Don't Mess with the Khmer...

Trip Start Sep 04, 2012
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Trip End Aug 02, 2013


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Flag of Cambodia  , Khétt Siĕm Réab,
Saturday, December 15, 2012

Well the Cambodians are a nice bunch!! Full of smiles...good to see!!! The first of our two stops in Cambodia saw us continue our 'war theme' from Ho Chi Minh City. Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and aside from your big players in China, at a glance, it is probably the most developed city we've seen in a while. The two things we saw were a memorial which was at the 'Killing Fields' and the 'Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum', which was a former prison. We both knew nothing of Cambodia's past before this trip so I'll fill you in as best I can on what these two represented.
Between 1970 and 1975, Cambodia was undergoing civil war, a sideshow if you like to the war in Vietnam. The communist side of this civil war were known as the 'Khmer Rouge' and, led by an altogether not very nice chap called Pol Pot, conquered the major cities in Cambodia in 1975 and came into power. One of their slogans was 'Better to kill an innocent by mistake than spare an enemy by mistake'!! They then forced everyone who lived in the cities to the countryside to perform hard labour in brutal conditions, with little food and water. At the same time, those who were suspected to be politically against the Khmer Rouge were detained in prisons, the most notable was the one in Phnom Penh - a former school called The S-21 prison (now the Tuol Sleng museum). Here, whole families who had committed no crime were tortured in a brutal manner. Women and children were even subject to this torture. Awful. After spending a certain amount of time in the prison, van-loads of prisoners were then taken to a more rural area nearby (the Killing Fields) where they were bludgeoned to death and buried in mass graves. No guns were used...bullets were too expensive! Of the 20,000 or so prisoners who were detained in S-21, only 7 survived. Also, people who died performing hard labour after being forced into the country were also buried in the 'Killing Fields'.
This atrocity ended when the Vietnamese invaded the country in 1979 and the Khmer Rouge fled. Pol Pot has since died and the head of the S-21 prison has been incarcerated but 4 other main leaders of the Khmer Rouge are currently in detention awaiting trial for crimes against humanity and genocide. Why they've not been found guilty to this day I don't know!! It is estimated that up to 1 in 4 Cambodians were killed during Pol Pot's regime, which, in a population of approximately 8 million, is ALOT!! And the fact that it was Cambodian people killing Cambodian people makes it even harder to fathom!!
The prison still had some features left intact from back in the 70s...blood-stained floors and shackles were still present, and one of the buildings still had barbed wire wrapped around it which was to prevent prisoners committing suicide. Incredibly harrowing. The Killing Fields is now a peaceful memorial but the audio tour tells a story that is equally harrowing. During the rainy season when it floods, bones and teeth still surface today as a reminder of the horrific events of the past. The main memorial houses thousands of skulls that have been excavated. Nearly 9,000 bodies have been found at this site and there are hundreds of other mass burial sites all over the country. Not exactly in the spirit of Christmas I know, but still really interesting even if it was unbelievably harrowing.
From Phnom Penh we made our way north to Siem Reap, home of the temples of Angkor Thom, and more famously, Angkor Wat. Built by King Suryavarman II (obviously!) in the 12th century, Angkor Wat is the world's largest religious building. Had it not been for the huge section of bloody scaffolding slap bang in the middle, it would have been stunning!! Ha ha! It was still pretty impressive though, even more so as we saw it at sundown. The day after saw us wander round both Angkor Wat and Ankgor Thom in BLISTERINGLY HOT conditions! I know it's cold back home but what I'd give now for a bit of wind and rain ha ha!! Everyone was sweatin like I've never seen!!! Ugly!!
On Monday we had a tour around a silk farm which was bor.......I mean really really interesting! Did you know that a single silk worm produces 400 metres of silk in one continuous thread!!! Oosh!! Then a Japanese-style massage by a couple of blind guys brought our Cambodian journey to a firmly swift end. (It was only AFTER we'd paid a deposit did I notice '7 girls massage parlour' on the map!!). Instead I got an old blind guy with no teeth! Still, a decent massage (apart from when he pulled my ears and toes really hard (!) and Kala's guy was chopping her in the face ha ha!!).
Thailand next. I hope everyone who reads these has a cracking Christmas and I'd just like to wish my now very old sister Donna a very happy 30th birthday!! Have a good one!! X
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Comments

Donna Ryan on

Thanks Paul, happy birthday sis would have done!
P.s. im writing this from my new Samsung tablet :-)
Xxx

vickidoyle on

Looks like you are having a ball. Have a wonderful christmas .

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