|Skulls at the Killing Fields in Choeung Ek, Cambodia|
|Tree where speakers hung playing music to cover the screams|
The Khmer Rouge took over buildings, turning them into prisons for all those who opposed Pol Pot's idealogy (like the Tuol Sleng prison -formerly a high school), but really it was anyone who was deemed a threat. Students, journalists, professors, monks...People were rounded up, beatedn, toturterd, forced to sign fraudeulent confessions about their work with the CIA or KGB and forced to give names of those working with them- neighbors, friends, families. Some of the torture included water boarding, ripping off fingernails and then pouring alcohol on the raw nail beds. Beatings, rape, electrocution. Some were even skinned alive. Many prisoners also died of starvation and disease.
|The Killing Tree at Choeung Ek's Killing Field, Cambodia|
The Cambodian genocide lasted from 1975-1979, just two years before I was born. It wiped out over 20% of the Cambodian population, a population that also included many Vietnamese who had fled American bombs during the Vietnam War. It struck me that these babies would be my age had circumstances been different. I walked around Phenom Penh looking through a different lens after that. All of the people over my age had experienced this genocide, first hand. Some of the people I saw hailing tuk tuks or crossing the street or selling fruit had lost family members, perhaps sons and daughters, parents. Some of them may have even been on the otherside. Maybe one or two of them were soldiers. Still crazier, the UN recognized the Khmer Rouge as Cambodia's oficial political party until the late 90s. The party wasn't dissolved until December 1999 and it wasn't until 2009 when some of the party's leaders were put on trial for war crimes. Pol Pot committed suicide in 1998, but all but one of the leaders have denied any wrongdoing. However, the man who ran Tuol Sleng (S-21) prison admitted to his crimes. During his trial he was taken to the Killing Fields at Choeung Ek and wept when he saw the Killing Tree. Unfortunately, the trials for the Cambodian genocide have been a huge failure with only five indictments, one conviction, and trials still proceeding.
|Bracelets left at a mass grave|
The graves are still so shallow, the devastation still so fresh, that every monsoon season more bones and teeth and clothing rise to the surface in the fields. Mass graves are still being discovered. On the tour, the audio guide said, "It's as if the spirits of those who lie here will not rest."
Cambodia is unrested.
|Choeung Ek Killing Fields, Cambodia|