Cambodia’s killing fields

Cambodia is well known for its picturesque temple complex Angkor, located near Siem Reap city. The city is relatively wealthy compared to other parts of the country thanks to tourism which directly or indirectly provides income for most people.

One of the passageways of Cambodia's famous Angkor temple complex, familiar to many thanks to the Tomb Raider movie.

One of the passageways of Cambodia’s famous Angkor temple complex, familiar to many thanks to the Tomb Raider movie.

In contrast, Cambodia’s current capital Phnom Pehn seems like a city of slums similar to the image that media create of the slums of India. Ten kilometres from the centre of the capital lies Cambodia’s most gruwesome tourist destination: Cambodia’s killing fields. Walking here elicits an intense feeling of overwhelming sadness, knowing that at this place hundreds of victims including many women and children, were brought by trucks; they were kept without food, slaughtered using tools that require forceful blows to the head or neck, and their bodies were disposed of in mass graves. It is one of those places in the world, like Europe’s concentration camps where atrocities have been committed, where we can safely venture today, but with an ambiguous feeling about what it means to be a human. Walking at such places is a strong reminder that amongst all animals, mankind is the most savage beast on earth.

mass grave sign board

Many victims were decapitated, and skulls were buried separately from the bodies.

Many victims were decapitated, and skulls were buried separately from the bodies.

Tourists read about the saddening horrors that occurred at these killing fields. The sign reads that at a certain point, a detention camp had to be built, because executioners were unable to massacre the victims when the numbers in which they arrived per time grew too large.

Tourists read about the saddening horrors that occurred at these killing fields. The sign reads that at a certain point, a detention camp had to be built, because executioners were unable to massacre the victims when the numbers in which they arrived per time grew too large.

victim's clothes

At the killing fields of Cambodia, many of the tourists leave their bracelet on the bamboo fences that mark the edges of burial sites, as a token of compassion.

At the killing fields of Cambodia, many of the tourists leave their bracelet on the bamboo fences that mark the edges of burial sites, as a token of compassion.

Bracelets are left on the tree by tourists in sympathy with the child victims that were beaten to death at this tree only several decades ago.

More bracelets are left on the tree by tourists in sympathy with the child victims that were beaten to death at this tree only several decades ago.

At another tree, loudspeakers were hung and used to mask the death cries of people that were brutally murdered at these killing fields.

At another tree, loudspeakers were hung and used to mask the death cries of people that were brutally murdered at these killing fields.

The sign this tourist is looking at reads that toxins were poured over the bodies not only to cover up the smell of the rotting corpses, but at the same time ensuring that any surviving victims playing dead would surely die...

The sign this tourist is looking at reads that toxins were poured over the bodies not only to cover up the smell of the rotting corpses, but at the same time ensuring that any surviving victims playing dead would surely die…

 

(This post is inspired by my visit to these killing fields, and the pictures are my own.)

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