After exploring the city on foot yesterday and visiting some of the pretty sights such as Wat Phnom Temple, the Central Market and the King's Palace, the program was much more depressing today. To get more involved with the country's history, I visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields in Choeung Ek.
The history of Cambodia is overshadowed by the regime of the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge was a Maoist-nationalist guerrilla movement that came to power in 1975 under the leadership of Pol Pot in Cambodia and until 1979 ruled the country as a totalitarian state party. The Khmer Rouge wanted to force society into agricultural communism. This process also included the near total displacement of the population from the capital, Phnom Penh, and culminated in the genocide in Cambodia, which gained worldwide renown. All educated people, wearers of glasses or, among other things, people with soft hands were brutally murdered. By the end of their rule in 1978, the Khmer Rouge fell victim to the most prevalent estimates of 1.7 to 2.2 million Cambodians.
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
In 1975, Tuol Svay Prey High School was taken over by the security forces of Pol Pot and converted into a prison known as Security Prison 21 (S-21). It soon became the largest center for detention and torture in the country. The S-21 was converted into the Tuol Sleng Museum, which serves as proof of the Khmer Rouge crimes. The walk through the Tuol Sleng Museum is incredibly depressing and sad (sad is not even the right word for this).
I took the audio guide, which is highly recommended. The audio tour is complemented with the voices of survivors, which will let you completely step out from the outside world. However, it takes a lot of strength to cope with what you hear and see. Again and again I have caught myself standing in the room with goose bumps and tears in my eyes, taking a moment to take a deep breath. The pictures of the detainees, who are staring at one of the walls, the torture instruments and the traces of blood that still exist in some places, are not easy to put away.
I spent 1.5hrs in the museum. Where I find museum a misnomer for a place of such horror.
After that, my driver drove me to Choeung Ek, the most well-known of the many Killing Fields in Cambodia. The Killing Fields, as well as the newly-visited S-21, belong to the history of the Khmer Rouge. The ride on the TukTuk took about 40 minutes to the south, outside of Phnom Penh.
In this site, up to 17,000 people were killed who were brought here from the S-21 prison I visited earlier. Particularly memorable are the images of thousands of skulls and other human remains that littered the fields of Cambodia. The skulls are now kept in part in a stupa, which was built in memory of the dead on the grounds in Choeung Ek.
At this point, I do not want to go into the details of what exactly happened to the people here. This is too disturbing.
Due to heavy rain and erosion, remains of clothes and bones are still being collected every two to three months by the staff on the memorial grounds. During my walk over the terrain, I actually discovered clothes and teeth, which made themselves recognizable in the ground. A horrible feeling
Also in Choeung Ek one was accompanied by an audio. Again, a very depressing experience.
I was glad to have done the tour and recommend the experience to everyone. The whole thing leaves a concern for the Cambodian population, anger over what people are capable of and misunderstanding why no one from the West was able to stop it.
In the evening I went to the Royal Palace. Today, celebrations for the 65th Independence Day Cambodias from France took place there.
After the depressing day, it was nice to watch the local people being happy together with the family. In the end, the good will always win❤️.
At 19: 00hrs there was a nice firework display over the Mekong river. A great ending to an emotional day.