Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields


Loss of Innocents at the Memorial Site Stupa
I think this will be one of the most difficult posts I will ever write. After an internal debate whether I should or shouldn't write about the horrors of this tragedy, I have come to realize that if something shakes one's core, it is worth writing one's thoughts about it. 

Tuol Sleng Museum Interrogation Room at Building A
I watched a documentary about Tuol Sleng Prison a few years ago on TV. I remember feeling utter shock watching it on screen from start to finish.  But nothing can prepare one for the raw feelings of being present in the building where it all happened.

Tuol Sleng Museum, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
As a foresight, I am a mere tourist and I question, "Who am I to say something about the loss of innocents." Yet, it is worth delving deep into. To learn something from it. That is what history is about, right? To respect and remember the past and courageously move on..in spite of..


Corridors of Building B
Tuol Sleng Museum was once a secondary school. On April 17, 1975, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge transformed this school into a prison called S-21 or Security Office 21, considered the biggest in Kampuchea Democratic. Thousands of victims were imprisoned and exterminated with their wives and children. Many evidences including instruments of torture, documents, list of prisoners, victim's photos and cells were found, proving the horrors and cruelty that one's deranged view of a perfect government can do to hurt humanity.

Wooden Cells
Brick cells
Security Rules within the Prison
The Choeung Ek Genocidal Center
The Choeung Ek Genocidal Center is a memorial site and it is most well known from over 300 Killing fields throughout Cambodia. It is located approximately 15 km southeast of the city in Choeung Ek commune, Khan Dhangkor, Phnom Penh.  The solemn Tuk-tuk drive from where we were staying (which was close to Tuol Sleng) somehow retraced the path these oblivious prisoners took when they were transported before their night of doom.

Mass graves were uncovered here
The Killing Fields surrounded by barbed wires
The Killing Tree where innocent children and babies were executed
Reflections listening to survivors' stories during the audio tour of where it all happened
This former orchard looked peaceful but it holds dark memories within these mass graves. Almost 2 million people were murdered during the Khmer Rouge regime in the country. You can feel the chill in the air.  Please feel free to visit the following websites if you wish to learn more:

Khmer Rouge Tribunal:  www.ecccc.gov.kh/en
Yale University's Cambodian Genocide Program:  www.yale.edu/cgp
Cambodia Tribunal Monitor:  www.cambodiatribunal.org
Choeng Ek Genocidal Center:  www.cekillingfield.org

It was very humbling. My husband and I agreed on the same thing, the injustice done to them is beyond words. Something like this could happen to any of us at any given time and at any given place. They didn't expect something horrible awaited them when they saw men and women in black and red and white checkered scarves started ordering them out of the city. 

Since then I have never felt the same. I woke up with nightmares of Pol Pot at 3AM and after a visit to the Killing Fields the next day, it was heartbreaking, I cried during the tour and my body broke down afterwards as I physically suffered from fever and terrible flu. Sometimes while conversing with locals and their family, you can sense a tearful edge in their voice since most of them lost a family member. 

I say a silent prayer and hope you would too.
Love & light,
Arni

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6 comments

  1. some countries, like Cambodia, or my own, have gone through so many tragedies throughout their history, that it makes you wonder why do some people suffer so much and others never

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    1. Good point Dezzy, It did make me wonder and I questioned a lot. Somehow my visit to the other beautiful places were tainted with the thought how it was affected during those dark times and I was consumed by 'why' such a horrible thing have to happen. I couldn't shake the thought that it could have happened to any of us. The horrors of living displaced from family and not knowing whether they're alive while starving and working in the fields to death can already be so traumatic.

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  2. That would be like visiting the concentration camps in Germany. It's appalling what humans can do to one another. (The killing tree picture really made me sad!)

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    1. I think so. A friend told me about his visit to a concentration camp and now I understand why he talks about his experience all the time. A visit to such a place can transform someone.

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  3. it's so heartbreaking to see so many human rights violations happening all over the world and having these types of museums and memorials that stand as witness to those atrocities... hoping that one day history will never repeat itself in this way ever again...

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  4. My goodness, the tree really got to me - it's worth visiting places like this to remember and never forget

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