Choeung Ek – ‘Killing Fields’

23 Jan

22nd January 2013

Cost $5 including an excellent and moving audio presentation/tour.

The first thing you see when you arrive at the site is the memorial. It contains the remains of some of the victims of the genocide. Around 8000 bodies, mostly bound and blindfolded were exhumed in 1980 and housed in the tall glass structure inside the memorial. The remaining 43 mass graves have been left untouched. You can still see the hollows in the ground where each grave is sited.

Choeung Ek memorial

Skulls in the memorial

As you walk around the site you notice that there are human bones everywhere in the soil. Each time it rains more clothes and bones are exposed.

Bones in the paths

Mass graves

Clothing surfacing after rain

The most moving part of the visit and the most shocking is what they call the killing tree. It is where babies and young children were murdered by holding their feet and swinging them at the tree head first, often watched by their mother. The area is covered with bracelets left by the visitors to the site.

Killing tree

Always hope

On the way out of the site there is a museum which has a good display of background information. Shockingly Pol Pot hid himself away close to the Thai border, remarried and enjoyed another 20 years with his family and grandchildren. Something his victims could not do. Even more amazing is the fact that the west continued to  recognise the Khmer Rouge as the rightful leaders even though a new government had been formed with the help of the Vietnamese. They even had a representative on the UN. The others involved in the genocide have yet to be convicted. They are in their 80’s now and their lawyers seem able to delay and delay. Justice may never be served.

The road back to Phnom Penh city was hot and dusty. Lots of construction is going on in the city.

Hot in Phnom Penh

So dusty in fact that we had to get masks to avoid being choked by both dust and fumes!

Dusty roads

We then headed to the Russian Market, that is nothing to do with Russians other than the fact that during the 1980’s most of the foreign customers were Russians as nothing was available to them back home.

Grahams's favourite

Tiring work at the Russian market

After the market and lunch we headed off to the riverside area (north). In the evenings the locals and tourists tend to gather and play football, badminton and a sort of kick up game with something that looks like a long narrow shuttlecock made of cork and feather. Families are sitting around eating tasty snacks ….. ?

Tasty snack

You can choose from snakes on a stick …. through to a sort of insect salad mix. It looks ok from a distance, but as you get closer, slightly less appealing!

IMmmm crickets!

If you are not hungry straight away and need to work up an appetite, there is a nightly street aerobic class (here and many other parks around the city). After that, you may want double helpings!!

Evening aerobics

The girls selling the snacks thought it was so funny that we would not try a snake. We eat every day, they said! Looking down at the murky river where they catch them, I was still happy to refuse. Maybe if they were caught in a countryside area I might give it a go.

Snack saleswomen

Tomorrow we take the VIP bus to Sihanoukville. This one costs $9 for the 3.5 hr journey. Nearly double the price of bus, but almost half the time.

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