The Killing Fields
Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
374Trip End Mar 15, 2007
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The Choeung Ek killing fields are one of many such sights through out Cambodia used by the former Khmer Rouge regime as execution grounds for some 2 million Cambodians from babies to the elderly. These people were murdered for such crimes as being educated, wearing glasses or being able to speak another language.
The Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Pol Pot intended to turn Cambodia into a peasant oriented agricultural country isolating the country from foreign influence in turn closing schools and hospitals, banning all religions, abolishing banking and finance and relocating people from urban areas to commune farms forcing them to work long hard hours resulting in a huge number of deaths through exhaustion, disease, starvation and executions
It is believed some 20,000 people met there end here at Choeung Ek most bludgeoned to death by either sharpened bamboo sticks or spades since bullets were deemed too expensive.
In the middle of the grounds stand a large memorial tower but contained inside is some 8000 skulls excavated from the unmarked mass graves here many of which still bear the evidence of their brutal end.
Walking around the sight you could still see pieces of clothing and bones poking out of the ground making this harrowing place even more disturbing.
From here we traveled to the infamous Security Prison 21 (S-21) now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum but previously a school which was used by the Khmer Rouge to imprison and torture around 17,000 people accused of treason or any crimes their captors accused them with to extract confessions from them. Most who passed through here ended up in one of the killing fields with only 7 ever known to have survived imprisonment here.
In the school classrooms you can see the torture rooms as used by the Khmer Rouge with a bed in the middle of the room with a few scattered torture implements lying beside it and usually some iron shackles. There is also rooms full of pictures of those brought here for 'processing' with the captors taking a picture and recording every person that was brought here.
Like many who have been here, we left just wondering why?. Why did they seemingly kill so many at random for no reason, no purpose, no sense at all that we could tell.
Remembering the scenes we saw yesterday though of families out flying kites and people playing football in the city it was a complete contrast to today and extraordinary to see how the Cambodia people have managed to move on from this to be, at least on the surface, the happy smiling people we have seen here.