The Killing Fields

I have told you about Rocky my Tuk Tuk driver and now friend in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Rocky is an independent businessman with the same hopes and dreams of any entrepreneur. He is also extremely proud of his country and its beauty and importance in world rice production and coffee as well as many other things. He was born at the end of Pol Pots Rein, however his family was heavily impacted by Pol Pot. They are still adversely effected by it today, but that is his story to tell. I was 30 and had heard of it but really didn’t understand it  Rather than try to explain something I can’t understand, I again defer to Wikipedia.  .

Getting to the killing fields via Tuk Tuk is a trip through back roads and residential neighborhoods. There were no freeways to put it near conveniently and as with the dozens of other horror venues this one was selected because it was out of the way, near an old Chinese cemetery. Pol Pot and his henchmen did not want people to know about these sites much less what was going on there. As we arrived there today we rounded a bend, so to speak, in front of us was a large unpaved open area that appeared to be a parking lot. At the far side was a solid fence and an entry way. In the distance past the gate there was a tall building. There was no sign that I saw identifying the place at all. I think it may have been intended that when an individual comes upon it today that you not know what it is unless you intend to be there, It is not something you want to bebop into.

I opted .for the recorded guided tour and suggest that you do if you go there. As you start the tour the first thing you see and the only real “thing” is the very tall stupa. The tour itself is to different locations which describe what was there, such as the truck stop and the detention building, the offices and the store room. Every other stop is a mass grave or many graves, now sunken by time, and discussions of the findings. There are many other killing fields, dozens if not hundreds. Pol Pot did not want people to know what was happening. For years people would just disappear and loved ones thought maybe they were in jail or a labor camp or who knows. If everyone knew what was really happening there might have been more resistance.

This is a somber place. It is a quiet walk around the sunken mass graves of thousands of people. This one location is the main one so that people will never forget what was done here. It is a memorial to mans inhumanity to man. It is in short a warning to all people of all nations of what can happen when a government goes out of control. It is far from the only genocide in history – the one we think of most is the Nazi extermination of millions of Jews, but there are others also.  This one memorial of  what happened in Cambodia is far from the only one here. Pol Pot had them all around the country. The others that have been found all have some sort of memorial or marker and there are others that have been referred to that have never been found because they are in the deep jungle or were too well hidden.

The photos of the killing tree for children is my worst nightmare. Often they would bash the child against the tree with its mother watching and then kill her and put them both in the pit. The fence surrounds the mass burial area. The thousands of wrist ties around the tree and fences are tributes from people visiting who were as shocked as I.

If you have the opportunity to travel I highly recommend Cambodia and this is one of the reasons why. Please don’t judge Cambodia based on this horrible chapter. It is an example of what can happen anywhere. People in America in 2017 are calling for the deaths of others because a charismatic leader told them that A is good and B is bad, death of a people has happened again and again because of lies and deceit. Good people everywhere may disagree about this or that in their political situation but this is a reminder that a powerful or simply charismatic leader can cause good people to do horrible things to their neighbors. I spent far longer at  this place than I thought I would and I thank Rocky for suggesting it. A note: This place and writing this blog brought tears to my eyes. It is more than one stop of many. it is life changing. Angkor Wat is incredible and I loved it, but it did not change my life. The killing fields did.


About asiadiver

Love to travel, love southeast Asia and the people and cultures (and food) SCUBA is a passion but more difficult as I get older so photography and writing have become most important. I have learned more talking with other travelers in local bars in Hong Kong or Bangkok or sharing a tuk tuk than I did in all my years in university. Not a man of the world but an average Joe just being observant, polite and listening.
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