The Killing Fields of Cheung Ek & S21
Trip Start Mar 02, 2009
23Trip End Aug 23, 2010
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Although an exact figure is impossible to ascertain, directly or indirectly (through starvation and disease), the Khmer Rouge is thought to be responsible for up to 2 million deaths, about 20% of the Cambodian population
I went to see the S21 genocide museum, an innocent-looking former school converted into a torture camp by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. Nearly all of the victims of S21 ended up in mass graves at the infamous Killing Fields.
It was really harrowing stuff. The only time I've experienced those emotions was at Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. I'd watched Pilger's documentaries, and read "First They Killed My Father", but neither prepared me for visiting these places. As I wandered round the Killing Fields, an otherwise scenic former orchard, I felt sick as a ball of anxiety welled up in the pit of my stomach. Reading words on a page, and watching film on a screen didn't come close to the horror of it; seeing dips in the ground where mass graves have sunk in, seeing the clothes, bones fragments, and teeth protrude to the surface after successive rains, and seeing the thousands of skulls encased in the newly built Buddhist shrine.
Pol Pot died a peaceful death in 1998, without ever going on trial for his crimes.
A display at S21 reads; "Why has it taken over thirty years to bring the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge to justice? One of the initial reasons was geopolitics
...A UN seat that the Khmer Rouge held until 1991, essentially meaning the murders represented their victims for 12 years.