The Killing Fields – Phnom Penh – Cambodia – February 2015

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It’s our second day in Cambodia and we feel like we’ve been way too happy lately… so time to take things down a notch and visit the killing fields.  We went outside our hotel and negotiated a deal with a tuktuk driver for $10 round trip.  He wanted another $5 to take us to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum but we felt like that mixed with the Killing Fields might be too much depressing activities in one day. 

So shortly after lunch we were on our way about 14km away from our hotel near the riverside. 

If you’re not familiar with Cambodian history, all you need to know is that the Pol Pot Regime, leading the Khmer Rouge, ruled for almost 4 years in the 1970s where they committed mass genocide against their own people.  They killed anyone who showed signs of intelligence or skills that could interfere with their plan.   An estimated 3 million Cambodians were murdered during the time Pol Pot was running the country, most of which were in the final year at “Killing Fields” all over the country. 

Tickets were $6 each and included an audio tour which comes in many different languages.  This is one of the best tours you can take in Asia.  The audio includes descriptions of what you’re visiting at each numbered site along with confessions from former Khmer Rouge generals, and some survivor stories. 

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This tour has nothing to joke about.  People were brought here by the truck load.  They were blindfolded and had their hands tied behind their back.  The Khmer Rouge didn’t want to waste bullets so these people were brutally and grotesquely beaten with various weapons and farming tools. 

They would play music mixed with the sound of heavy machinery so the people waiting wouldn’t be able to hear the screams of others being murdered. 

Now every few months, they employees have to do a clean up of new bones and clothing fragments that have risen above ground.

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There was even a tree that was used to kill babies.  Pol Pot believed that if he killed one member of a family, he needed to kill the rest of the blood line to prevent someone coming after him seeking revenge. 

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There’s now a building that holds many skulls and larger bones along with weapons found in the area. 

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After watching the movie “The Killing Fields” and visiting here, it’s hard to believe how recent this happened.  I can’t pretend to understand what the people went through, but it makes me really hope for some good fortune for the Cambodian people. 

This is a very tough tour to get through without choking back tears.  However, as the quote goes: “Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it”.  The audio is extremely well done.  10/10. Don’t pass up on this tour and a very important history lesson. 

So what happened to Pol Pot and his generals?  Well, Pol Pot was exiled and passed away in the late 90s on an island in Thailand.  One general was given 35 years in prison in 2010.  Some are still awaiting trial but as they get older, it’s questionable if they will live to ever be given any form of justice. 

I am truly grateful for being born where I was and to be given the opportunities that I have today. 

 

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