That 6 hour journey turned into 7.5 hours before we knew it. After being picked up from the hotel at and taken to the bus station and sitting around there for an hour, we finally left 45 minutes late at .
After a noneventul journey southbound, we rolled into PP after ngiht
fall. Our tuk tuk driver from Siem Reap supposedly had a friend that
was picking us up from the bus stop, but he never showed so we set off
following another couple from somewhere in Europe to look for a hotel. Mistake! We walked and walked, looked in one hotel and then another, then walked some more.
Ji and I just hopped in a tuk tuk alone and headed off to a guesthouse
we’d heard about. Checked in there, had a nice dinner, and this day was
knew our next day was going to be a tough one emotionally and it was
every bit what I thought it would be. At 9am we headed out to the Tuol
Sleng genocide museum, once a high school in downtown Phnom Penh,
then turned into the notorious S-21 detainment center where 17000
people were held and tortured during the notorious four year reign of
the brutal Khmer Rouge regime.
first rooms we entered contained only a metal bed, a shackle, and a
black and white photo depicting the remains of the victim when they
were found at the end of the Khmer reign in 1970. Fourteen bodies were
found in these cells, killed by their torturers hours before they fled.
other rooms contained hundreds of photographs of the victims: men,
women, intellectuals, people that wore glasses; anyone that had a
semblance of an education or that was thought to somehow pose a threat
to the regime. And the children, the babies…. Pictures of mothers
holding their infants tightly to their chests were on the walls as
well. There was mercy for none. Of the 17000 people that entered the
prison, only 7 were said to have lived. And this was just one of such
left S-21 and drove 15km south to the Killing Fields where all of the
victims of the prison were brought to be killed. Mass graves littered
the area and heaps of bones were piled up seemingly at random. We saw a
pile of bones at the base of one large tree and with a massive knot
growing in our throats and stomachs, read the sign depicting this as
the killing tree, where soldiers would take infants and slam them
against the tree to kill them.
stupa in the center of the complex held thousands of skulls uncovered
and stacked three stories tall. Over 8,000 skeletons have been
recovered from the site and walking around the grounds one can still
see pieces of clothing and bone half-buried in the dirt of the graves.
genocide in Cambodia during that four year reign of terror is estimated
to have claimed the lives of 1.5-2.4 million people, nearly a quarter
of the entire Cambodian population. And this all happened just over 30
years ago. With a twist of the stomach, I realized that virtually
everyone we saw over the age of 30 probably had a friend or family
member killed during that time, and undoubtedly everyone both then and
now have been greatly affected by the atrocities which absolutely
devastated this country.
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