Day 6: Phnom Penh (a)

How would you feel if you know that you’re visiting mass graves of 20,000 innocent people killed brutally by the communists? Me for one, know that people deserve to live their lives to the fullest. And the tragedy that happened against the will of those people is heart breaking.

The visit to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre filled with eerie feeling and was full of morn. While listening to the journey of the prisoners from the audio tour, I had goosebumps and numbs imagining the harsh killing that the victim went through. The executors of Kmer Rouge played loud songs accompanied by the sound of running generator to avoid the already isolated old chinese cemetry area from hearing the screams of the people they killed. I could only imagine the pain they felt. It was truly tragic.

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As walk around the killing field and listened to the stories, I could still see the bone remains in some of the mass graves. Not all of them have been dug out. The clothes of the victims could also be found half covered by the soil. One of the mass graves contained only headless skeletons. And the other was only for mothers and their babies. Nearby that grave was a tree, called the Killing Tree, where executors smashed babies’ heads. The mothers, which were killed after, witnessed their babies being thrown to the grave like pieces of garbage.

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I had a moment to notice the rest of the visitors of the Killing Field. Those who came with their friends did no longer walk around together as they were listening to their own audio tours. I was in my own world, like I was being pulled back in time as I listened to the accounts of the survivors that got away.

It was calming that Cambodian made peace with the history and set up the centre. There is a stupa in the centre of the whole genocidal centre where the remains of Choeung Ek’s victims are reverently preserved. It lets the younger generation like me to be aware and never let this happen again in thr future.

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In the afternoon we visited Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former security office 21 during the Kmer Rouge regime by Pol Pot. There were countless photographs of prisoners, each telling different stories from their expressions. They knew it was the end for all of them. Most of them were sent to the Killing Field and never came back. The building was used for detention, interrogation and inhumane torture. There were fourteen bodies found by the Government after S21 fled the place. The bodies were buried in front of the building.

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I couldn’t write everything I saw back there. It was just too much shock for me to have found out why Cambodia is what it is now. The Kmer Rouge killed the intelligence during the time of their reign in 1975. That includes professors, professional engineers and even former ministers and other leaders. The communists destroyed schools, museums, offices and religious places. Ordinary people that remained were treated as slaves. To build a country that went through such national tragedy is, no wonder, difficult.

As one of the visitor wrote on the guess book of the museum, “You remain a slave if you cannot see the beauty in this world. I wish them only love and light from now on”, I hope all the victims rest in peace and that all the family left behind be blessed and live peacefully.

Those who want to visit these two historic places, the Choeung Ek Genocidal Cetre costs $6 and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum costs $2. There’s movie screening at both places, many intervals at the Centre but only between 2pm-3pm at the Museum.

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