Killing Fields & S21 - Bastards
Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
371Trip End Feb 26, 2011
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At this time the population of Cambodia was about 7.5 million people
Its not a happy place needless to say. The killing fields are essentially a selection of open graves where people where hacked to death with brute violence before being tossed in an open grave. The bones of some of the graves have been excavated and placed in a pagoda on site to commemorate the dead. I won't go into too much detail but of the highlight / lowlight is the killing tree where the Khmer Rouge executioners killed the babies, this was done by holding their legs and swinging them as hard as they could against the trunk of a big tree more or less breaking their skulls open before tossing them into the child grave next to the tree. When the killing fields were found the whole trunk of the tree was died red with blood.
It is a gruesome place, we left and for the 25 minute ride to S21 neither of us spoke
S21 or Toul Sleng Genocide Museum was the place where people were tortured until they signed confessions on behalf of themselves and their family before they were killed. Another terrible place, there are still the cells as they were, torture equipment still in place and perhaps most thought provoking of all the floors are still stained with blood. The most horrific thing was that this place used to be a primary school and a secondary school. Some of the more gruesome games played there was throwing the babies in the air and catching them on the bayonet of their rifles. Its not a pretty place. Neither of us spoke the whole time we were there. We just wandered around horrified.
The one thing that kind of sticks in my mind was how close this regime was to the one George Orwell describes in 1984, this ended in 1979, so many parallels, so many I could rant again and I'm not allowed to do that. If you come to Cambodia you will come here and just read 1984 again before you do.
Thats all I'm writing about that, I got very angry while I was there and plenty of people were moved to tears.
Erica edit: Just to say that throughout this trip, all the amazing places that we have visited, that have been there for hundreds of years some from ancient civilisations, we keep on coming back to the same thought: who's steps are we actually walking in? Nowhere did this resonate with us more strongly than the Killing Fields and S21. It was simply bone chilling.
We got back and moved to a cheaper guest house, we considered paying more money and going to a place 10km out of town that had a pool for a price of about £10 a night but settled on a windowless internal room in the centre for £4.
We then walked all the way down the front, had a bite to eat and visited the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda (both from the outside) plus the other main monuments (liberation and independence) and main Wats. We did a bit of embassy spotting (Erica's favorite was the Singaporean one) on the way back which was good fun before heading back to the hostel for an early night.
Looking forward to moving on from Cambodia now, its not as pretty as Laos but the drink has been cheap so perhaps we drank a bit too much while we were here.
We are spending tomorrow night in Bangkok before moving on to Myanmar (Burma), that will be a total unknown for us, we dont know what to expect. We are unlikely to have internet so may not be writing for a while.
p.s. one last thing, while Pol Pot died under house arrest, no-one has yet seen a trial for any of the vile acts that happened in Cambodia, they remain under house arrest and may well die before they get sentanced. Dreadful.