Killing Fields & S21 -Shocking history of Cambodia

Trip Start May 10, 2011
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Trip End Apr 15, 2012


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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Found a great wee shop across from the hotel today that does noodle soup – we love our noodles for breakfast the spicier the better and they are so cheap, it's a total place for the locals and they think its hilarious we are eating in there, they fuss over us though its lovely.

We decided to get our Thai visa here too – you get issued a 30 day visa if you fly into Thailand but if you travel overground its only 15 days so it means we would have had to do a visa run to a border to get it extended – we decided to save ourselves the hassle and pay for our hotel to do it for us instead we could have went to the embassy ourselves but we were being lazy.

Killing Fields

We got a wee tut tut driver to take us to the killing fields I didn’t know much about what went on here so been doinging some reading and its horrific to say the least and all this happened just 35 years ago

History
So in 1975 Pol Pot the leader of the Khmer Rouge Army took control of Phnom Phen, he basically ordered mass eveacuation of the people from their homes and forced them into the countryside.  He decided to rid the popuation of anyone that might pose a threat to him so this included all educated professionals doctors teachers etc, anyone part of the governement, anyone from ethnic Thia or Chinese descent, there would be no religion practiced so priests, buddah etc were executed and also many children too as he feared they would grow up and come after him for revenge.

Cambodia had a poplation of around 7.5 million and its though some 2 million people were killed during these 5 years.  People were told they were moving to a new home and be taken to mass graves (The Killing Fields) where literally thousands upon thosands of men women and babies were literally beaten to death – bullets were expensive so childred were swung against trees (see pic below) to be killed, adults clubbed or axed over the head too - the majority the skulls recovered from the graves show wounds to the head as cause of death.  Not all the graves have been excavated yet but as it rains it brings up clothes, bones andd teeth as they were shallow graves.  They built a memorial here so as to never forget the atrocities that took place.

The rest of the population died from famine after being forced to leave their homes – the children would work in concentration camps and people founght over a grains of rice and scavaged for food – even though all day they would work harvesting rice and corn if they were even caught with a piece of it they would be killed.

So here we are wanding around this area today just 35 years on and still very much full of human remains still to be excavated, its very sombering to think your walking where people took their last breath and where very often familes had to watch their children and family be brutally killed in front of them in a bid to try to interrogate them.  The irony is that it is sooo peaceful and silent there away from the busy streets where the countryside around it is so beautiful where once was filled with such horror.  

I read the book called First they Killed my Father, it’s a true storof a young girls life during this time  definitely worth a read.

 
S21
After the Killing Fields we went to S21 which is an old coverted school that during this time it was an interrogation and torture centre.  It is estmated that some 20,000 prisoners were kept here from 1975-1979.  People were repeatedly tortured into naming family members and associates who were then arrested and tortured then killed also.  This included academics, politicians, doctors, teachers, students, factory workers, monks, engineers, etc.

Some prisoners were kept in small cells but most were shackeled together (see pic) they slept without blankets, mosquito nets and were fobidden to talk.  Everday at 4.30am they were stripped for inspection incase of concealed items to commit suicide. The prisoners received four small spoonfuls of rice porridge and watery soup of leaves twice a day. Drinking water without asking the guards for permission resulted in serious beatings. The inmates were hosed down every four days, they were sometimes forced to eat human feces and drink human urine.

The prisoners were kept there for around 2-3 months before being killed, the torture system was designed to make prisoners confess to whatever crimes they were charged with by their captors. Prisoners were routinely beaten and tortured with electric shocks, searing hot metal instruments and hanging, as well as through the use of various other devices. Some prisoners were cut with knives or suffocated with plastic bags. Other methods for generating confessions included pulling out fingernails while pouring alcohol on the wounds, holding prisoners’ heads under water. Females were sometimes raped by the interrogators.  Many of these torturers were childred from child camps.

Out of these 20,000 people there are only 7 known survivors only 4 of which are still alive today – they were kept alive as they had skills their captors required.  There were actually 2 of these men there that day sellding their books they have written on their life – I cant comprehend how they can sit there each day in a place where they were tortured and suffered so badly.

So all in all a very sombering but very interesting day – I still cant get my head around the fact that there are still many Cambodians still alive today who suffered through these times and yet still we see so many people smiling and getting on with their life – they seem like happy people who are resilient and trying their best to recover and get on with their life.  Our tut tut driver would defo have been old enough to remember it must be weird for them to have to take us tourists to such places each day. 


Costs
Cost of tut tut to Killing fields & S21 – 5.52
Entry to Killing Fields – 1.20
Entry to S21 – 1.20
Bowl of noodle soup – 75p
330ml can of Ankor beer - 31p
Ensuite room with AC & wifi - 6,13
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