Angkor Ruins and Pol Pot's legacy
Trip Start Dec 07, 2004
21Trip End Ongoing
Our second round in Phnom Penh we visited the long disputed Tuol Sleng prison. For those of you who know a little about Cambodian history you will surely be familiar with this former school converted into a Khmer Rouge interrogation prison. For those of you who don't - here's a quick synopsis. Shortly after the American War in Vietnam and the secret carpet bombing of Cambodia, a new party with a bizarre combination of extreme communist and agrarian principles came into power, the Khmer Rouge. Led by Pol Pot, this movement led to one of the most ruthless modern-day genocides. Peasants were forced into labor camps, and artists, educators and the educated classes were either exterminated or forced to leave the cities and sent to the rural labor camps
In Phnom Penh, we visited Tuol Sleng, now a museum but formerly an interrogation and torture prison for 100s of supposed "traitors" to the new regime. The heinous crimes and acts of brutality are hard to bare. What exactly these people did or knew to merit the imprisonment, torture and subsequent murder is not clearly known. What is even more disturbing is that until his death in the late 1990s, Pol Pot denied any knowledge of this prison, nor showed any remorse for his regime, its crimes and the genocide of his own people. Many of the perpetrators (recruited as young children whose parents had been murdered by the Khmer Rouge) live free today, and were never prosecuted. I think the photos of the prison speak for themselves.
A day of driving through parched Cambodian countryside brought us to Siem Reap in the Northwestern portion of the country. We spent three days touring the vast ancient Angkorian ruins, our fist day by bicycle (37 kms) and the next two by tuk-tuk (motorcycle with carriage for 2 trailing behind (over 180 kms!). The brunt of the ruins lie in a span over 60 square kilometers. The Angkor empire spanned from 900 AD to 1200 AD, approximately, and the empire covered what is now most of southern vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and Northern Thailand to the Bay of Bengal. A vast array of carvings in sandstone, bas-reliefs and sculptures are staples of these ruins. Again, these photos do more justice than any possible description.
An update from the wild east of Cambodia will come sometime next week.
Roger & Suzanne