Killing Fields of Choeung Ek

Trip Start Mar 03, 2010
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Trip End May 02, 2010


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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Saturday, April 3, 2010

"Well you'll work harder / With a gun in your back / For a bowl of rice a day /Slave for soldiers / Till you starve / Then your head is skewered on a stake" (Holiday In Cambodia - Dead Kennedys).

The Killing Fields were the place that the Khmer Rouge took their prisoners to kill and bury them.  Actual numbers aren't known, but estimates suggest there are around 20,000 grave sites, with around 1.4 million bodies in.  A further million died due to KR policies, from disease and starvation.

The Choeung Ek site has a very thought provocking museum, and a video detailing what went on.  Many people left the room extremelly upset. 

Walking around the site, you will notice fragments of bones everywhere, along with clothes peeking from the ground.  When the rains come, even more memories come up to the surface.  That's how many people died here.  You still walk amongst them even today.

So 2.2 million people out of a population of around 7 million.  That's a lot.  And it's noticeable in present day Cambodia.  You'll notice that there simply isn't a lot of people of that generation around.  There are lots of youngsters, and many elderly who survived the regime. But Cambodia has a generation just missing.

It's this fact that I think surprised me so much about Cambodia.  It shouldn't be running.  By all rights, it should have imploded.  The US and Vietnamese bombed it to the stone age; the Khmer Rouge killed everyone except peasents; the Khmer Rouge destroyed religious buildings, cultural relics, libraries, schools, hospitals, everything useful - just gone.  They also put millions of land mines in the country to stop Thailand or Vietnam invading.  The result of that is a huge population of people with horrifc land mine injuries - many of them children.  Half the decent arable land is simply to dangerous to farm on.  Again, it shouldn't be still there.  But it is.  They perserved.  They had to lift themselves up or die.  I can't explain just how much the Cambodian people surprised me.  Shouldn't they be angry with me? Shouldn't they only want to take my money?  Shouldn't they just tell my type to fuck off back home and leave them alone?

But they don't.  As I've mentioned previously, they were the friendliest people I've met on ALL of my travels.  I had two cracking moto taxi drivers that in the end I hired for whole days.  We would talk about our respective lives, our families, hopes and dreams.  We would share photos of our respective home and friends.  We discussed football and politics, religion and females.  We were so different - but so similar.

The world truly fucked up with Cambodia (amongst many other places).  They all deserve SO much better.  But you don't hear them moaning....they just do.  Something to think about next time you're moaning about your life.
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