during Genocide Museum visit — Global Issues

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Mr. Guterres spoke at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, memorial to the notorious S-21 interrogation and detention center under the bloody regime that lasted from 1975-1979.

“An Important Reminder”

It is estimated that up to 18,000 people from across Cambodia have been brought to the facility, which is housed in a former secondary school in the heart of the capital.

Few survived.

“Tuol Sleng is an essential memory. Its blood-stained bricks and tiles are a warning to all of us: this is what happens when hatred takes over. This is what happens when people are persecuted and human rights are denied,” Mr Guterres said.

forced labor and executions

The Secretary General was at the museum to pay tribute to all the victims and survivors of Khmer Rouge brutality across Cambodia.

The regime followed a radical ideology rooted in diverse communist beliefs and policies. Religion, traditions and deep-rooted family relationships were forbidden.

People were forced to leave the big cities to work in farming communities in the countryside.

Facilities such as schools, pagodas, industries and factories were destroyed and intellectuals, professionals and monks were killed.

In all, almost two million people, about a quarter of the population, are said to have died in these years of forced labour, starvation, torture and execution.

Photographed, interrogated and killed

People taken to Tuol Sleng were photographed and many tortured, for example to extract false confessions that they were secret agents of the United States government.

Prisoners were arrested, interrogated and killed or taken to another location on the outskirts of the capital called Choeung Ek, one of the many “killing fields” where mass executions were carried out.

Most of the rooms at Tuol Sleng have been kept in the same condition as they were when the Khmer Rouge were driven out by invading Vietnamese troops.

“The suffering that took place within these walls is appalling and shocking. The stories of survival and resilience are moving and inspiring,” noted the Secretary-General.

Promise never to forget

Mr Guterres thanked the museum for its exceptional work in raising awareness of the atrocities committed under the Khmer Rouge as part of efforts to ensure they can never happen again.

He recalled that the Extraordinary Chambers of the Cambodian Court of Justice held the regime leaders accountable for these crimes and gave a voice to the victims and survivors.

“Your voices are more important than ever at a time when hate speech, abuse, discrimination and harassment are on the rise in all parts of the world,” he said.

Maintain inclusion and dignity

The UN chief stressed that preserving the memory of those who suffered and died in Tuol Sleng will help prevent the atrocities from happening again.

“I promised to tell the story I heard from one of the survivors to my granddaughters and I will tell them to pass this story on to their grandchildren. It’s important that the memory of what happened here is never lost,” he said.

“By learning to spot the first warning signs of genocide and other atrocities, and honoring the values ​​of inclusion and dignity, we can lay the foundation for a future where such horrors can never happen again.”

The Secretary-General was in Cambodia to address the latest meeting between the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which took place in the capital last Friday.

Next, he will travel to Bali to attend the G20 summit, which begins on Tuesday.

The UN chief traveled to the region from Egypt, host of the UN climate change conference COP27, which concludes on Friday.

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