The visit to The Killing Fields.
Many people visit Cambodia to see the ancient temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, or they decide to head to the south to relax on the beautiful beach islands but there are also a large sum of people who visit Phnom Penh in order to educate themselves about “The Killing Fields”.
Cambodia although beautiful had 1/4 of it’s population murdered by the hands of it's own people from 1975-79. The man responsible? Pol Pot. The leader of the Khmer Rouge and the man behind Angkar (The organisation). A disgraceful person who decided that anyone who had worked for the previous government, was ethnic vietnamese, ethnic thai, ethnic chinese, a buddhist monk etc or was educated should be killed. Even people who wore glasses or had smooth hands were sentenced to death as they were perceived as intellectuals. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists… the list goes on. All killed due to Pol Pot wanting to recreate the nation with only farmers or peasants as they were commonly named. Families were separated, starved, brutally tortured… and executed.
The people of Cambodia suffered in ways that we cannot even fathom.
The executed were buried in mass graves after being fed poison or a fatal blow to the head by a farming tool in order to save on ammunition. Not even small children and babies were safe; killed by having their head smashed along a tree trunk and thrown into the mass graves with their parents. The Khmer Rouge wanted to eliminate any children growing up to take revenge.
The soldiers that killed them? Mostly men, women and children from peasant families under strict instructions from The Angkar, The Khmer Rouge.
Things to see and do:
If you are planning to head to Phnom Penh then you must visit Choeung Ek and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museums.
There are also many bars, restaurants and markets but the museums are a must.
Mass grave of the victims of Khmer Rouge. Today it is a memorial site, but as the rain washes away the dirt and mud, the shallow graves reveal clothing and victims bones.
Tuol Sleng- Known as Security Prison 21 (S21)
A former high school used to interrogate, torture and execute its prisoners.
There is a lot of information that I could give to you but I have chosen not to as I would rather that you go and visit yourself. I also took over 100 photographs in both museums but will not be sharing them all on the site. I took the photographs for educational purposes and to use within my own classroom.
A visit to the museums will leave you incredibly heartbroken and for a couple of days you will reflect upon your experiences here. But I urge you to start making comparisons of your experiences to the world we live in today. Unfortunately there are similarities that are difficult to hide. Learning from our mistakes should be easy but history has shown us time and time again that we keep repeating the same mistakes.
I have realised that I can’t change this world in a day, just like I can’t change a child's ability to learn in a day. But I do have the power to encourage change, whether it is in my classroom, hostel dorm room or just in the street.
We all know what we can do… we just need to take that first small scary step and try.