Dan and Lu's Travels
We were up early for a trip to the Killing Fields of Chueong Ek. We squeezed into a car with 3 Americans. At 8.30am and 90 degree heat, squeezing up to strangers is not the first thing you want to do! But it is an ice breaker. They wanted to go shoot some guns so we had to go along with them. It was only abut 20 minutes drive but the roads are terrible. On normal roads it would have taken about 5 minutes! There are piles and piles of dirt and rubble eveywhere and diggers making even more of a mess. We arrived at the shooting range, which was seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and shown to a table where we were given 'menus'. The menu consisted of various guns, including AK47s and M-16s, hand grenades, rocket launchers and anti aircraft missiles. At the bottom of the menu it offered Coca Cola, 7 Up and water. I don't really think that dramatic sentences will explain or convey the surrealness of the situation or my feeling of disconcertment. I had a coke and the yanks ordered an AK47......... 15 minutes later we were squashed in the car again on our way to the killing fields. Couldn't help myself and said "Bet you're glad you shot the AK before you went to the killing fields eh?" They either chose to ignore my sarcasm or the irony was lost. They just laughed and said yes. Not sure how much I can say about the Killing Fields apart from its the most upsetting place I've ever been. The first thing you see is a very tall stupa, which has columns at it's four corners and a smaller glass case which rises to its full height. The case has shelves and is full of bones, mainly skulls. There are thousands. Some skulls have lacerations on them at the back where they were hit with sharpened bamboo sticks (this is how many people were killed as it saved expensive bullets). The Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot's orders had rounded up all intellectuals, academics and senior people in authority to have them killed. He wanted to start from year zero and outlawed currency and religion, and freedom basically. If they killed one person they would make sure every one in that family died also. Our guide walked us around the mass graves; ditches, some of which have had their contents exhumed but others haven't. Some people didn't die from their wounds but from axphixiation. they were all blindfolded and told to kneel down at the edge of the pit so when they'd been hit they would fall in, then more and more on top of them. There were clothes which had risen up slightly through the dusty ground. This is the thing that affected me the most. We were walking on the clothes of the victims. There were many bits of bones around too. After this sobering experience we went to S-21, which is Tuol Sleng prison, a former school in central Pnom Penh which was used by the Khmer Rouge as the place where they tortured and interrogated people before sending them to the killing fields. The daily regime was brutal and inevitably people signed fake confessions. Now there are rows and rows of photos of the prisoners displayed in the rooms used as cells. The Khmer Rouge, like the Nazis, religiously documented all their inmates and what they did to them. It was pretty chilling to look into their eyes in the place where they were held and just try to imagine their fear, pain and misery. Worn out after seeing all this we relaxed in the afternoon, Dan played some local kids at PS2 games, and beat them!