Located 9 miles away from the main city of Phnom Penh, the ‘killing fields’ of Choeung Ek have become a horrifying and fascinating tourist attraction. The horrors of war, political upheaval and massive genocide reflects within this soccer field-sized area of Cambodia. I opted for the audio tour to grasp a better understanding of the history behind the horrors that were committed during the Khmer Rouge empire from April 17, 1975 to January 7, 1979.
Though the documented statistics state that almost 1.7 million Cambodians, i.e. 21% of the population were killed during the regime, it was told to us that during monsoons, bone fragments still wash up and new graves have been unearthed. To be honest, it was one of the most depressing places that I have ever seen. Not only because of the horrors that were so starkingly evident, but also because the deep silence echoes within your soul. It was extremely unsual to see a tourist place where everyone was just quiet, and not because of some vivid and impactful scenery, but mainly because of how deep the place connects with you.
While the mass graves clearly shows the horrors of the Killing Fields, the most haunting would be the portraits that were taken during the Khmer Rouge at S-21. Today, the S-21 Prison is known as the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide.
Inside the gates, it looks like a typical high school; five buildings face a grass courtyard with pull-up bars, green lawns and lawn-bowling pitches. But as you start exploring the so-called classrooms, instead of school desks and chairs, you come across scorched steel bed frames with shackles at each end that used to be connected to some kind of electric points which were used as a means of punishing the prisoners.
In another building the walls are papered with thousands of S-21 portraits of the prisoners in various state of physical abuse. Some of the exhibits explain how bullets are too precious to use for executions, hence Axes, knives and bamboo sticks were far more common. As for children, their murderers simply battered them against trees.
Here I am, posing with one of the survivor – Chum Mey, who has released a confession book comprising of all the horrors that were inflicted.
Those who want to learn more about the history of Khmer Rouge Regime, you can read upon more here: