Monday, November 17, 2008

SE Asia Day 8 (part 2): The Killing Fields

An excellent example of how crooked the current Cambodian government is how they recently leased the Choeng Ek Killing Fields Memorial to a Japanese company.  This sobering place of national remembrance was sold off!
I paid the few dollars for admission and, upon passing through the gate, saw a large white pagoda.   From what I had read, I knew this pagoda to house the skulls of many of those exhumed from the mass graves in the area.  I avoided the pagoda at first, choosing to walk around the grounds first.
The first sign I came was one marking the spot where the victims were unloaded from trucks.  the Teul Sleng Prison mentioned in the sign is a former high school where Pol Pot used to teach.  Since high schools were unnecessary under his regime, they turned the site into an interrogation/torture/prison center.  When they were finished torturing the people, they were brought to Cheong Ek to be killed.
Around the site, there are occasional ditches, surrounded by fences.  It didn’t occur to me that these were the actual mass grave sites that hadn’t been filled in after being excavated.  The sign on this one is a little faded, but it says that 400 victims were buried here.
The countryside surrounding the memorial area is green, and lush and tranquil.  Here are some fisherman in a neighboring flooded field.
The oddest sign I read while there had to be the following, which reads, “Please don’t walk through the mass grave!”
There was also a small housing for some random bone fragments that were found.  It just lay open with bones placed in and on the box.
I eventually looped around back to the pagoda.  The area for visitors is quite small.  The skulls were groups by age group and others by sex.  Many of the victims were killed by physical beatings to the head to save bullets.
Beneath the stacks of skulls were clothes exhumed along with the remains.
In all, it is estimated that 17,500 people were killed here, and about half remain unfound.

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