Sua s'dei from Cambodia! What a difference a day makes! Had a sleepless night in, what can only be described as, a fan-assisted oven of a room! We are sharing a room with another volunteer. A 20-year old traveller from Montreal called Madeline. Both of us are technically old enough to be her mother(s).
Anyways, she's very easygoing and has already been on the road for over 4 months and has developed immunity to more basic accommodation. Also, when to consider that 35% of the Cambodian population live below the poverty line of $1/day, it makes one reconsider just how lucky we are in the West. I'm not going to complain about Bethnal Green again!
Today was our first day of orientation at the HQ of Star Kampuchea Organization's Volunteer Action for Cambodia programme. We were given a brief introduction to the Organization, projects and history of Cambodia before being taught some basic Khmer phrases and escorted to the market to try our luck with our newly acquired language skills!
It was interesting to find out that many of the volunteers will be based here for 3 months or more. As there are over 3000 NGO's in Cambodia, there are more than enough projects requiring funding and additional assistance. We're only going to be here for a relatively short space of time, so we're realistic about the type of impact we will have, but in a country with no social welfare system, every little helps!
After the workshop ended at about 4pm, we raced off to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (aka S-21) for a sobering account of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge Regime. Of the 20,000 political prisoners (consisting of intellectuals, academics, artists, anyone the Khmer Rouge didn't like, former cadres and even former prison guards), only 7 people survived the interrogations and gruesome tortures.
We hired a guide, Lucky, to take us around the compound which has been left relatively untouched since the Vietnamese invaded in 1979, thus bringing an end to Pol Pott's reign of terror. It was horrific to see just how cruel humans can be towards other human beings. The photo in this blog is of one of the interrogation rooms showing the bed where people were tortured and left to die long, slow and very painful deaths whilst at least 5 guards watched, participated in and documented their deaths.
As our guide walked through the complex and listed the various methods of torture used to extract information and then ultimately kill the "informants", it seemed as if the perpetrators were intent on inventing ever more cruel and diabolical ways to murder thousands of hapless men, women and children. Unfathomable...