The History Of Cambodia

June 1, 2013 Cambodia 2 Comments 50,736 Views

The Heartbreaking History Of Cambodia Will Get To You.

How do you feel?” our tuk-tuk driver Bo asked us after finishing the tour through Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. To be frank, we weren’t up for speaking that much. The last two hours have set us back in time; back to a time when peaceful Cambodia was destroyed by one of the cruelst dictators of our time.

Not even one generation ago, Pol Pot & the Khmer Rouge rose to power. In the years of 1975-1979 about 2 million people lost their lives – about 20% of the country’s population. It was one of the worst human tragedies of the last century. Pol Pot showed no mercy and went against his own people; doctors, teachers, intellectuals and city dwellers. The people who lived in cities and towns – some 3 million – were driven out to work in the countryside (it only took 3 days for Phnom Penh to become a ghost town). They were labelled “depositees,” and were given very short rations with the intention of starving them to death.

When Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia, Pol Pot fled to the Thai border, where he would hide out. He was arrested in 1997 and died during house arrest in 1998 – it was not a painful death for him…

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was a former high school, which was used as the Security Prison 21 (S-21). Out of the 17.000 people who died there, only 7 survived. 14 others had been tortured to death as the Vietnamese were closing in on the city. Their graves have been placed inside the courtyard.

A visit to Tuol Sleng is a depressing experience. It’s clearly nothing for the faint-hearted, because there’s something about the sheer ordinariness of the place that make it even more horrific; the setting right in the city, the simple school buildings, the grassy & flowery area in the courtyard, ousted beds, instruments of torture and most of all, wall after wall of B & W portraits of men, woman and children conjure an image of humanity at its worst.

Admission:
$2.00 per person
Open everyday from 8.00am – 5.00pm

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The Killing Fields.

The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are located about 15 kilometers outside of Phnom Penh. It was a place where more than 17.000 civilians were killed and buried in mass graves. Many of them were transported here after detention and torture at the S21 prison. In the center of the area lies a 17-story glass stupa which houses 8.000 skulls, bones and cloth exhumed from the mass graves. Again, this place is nothing for the faint hearted, since you’ll be walking on paths with visible cloths & bones, as well as disturbing photographs.

Admission:
$5.00 per person (including a headset) + $15.00 per tuk tuk
Open everyday from 8.00am – 5.00pm

The stupa in the center of the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Stupa in the center of the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Human skulls at the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Human skulls at the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Mass grave at the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Mass grave at the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Mass grave at the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Mass grave at the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

This is the kind of history you don’t learn about in school (at least I didn’t). WWI & WWII, as well as the Vietnam War are on the agenda in almost every textbook, but the history of little Cambodia is left out most of the times. Yet it’s not even slightly less relevant!

The reason why I find Cambodia’s history so heartbreaking is because its people are one of the friendliest you’ll ever come across and imagining that someone would want to erase them, leaves me speechless.

Let history not repeat itself. A statement most people would sign immediately. Still, it’s a wish one can send to Santa Clause, because reality looks a lot different…

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2 Comments

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“The Heartbreaking History Of Cambodia Will Get To You.”

  1. A difficult subject that people need to know about. The photos are difficult to view, but are excellent.

  2. Nisa

    Thank you Scott! Yes, people should definitely know about Cambodia’s history…

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