The Killing Fields and Genocide of Cambodia

Trip Start Aug 12, 2010
Trip End Sep 23, 2011

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Circuit Hotel
Macau Phnom Penh Hotel

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hello to all our readers and again thank you for joining us,

the following blog is both horrifying and fascinating and you may find some image disturbing.

Now we've got all that pre-film nonsense out of the way we can start to tell you what we did in Phnom Penh and all about Cambodia's dark history. Our day in Phnom Penh was set out for us to see the tourist lure that is the Choeung Ek Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Centre/Museum. There are two things you must see if you ever come to Cambodia, one being Angkor Wat (see previous blog entry) and the other being the killing fields just 9 miles outside of Phnom Penh.

The "killing fields" of Choeung Ek over the years have become a tourist attraction, both horrifying and fascinating. Choeung Ek is one of 20,000 other such sites around the country where the Khmer Rouge practiced genocide during the late 1970s. In the chronicle of 20th century horrors, Cambodia ranks high. For much of the last three decades, Cambodia has suffered through war, political upheaval and massive genocide, with the Khmer Rouge being at the forefront of most of it.

The killing fields document huge death. From 1975 to 1979, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge soldiers killed 1.7 million Cambodians, equating to 21 percent of the population. The Choeung Ek Killing Field can be described as a football-field-sized area surrounded by farmland, containing mass graves, slightly sunken, for perhaps 20,000 Cambodians, many of whom were tortured before being killed. The bordering trees hold nooses for hangings and remnants of child prisoners heads being bashed against trunks. As we circled the grounds prisoners clothing still breathes out of the ground. It is also not uncommon to find teeth and bones whilst touring the grounds.

The prisoners were firstly held and tortured at Tuol Sleng which at the time used to be a school, and today is the location of the museum which we visited. After the prisoners were seen as being "damaged goods" or seen to be "conspiring" against the Khmer Rouge they were transferred to the killing field and massacred instantly. The Khmer Rouge were brutal and believed that bullets were too precious so most prisoners were killed by knives, axes, clubs, hammers, and bamboo sticks, or simply buried alive. Children were held by their legs and then swung against the tree trunk killing them instantly. At the Genocide Camp at Tuol Sleng they were tortured by having their finger nails pulled off, electrocuted, whipped with fire-hot electrical rods, stretched, drowned, drugged, nailed, sexual organs burnt off, confined in barbed wire cages, and generally abused and un-fed.

Today, in the centre of the field is a monument that holds all the skulls, bones and clothing that were found in the mass graves, one grave being totally field with children, and many have yet to be excavated. As mentioned the Genocide Centre of Tuol Sleng is now a museum. Today the place looks benign, with palm trees and grass lawns in a suburban setting. From the outside, Tuol Sleng could be a school anywhere in the world. But inside are weapons of torture, skulls, blood stains and photographs of thousands of people who were tortured and murdered.

The scene just outside is also heartrending. Amputees of all ages beg near refreshment and souvenir stands where tourists congregate. The Khmer Rouge may be long gone, but many of the land mines they laid are still killing and injuring people every year. Even today, Cambodian people can be seen as having sad, angry, and even evil looks in the depths of their soul ridden eye's. Although, this all sounds pretty grim this is a must-see and something we wanted to experience whilst we travelled the world. I didn't want to bore you with all the background and history of the Khmer Rouge Genocide but if you are more interested then please see the following link; 

See you in Vietnam!!!

Love Thomas and Hollie x x x x x

Travellers Tip:

To see all the sights in Phnom Penh it is best to hire a tuk tuk driver for the whole day. We paid our driver $10 (he wanted $20 at first) to take us to all major sites including The Killing Fields, Genoside Museum, Royal Palace, Russian Market, and the Central Market, as well as somewhere for lunch (Boddhi Tree opposite the Genocide Museum is amazing).
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Penny Bibby on

See what you mean by shocking but something you'll probably never forget x

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