I was ready to leave Sihanoukville and another afternoon in Phnom Pehn before we head north to Siem Reap was fine by me.We had a tour of S-21 and the killing fields booked for that afternoon, I wasn't ready for that at all and I'm not sure that you ever can be.
Again my ignorance had let me down, I knew Cambodia had had sketchy history but I knew very little of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge.
S-21 is a former high school in the centre of Phnom Pehn, when the Khmer Rouge over threw Lon Nol's government in 1975, the school became a detention and interrogation centre for those suspected of treason.The building has been left largely untouched, with the cells and torture equipment still in place.Each of the detention rooms has a photograph of the victim that was found beaten to death by the Khmer Rouge when the Vietnamese liberated Cambodia 1979.Outside in the former play ground laid the thirteen graves of the victims that were found dead by the Vietnamese forces. In another school building hundreds of photographs are displayed, as the prisoners were recorded when they came to the camp.Most of the faces were of children, scared children.
17km South West of Phnom Pehn are the killing fields.17,000 civilians were brought here a killed.With few bullets the victims were beaten with axes and rifle butts then left to die in mass graves.
Only some of the graves have been exhumed, so many bodies still lie in the shallow graves dug by the victims.As the atrocities were so recent, the clothes and the bones of dead have not had time to decompose; the heavy rain in wet season erodes the soil exposing more bones and more clothes, civilian clothes jeans, shirts, dresses. As you walk round the site you try not to step on the bones but you can't help it they are everywhere.
In the centre of the site stands a 17 storey glass stupa, displaying 8,000 skulls of the victims, the fractures from their gruesome murder clearly visible on each one.
As we silently get back on the bus, the sound of children playing in the school next door echoes around the site, the doors close on the bus and the stench that had lingered heavy in the air slowly disappears as the air conditioning kicks in to action.Our guide says one last thing, "this is not the only site, it is estimated that 2 million people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, and around a million more dying from starvation and disease - that's over half the population"
You were allowed to take photos, but it just didn't seem right, so you have a random photo of a water lilly from the Khmer Musseum in Phnom Pehn!