Bloody history

Phnom Penh Travel Blog

 › entry 14 of 45 › view all entries
Cambodia experienced one of the most hellish revolutions the world has ever seen.  The Khmer Rouge had a vision of utopia much different than most.  Pol Pot declared it to be "year zero" in 1975 after the complete evacuation of Phnom Penh in a mere three days marking the beginning of the KR rule.  Cambodia was to become a peasant dominated agricultural cooperative.  The educated people did not fit the profile.  2 million of Cambodia's most educated people were killed between 1975 and 1979.  It is said that the ruthlessness of the KR tortures was even worse than those implemented by the Nazis in WWII.

Modern day Phnom Penh is caught somewhere between the ugly past and bright future.
  Extreme wealth and poverty live side by side throughout.  This city has the ability to charm you with luxuries, and chill you to the core with a glimpse into the darkest side of humanity.  The Tuol Sleng High School was turned into the KR's largest security Prison (S-21).  It is a disturbing place.  The endless rows of terrified black and white faces of victims stare as you walk through the barb wired cells.  Instruments of unthinkable tortures on display are reflected in the glass covered paintings depicting them in use.  The original blood stains and bullet holes are testament to the horrors that happened here.  Almost every prisoner that was detained in S-21 was later killed in the killing fields of Choeung Ek.

An average of 100 victims per day were killed in Choeung Ek.
  Close to 20,000 people are buried in the 129 mass graves.  Other than the 8000 skulls rising to the heavens in the center of the fields, there is not a lot to see.   After watching the Killing Field's movie, watching the documentary and seeing the gruesome pictures in S-21, just walking through the land where so many died was too much for me. I was in a very somber mood for the rest of the day and did not feel life speaking with anyone.

I had been to other detention camps and mass graves in the past but none had affected me like the remnants of the Khmer Rouge regime.  I think it hit home a little harder because these gruesome acts were occurring during my lifetime.  I think that visiting these kinds of sights is important for travelers, especially who come from places where war is mostly a foreign concept.  I like to believe think that if more people experienced these places the world could collectively have some more peaceful foreign policies.
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Phnom Penh
photo by: terminalfunk