Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Killing Fields

I knew today was going to be a very tough day.  I didn't know much about the killing fields and the prisons.  I didn't know the reasons and how many were affected, but I knew a lot of innocent people were murdered.

Our guide was fantastic. He was passionate about the telling the stories of those that had passed. We visited S-21 (below).  It was once a high school in the heart of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  The high school was once the place for learning and development and was abruptly changed into a torture facility.  

A holding cell for prisoners.  They were chained to the floor. 

A torture room.  The floor is brown. It was stained from the all the blood of its victims. 

Pol Pot murdered all the educated people and their families.  He didn't even want a genetic line to survive if someone within that family was an engineer, teacher or doctor.  The result of this focused execution is an uneducated country today.  No one was safe.  It was also so disturbing to find out that he brainwashed the youth of the country to become the executioners. Our guide told us a story of a female solider.  She was forced to kill. Her first kill was placed in front of her.  She had to bludgeon the person over the head.  The face was covered.  As soon as the kill was complete the cover was removed.  She had just killed her mother.

Most of the child soldiers were not held responsible for their actions.  They all claimed to be brainwashed. They live among the people today, sometimes 1 or 2 will revisit the prison to talk and his/her experiences. The only people that were prosecuted were the people at the top and even then, it's been difficult to do. 

The soldiers didn't use guns.  The guns would make too much noise.  Instead, they used to the serrated side of this plant (see below) or a metal object.  Most of the skulls recovered have a skull depression caused by the bludgeoning.  All bodies were covered with chemicals so the surrounding communities couldn't smell the dead and it wouldn't raise suspicions. 

Used as a killing tool. 

Skulls placed in a monument to the dead.

Pol Pot killed everyone. He even killed foreign diplomats and babies. The terror didn't come to a close until the Vietnamese liberated Cambodia.  The Vietnamese ruled Cambodia for 10 years after liberation. There was no currency, no calendars.  People didn't know if family were dead or alive.  My guide was a product on forced marriage and he doesn't even know exactly how old he is today.  He picked his birthday.  He only knows he was born in the winter months. 

While I was visiting S-21, I was fortunate enough to meet 2 of the 7 survivors.  One was a mechanic and the other was an artist. They have no finger prints and are practically deaf due to electric shock to the ears.  I seriously don't know how they can return to such a horrible place. 

The surviving artist

The surviving mechanic

The Cambodian people have come a long way.  Within the last couple of years, the country has gotten paved roads and air con in the buses.  Even with such a recent tragedy, the people are always smiling. I really appreciated my time learning about their past and really trying to educate myself on things that happen outside the US bubble.  

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