Cambodia // Phnom Penh and around //

Southwest of the centre

The main reason to venture out towards the southern districts of the city is to visit the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, an inevitably harrowing and heart-rending experience, but one which puts into context the suffering of the Cambodian people and country. More history from 1975 crops up 1500m east, at the site of the former US Embassy (now belonging to the Ministry of Fisheries and bearing no outward clues to its past), on the northeast corner of the intersection of Norodom and Mao Tse Toung boulevards. Under threat from advancing Khmer Rouge troops, US marines airlifted 276 Americans, other foreigners and Cambodians to safety – the last to leave, with the “Stars and Stripes” clutched under his arm, was the ambassador, John Gunter Dean. The evacuation was completed just five days before the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh, and the Khmer Rouge subsequently used the premises as a place of execution, slaughtering senior officers of Lon Nol’s army in the grounds.