The killing fields

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  • Today I visited the site of one of humanities darkest chapters; Cambodia’s infamous Killing Fields. Here people were tortured and brutalised before being executed then thrown into mass graves in the grounds of a once peaceful orchard just nine miles (14.5 kilometers) from the country’s capital, Phnom Penh.

    Back in the 1970’s Cambodia’s borders were closed and the country fell under the rule of the Khmer Rouge led by crazed communist dictator, Pol Pot. What followed was the brutal and inhuman murder of nearly two million people, a third of the country’s population, in a genocide that went largely unnoticed by the rest of the world.

    Unlike other such dark chapters in human history, the genocide in Cambodia was not driven by racial or religious hatred but by an ideology that became so twisted it can only be described as pure insanity. After coming to power Pol Pot ordered the swift execution of anyone who was educated, well-known, or simply wore glasses. Cities were emptied and everyone was ordered to give up everything and do hard labor on farms. Starvation and disease claimed the lives of thousands as soldiers of the Khmer Rouge killed increasing numbers of those seen as ‘traitors,’ ‘foreign spies,’ or simply ‘the enemy.’

    My visit to the killing fields near Phnom Penh was a haunting experience. It’s one of thousands of such killing fields across Cambodia, but these days serves as a memorial to the dead and an educational reminder of the horror and madness that happened here.

    As you walk through the main gate you see a memorial tower filled with thousands of human skulls and bones excavated from the surrounding fields. Todays picture shows just a few of the skulls piled high inside the tower.

    As I walked the dust paths through the killing fields I saw scraps of clothes coming out of the earth along with teeth and bone fragments. The ground has pushed these grizzly artefacts to the surface for years, almost as if it doesn’t want to keep the terrible secrets of this landmark in human cruelty and shame.

  • 8 comments on “The killing fields

    1. I like our cemetary visits better….

      this is the saddest picture you’ve taken thus far; it’s been stuck in my mind since seeing it this morning…which is not a bad thing, we all need to remember how human we are, and how easy it is to look the other way, especially when we shouldn’t!

    2. I saw this picture a while ago, and the pictures of the school from your link. I didn’t know what to say, it kind of stays with you to haunt you.

      Now I just wonder what happened to the young perpetrators – as children and young people who were trained to do the torture and killings.
      I wonder if you have met any, if they are different from “normal” people, or if they are just back to normal, leading a peaceful life.

        • In some respects I agree with you Will, though it’s a tragedy that justice just faded away from this issue. Maybe that’s the thing about something on this scale, maybe it’s just so awful that justice can’t ever get a grip on something this big.

          • What I found shocking was the lack of justice for Pol Pot and the other senior people in the party. Also the UK and US’s support for Khmer Rouge even after they were ousted from power. How can you support a Government who were responsible for the genocide of nearly 2 million people.

    3. a lot of people were killed under the Pol pot regime. My dad nearly died as well but lucky he jumped in a small hole in the bush to escape.
      Anyway not very nice memory. It was a very dark moment of Cambodian history…

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