it’s weird to walk the streets of a city that was completely emptied out in less than 24 hours 30 years ago. it’s hard to comprehend how a city could be completely evacuated.
it’s harder to comprehend how i managed to keep the tears in when i realized today in the killing fields (Choeung Ek) that i was standing on human remains. i was standing on dead bodies, with bones and clothing sticking out of the earth. forget about mass graves that were dug out. the whole place is a grave. the walkways are on graves. you walk over dead people. occasionally they pull some bones out, and put them aside. i found a couple teeth on the ground. i jumped over a huge section of remains because i couldn’t see what else i was to do. i found it to be too disturbing to walk on. too disrespectful to walk on.
in the killing fields there is a stupa made of human skulls. on some of them, you can see the hit that killed them. a huge gash.
in the killing fields there is a tree that the Khmer Rouges use to bash children’s head in. they just grabbed a child and whacked them against the tree. crushed their skulls in. some say you can see the dent in the tree…
there is a grave that was filled with naked women and children. another one full of headless bodies.
people who went to S21 and didn’t die were sent to the killing fields. they were made to get on their knees, where hit on the nape of the neck with an iron rod and their throat was slashes. then, their bodies were thrown in a grave… 40’000 people died there. only one person has survived the killing fields. he was found buried alive by the Vietnamese forces when they invaded in 1979.
it really surprised me that s21 (Toul Sleng) was located right in the heart of Phnom Penh. i always thought that torture camps and concentration camps would be outside cities. but no. they took a local school and converted it. 14’000 people died here, from torture and starvation. only 7 people survived. you get to walk torture chambers, closet-size cells… pictures upon pictures of the people who went through these doors. the portraits are incredible. the people’s faces say so much… and by looking at their faces it seems that most of them had no idea that they were in there waiting for death.
why were we such idiots and let these things go on? in the 3 years of the regime before the Vietnamese invasion nearly 2 million people died. that’s 1/5th of the population at the time. how could our governments stand there and let massacres like this go on?
and why isn’t the country being de-mined properly? 2 people blow up here every day!
find out more about the Cambodian Civil War here.