Cambodia was one of the biggest battlefields in Southeast Asia. From the time of the ancient powerful Khmer empire until the 70s era of civil unrests, many lives have perished on its land. But nothing could probably come close to notoriety in the entire Cambodian history than the reign of the Khmer Rouge.
Polpot was the name synonymous to the Khmer Rouge. He was the man with the ideology of giving a rebirth of a new blood of Cambodians embracing equality under a communist rule. Mass annihilation of the wealthy, learned and suspected of being a spy brought its country standing at par with the world’s biggest genocides like the Nazi Holocaust in 1939-1945 and the China’s Cultural Revolution in 1966-1976. Between 1975 and 1979, Cambodia was a mass grave with about 150 execution fields throughout the country.
Today, memories of its heinous part of history are preserved in genocide museums in Phnom Penh. While it may be an unlikely tourist attraction, it is also worth visiting to get a glimpse of how an ideology could make history and for us to be reminded that no one wins in war.
Toul Sleng Genocide Museum
To better understand the trails of the genocide, a visit to Toul Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh is recommended. Popularly known as Security Prison 21 (S-21), this site used to be Chao Ponyea Yat High School. Here, about 20,000 prisoners were interrogated, documented, detained and tortured before they were sent to the Killing Fields for execution. In 1979, the Vietnamese forces liberated Phnom Penh from the Khmer Rouge and soon converted the site into a museum.
The school complex turned prison cells during the Khmer Regime.
Rusty death bed inside the prison cell. This room used to cram hundreds of prisoners.
Prisoners used to be shackled on the walls or floors of the prison cell using iron bars.
Choeung Ek Genocide Memorial
Popularly known as The Killing Fields, this site was the mass execution ground of the prisoners sent from S-21. It is located about 15 kilometers away from downtown Phnom Penh. Since bullets were scarce and expensive during this time, the prisoners were executed using hatchets, bayonets, and machetes or battered with iron bars. Children were held by the legs and smashed into trees until they die. Today, a stupa stands at the heart of the field that contains some 5,000 skulls exhumed from the graves.
The memorial stupa inside The Killing Fields.
A mass grave surrounded by prayer bands.
One of the numerous death pits.
A walking tour inside the The Killing Field is aided by individual audio guide in your chosen language.
Prisoners were herded in ghettos and brought to their execution graveyard.
As soon as you reach this tree, the audio guide plays the music that once played to drown the moanings of death.
Skulls and bones are grouped according to how they were killed.
Betwixt and between the arthritic 40 and a horrendous body mass index of positive 30, escapism and yummyeology are my real-life double post-graduate degrees conferred with the highest honors.
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