The Cheuong Ek Genocide Center
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The Cheuong Ek Genocide Center Phnom Penh Reviews
a hard lesson to the human race... Jul 29, 2012
Why would I ever be interested in visiting such gruesome places? Places like; The Killing Fields, where thousands of Cambodians treated brutally under the Khmer Rouge.
Situated just outside Phnom Penh, the infamous Cambodia Killing Fields is one of the two places we visited in the country’s capital city. The other site is the Genocide Museum, a place that also provoke feelings of a gnawing sadness.
To visit the Killing Fields, we took a tuk-tuk from the city. The entrance fee was $6.00 per person inclusive with an audio guide. I listened to the English version narrated by an ex-survivor of the killing field.
Everybody knows this is a depressing site to visit, but I was not aware of how and why did the Khmer Rouge start?
In 1955, the People’s Socialist Community, won every seat in the newly formed parliament. One of the negative outcomes of this winning was repression to political opposition groups such as the “Angkar,” and later more knowns as the “Khmer Rouge.” The Angkar communist group did not like Vietnam using Cambodian soil to further the Viet Cong. Sihanouk, the self-appoint Chief of State supported Viet Kong despite his strong denial.
The Angkar communist guerrillas, led by French-educated Saloth Sar later known as Pol Pot, did not agree with many of Viet Kong’s principles. Pol Pot began to gain widespread support during the period when the US secretly bombed the eastern side of Cambodia, where Viet Cong guerillas were hiding. Then civil war erupted, the Viet Cong were ordered to leave, but instead pushed deeper into Cambodia, which prompted American troops with continued bombings. As the country turns into a battlefield, the Khmer Rouge assembled, took advantage of the chaos and started taking over territories.
The Cambodian people cheers for Pol Pot’s team, hoping this is the answer to their longing for peace. However, the Khmer Party, immediately began to act their goals to create a socialist wonderland by transforming the country into an agrarian community. The whole population of Phnom Penh and provincial capitals were forced into the countryside to begin lives as farmers working hard labor in the rice fields. On the other hand, the intellectuals, professionals, educated people, their families, and oppositions were exterminated under the fierce order of Pol Pot. School and hospitals destroyed. They even abolished currency.
The brutal regime lasted for four years. It ended when troops from Vietnam captured Phnom Penh in 1978, by this time between one and two million Cambodians had perished in places that are known today as; The Killing Fields and The Genocide Museum.
According to the audio guide, there were around 15,000 people found buried in the shallow graves scattered throughout the memorial park. However, of course, there must be more than that! The most touching to me was standing right next to a tree that once used to smash the heads of innocent children mercilessly. Khmer Rouges police hold the small infants by their feet while they slap young lives on this tree. I shed tears upon hearing this. There's another tree nearby attached with speakers that played loud noise so that the crying of victims not heard.
As we walked around the sunken graves, we came across to a couple of glass display cases where bits of bones, teeth, and clothing stored. Because the graves in the field were so shallow, and that the torrential rains in Cambodia, it often washes these remnants to the surface. Those staffs who work in the memorial park would pick these pieces and put them in the glass display cases or the mausoleum.
The walking tour ends at the Buddhist stupa where the skulls of the victims were on display. Five levels full of the human head---men and women alike. Towards the end of our walking tour, I had to sit down for a while to take it all in. I still can’t believe such a cruelty done to a human being by a fellow human being.
Now I understand why I paid a visit. In moments of introspections, perhaps there's a part of me yearning to give my tribute and my last respect to those precious lives that perished as a result of human depravity. I paid a visit not as a tourist, but as a person refusing to bury the memories of such barbaric behaviors. So in by doing; should serve a hard lesson to the human race. It is my hope that every traveler who visits such places will be reminded to extend compassion instead of hatred. Build bridges instead of defenses…forgiveness instead of revenge. I whispered for mercy that no one in our generation or the next, ever go through the same fate again. ~
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