Well today has been a rollercoaster ride and i know i have written nothing of what i've been up to so far on the trip but today was a complete journey in itself. Today we went to the genocide museum-killing fields and the s21 prison which were used during the khmer rouge. I knew very very little about the khmer rouge before we set off today so i had no idea what to expect. The only thing i'd heard was that there were buckets at the places we were visiting because often people were so horrified by what they were seeing the were physically sick. so i'll try and explain a little bit of what i learnt today about the khmer rouge for those who don't know like i didn't...
So basically in 1975 a guy named Pol Pot (this was one of his nicknames although he went by other names as well.) set up the khmer rouge along with his brother in law and another guy. The khmer rouge wanted to abolish schools, money, banks, love, respect, trust-you name it, they wanted it gone. and in particular they wanted to get ride of all the intellects, teachers, doctors etc. and so sent round forms which people had to fill in with their cv so that they knew what work everyone had done and whether or not they had basically had any contact with the outside world-if they had they were pretty much done for.
On 17th april 1975 the khmer rouge announced in the capital city of Phnom Pehn (where i'm currently staying) that the americans were coming to bomb the city and that they had to get out of the city NOW. The khmer rouge told them that they would looke\ after everything and to leave their things. (The khmer rouge soldiers were simply people working on rice fielda\s etc. who were forced to become soldiers) some old people refused to leave and were shot dead. In 3 days the khmer rouge had driven everyone out of the capital city. All the intellectual people were taken to prisons. The one we visited today was called S21. There they were either put into tiny single cells where their feet were shackled to a chain or were put in a huge room with loads of people in there. (the prison was converted from a school) there were also torture rooms where people would be interrogated. They would cut their heads, beat them with shovels, axes, machetes, some would be shot in the head, others would be dis-embowelled. there were dried blood stains on the ceilings where people had been dis-embowelled. I can't explain how harrowing it was. and on the wall in each room with a bed in there was one of the implements on the bed which would have been used to torture the victim and then a photograph on the wall of one of the victims. We then went into another room, where there were rows and rows of photographs of the prisoners. They photographed each person and put a number on them. Some even were made to dig their own graves. They were stripped of their clothes as one man tried to hang himself with his own clothes, but they stopped him just in time as they wanted to torture him.They didn't know before arriving at S21 that they were going to be killed. They just thought they were escap[ing from being bombed. There was a very poinant photograph of a woman holding her baby as she arrived at the prison. as she was having her photograph taken she realised her and her babies fate and in the photograph you can see a tear rolling down her face. There was another part of the prison that was coveredin barbed wire. The reason being that someone flung them self over the edge in an attempt to kill themself. and this was strictly forbidden. From the prison we then drove 15km to where many of the refugees and prisoners were taken with no idea of what was ahead of them. When they arrived they were blindfolded and made t o be silent. They were seperated from their families and had to die without screaming or making any sound. They were killed in a variety of ways, often with chemicals, some buried alive,some of them had their heads chopped off. This was at the Killing Fields, and today thereis the mass graves which you can see, one which has 450 bodies in. They have also built a stupa (which usually holds the relics/ashes of the deceased.) In this stupa you can see hundreds and hundreds of skulls. it is horrific, as well as all the clothes of the people killed there. It was something like 22,000 people who were killed there.
Only 7 people made it out of the S21 prison and today only 3 of them are alive.
In 1978 (i think!) the vietnamese invaded cambodia and overthrew the khmer rouge. However, it took many many many years for the people to come to terms with it all. Pol Pot only died in 1998 which makes you realise how recent it was.
Even our tour guide had lived 14 years in a refugee camp in vietnam because of the khmer rouge. It was all so shocking and made me realise why the cambodian people are all so happy on the outside depsite how little they appear to have. They are an extrememly brave and strong race of people to have gone through what they did..
Really shocked me today, a lot more than i ever could have imagined.
So a small history lesson for you...Hope you found it interesting!