April 13: Phnom Penh (Toul Sleng Genocide Museum & The Killing Fields).
April 12 was a mixed bag sort of day - I discovered that the Thai embassy would be closed all week for Khmer New Year, meaning I would be stuck in Phnom Penh for awhile. Then I toured the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields - I don't think I need to explain why this was heavy and emotional. After my tour, I was greeted by an oddball Israeli who decided to join me for lunch followed by a walk around the local wat where we chatted with some monks.
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Welcome to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This is a rather heavy update - you've been warned.
The 70s was rough on SE Asia, but I don't think any country had it quite as bad as the Cambodians. Their involvement with the Vietnam War was extremely complicated, but mostly it involved the powerful and the elite exploiting their own people to a sick end. The Khmer Rouge originally proported to be a party of national loyalty, so many people joined the batallions. In 1975, just as the Ameericans were jumping ship from Vietnam, Pol Pot raged a massive genocidal campaign. He wanted to eliminate all Vietnamese, Vietnamese supporters, supporters of the previous Khmer government, supporters of America, people with educations, jobs, glasses - everyone really. This went on for four years.
Toul Sleng, or S-21, was previously a high school. From the looks of it, it was probably a very nice school. The Khmer Rouge turned it into a prison for those suspected of, well, anything. Prisoners were brutally tortured, forced to sign ridiculous confessions (saying things like they were informants for the CIA), and then taken to the Killing Fields to, well, be killed. Gut wrenching.
These are graves for the people whose remains were discovered at the school in the 80s.
Many rooms look something like this. That is a "bed" where prisoners were chained (notice the shackle). Standing in that exact room where someone was tortured - that is an experience I cannot put into words.
TIn case you couldn't imagine the horror, they've posted photos of people who were laying in these exact beds. Skin and bones. That is blood on the floor. Wow.
I can't imagine a human being who could do this to someone else.
These are hundreds of photos of the victims. Age was not a factor, nor was sex. Old, young, man, woman - they are all here.
How on Earth were these little boys CIA agents? Look at the face of the kid on the right - he is so scared. So am I - this is like no other museum.
The Khmer Rouge documented this horror in extensive detail - yet only NOW are trials starting to get underway, and only for a few of the perpetrators. Pol Pot died a natural death without ever being charged for a thing.
The almost look like showers, but it doesn't take long to realize that these crude walls made cells, very tiny cells, for prisoners.
God knows how long a victim was stuck in a stall like this before being taken to die. And for what?
An artist had a exhibit in one of the buildings of the school. Here is an example of the art. Pretty effective.
You really have to feel badly for this country. There is almost no one in the country over age 30. So tough to think about.
That is exactly what you think.
It looks rather like a nice school - it's a horrible combination of images. You can still see monkey bars out front. They tortured people on the swingset - I will spare the details.
Not where you want to send your kids for an education. There are many who can tell stories of having gone to school here. There are many more who can tell stories of family who were prisoners here.
About 15km from the school is the site of the The Killing Fields. There are many sights like this, containing mass graves, often dug by the prisoners themselves.
Many of the skulls unearthed in the graves, mande into a memorial. This is a very sobering sight.
Mass graves. For another layer of horror, this area is now privately owned. This means that one person is profiting off of the mass genocide. I only discovered that after I visited and paid the few dollars. That's really unimaginable.
This is coined the Killing Tree. Apparently, children were thrown against it until they died. I'm not even describing the worst of what happened here.
Some bones uncovered in the graves.
A great film to help put this into context is The Killing Fields. I still can't believe this site is privately owned.
Mass graves. And this happened all over the country. All the people were forced out of the cities and made to go to the country to grow rice. They were starved and overworked. Out of a total population of 8 million people, about 2.5 million people died. And those in charge were never punished.
I'm not even going to write words for this picture.
Khmer Rouge uniforms.
On a lighter note...
I felt pretty rotten after that day. I went for a walk around the city for a change of pace. Here, I am trying to be an aspara - I don't think it's working...
Phnom Penh - see? Someone is still buying American cars!
Channeling my inner-Buddhist.
We visited a wat nearby where the monks were busy getting ready for the Khmer New Year, the biggest holiday in Cambodia.
My new friend.
Sorry, but is Buddha wearing lipstick?
Snooping around the wat.
In the wat's main hall where they were preparing for the following day's new year's feast. Fun!
Christi the monk!
Good way to end a day of heavy reflections.
January (South Korea)
2: Grocery Shopping
23: Eating Live Octopus
February (South Korea)
28: Collage of Kimchi Cat
March (Christi in Thailand)
9: Christi in Thailand (Koh Tao)
13: More of Koh Tao
25: Snacks in Thailand
27: Lots of Rain, Lots of Rain
31: Rescue Off of Koh Tao
April (Christi in Cambodia)
3: Siem Reap
4: Day 1 Angkor Wat
5: Day 2 Angkor Wat
6: Day 3 Angkor Wat
13: Phnom Penh & Killing Fields
14: More of Phnom Penh
16: Still in Phnom Penh
19: Last Day in Phnom Penh
30: South Coast of Cambodia
May (Christi in Thailand)
17: Chillin' in Trat, Thailand
29: A Thai Island
June (Christi in Thailand)
24: Elephant Sanctuary
25: Erawan Waterfalls
26: Elephant Feeding Time
27: More Elephants
28: Memorial in Kanchanaburi
July (Christi in Burma)
27: An Incredible Month in Myanmar
August (Christi in Cambodia & Vietnam)
22: Back Through Cambodia
24: Good Morning, Vietnam!
27: Call Me Miss Saigon
31: Hoi An - History, Beaches and FOOD!
September (Christi in Vietnam, Tauru in Winslow)
7: Labor Day at Winslow Wall
21: Christi Comes Home
October (Tempe, Arizona)
16: Vietnam, The Rest
November (Tempe, Arizona)
14: Good Times with Friends
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