Cambodia's Dark Past

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Wednesday, January 19, 2011

For those who don't know the history: Between 1975 and 1979 Cambodia was ruled by an ultra communist group know as the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot.  The four-year period saw the deaths of approximately 2 million Cambodians through the combined result of political executions, starvation, and forced labour.

Yesterday we visited the Tuol Sleng prison. Originally a high school in Phnom Penh the Khmer Rouge turned it into a prison known as S-21. Between 1975 and 1978 almost 20,000 people passed through this prison. Only 7 survived. Visiting the site is a sobering experience. The former classrooms were turned into prison cells and many are still  as they were during the time. Some contain metal bed frames where prisoners were chained and tortured. Others have been subdivided into tiny cells of a few square feet. Photo displays of the prisoners who passed through here (all were photographed) show row after row of faces filled with fear. The whole experience was very depressing and you come away not knowing what to think really.

Today we visited the killing fields of Choeung Ek. When prisioners held at S-21 were to be killed they were transported to this place, about 15km outside Phnom Penh where they were blugoned to death to save bullets and the buried in mass graves. The site is now a very tranquil park which makes the whole experience of it, in a similar way to the school buildings yesterday, very wierd. Almost 8,000 remains were excavated here and many of the skulls and bones are on display in a large memorial stupa in the centre of the park. There is even a tree against which small babies would be smashed before tossing them into a pit. A very unsettling experience and its incredible that it happend so recently.

We dont have many photos of the above as we both felt taking them a bit intrusive or something. Some of our other photos from Phonm Penh are below.
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