AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Phnom Penh: The Killing Fields


Posted on Dec 21, 2013

Today was a tough day. We were up early to meet our Tuk-tuk driver for the day. We had arranged for a half day visit to a few of the ‘must do’ sites in Phnom Penh. Our first destination was Choeung Ek. It is now a memorial ground but between 1975 – 1979 it was an execution site for the Khmer Rouge, it is one of the Killing Fields of Cambodia. There are over 100 sites around Cambodia, but this is the main tourist destination and is the site of the largest memorial Stupa. At Choeung Ek people were brought to be killed after interrogation, torture and inevitable confession. Mass graves were dug and then whilst blindfolded and handcuffed the prisoners were lined up on the edge of the grave and murdered by anything to hand. The executioners didn’t use guns, probably to save ammunition (but the real reason isn’t known), they used ordinary farm tools, hammers, pitch forks, poison and barbed vines from palm stalks. As we walk around the location of some of the mass graves are covered and fenced off. In other places depressions in the ground mark where bodies have been excavated from the mass graves. Over 9000 people were killed at this site alone, an estimated 1.5 million people were executed between 1975 and 1979 at sites like this around Cambodia. Rags and bones keep coming to the surface after heavy rains. These are collected and put on display. Perhaps the worst part was a tree, known as the ‘killing tree’, against which children were killed, in front of their mothers. The children and babies were picked up by the legs and killed against the tree trunk, then thrown into the mass grave. To think about it is bad enough, to try and understand is impossible. The reason the children had to be killed was because Pol Pot said ‘to kill the grass you must also remove the roots’. He believed that the families of ‘traitors’ should be killed to prevent any members of the family seeking revenge. Another saying he taught was, “It is better to kill an innocent by accident than let a traitor go by accident”. Those are the sayings of a sick and warped mind who somehow was the leader of this country for four years. The memorial stupa contains the bones from many of the bodies excavated in the mass graves. Over 900 skulls in the first 10 levels. Our next destination was the Security Prison 21 (S-21), known fully as Tuol Sleng. Before the Khmer Rouge took over this was a school. Amazingly, within hours of entering Phnom...

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