AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Tuol Genocide Museum and Killing Fields – an overview

We took a Tuk Tuk ride to The Killing Fields about 15km from the heart of Phnom Penh. The Killing Fields are mass graves, of which there are many spread around the country. Genocide was committed by the Khmer Rouge whose leader was Pol Pot. This man’s paranoia led to the deaths of 3million and yet he died a natural death at the age of 82. Under this man’s leadership the Khmer Rouge abolished money, closed schools and sent everyone to the countryside, in order to create a pure race. Upon his ‘liberation’ of Phnom Penh the Khmer Rouge almost instantly began killed the impure people such as the intellectuals, the professionals, the educated. He recruited the ignorant, those who could not read and write, mainly boys aged 14-22 who became the guards and the murderers of their fellow people. Others starved as grain was sold for weapons. Towns and all those who lived in them were destroyed as they were capitalist. Phnom Penh was a ghost town until 1985. This regime was recognised by the UN and even after their downfall the West dared not help as the country was seen as a puppet of Vietnam.

As we learnt about this history we were walking around an area full of mass graves. Men, woman and children were killed because Pol Pot said you must kill the root for fear of reprisals should the family survive. Although the Killing Fields are not much more than a field at times you see rags of clothes and human bones poking through the soil and so it becomes living history. It is still raw for the people that survived. It is raw in the sense that it has not been sanitised for the tourists. At the genocide museum there are blood stains on the floor from the 20,000 victims. The row upon row of eyes which stare at you in what were the cells make you reflect that this happened and it wasn’t that long ago. At the Killing Fields the audio guide played the Patriotic songs and the sound of the diesel engine which were used to cover up the screams. They tell it as it was.

The museum was a prison and torture centre during the Khmer Rouge years, it had been a school, but it was empty as was the rest of the city. Houses around the school were also used for interrogation. Our guide who took us around the museum lived through the Khmer Rouge era. She saw her country destroyed and has to live with the fact that family members disappeared.

The worst thing about today was probably the fact that the UN recognised the Khmer Rouge as the legitimate government of Cambodia after they were kicked out by the Vietnamese. This regime is responsible in 3 years and 8 months of killing 3million people. It didn’t matter who you were, Khmer soldiers were also killed by huge infighting (they seemed to get a bit paranoid).

This was unfathomable killing with seemingly no clear motive from the all powerful Pol Pot. Other acts of genocide go down ethnic or religious routes. This was different, anyone and everyone was susceptible. From baby to old man, peasant to Khmer leader and Khmer Soldiers and Guards. Even now hours later I can’t comprehend how horrible the human race was and still is. I can only hope that one day we actually learn and stop committing atrocities.

Posted from Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

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