25 January 2008

Killing fields and prison

Choeung Ek Killing fields
I managed to resist crying while at the killing fields which meant I was able to hold it off for the rest of the day. The killing fields was one of hundreds around the country during the Pol Pot regime. The killing fields where people where killed and buried. 30, 000 people were killed in these killing fields alone- men, women, children, killing families at a time. You can see bones poking from the ground where rain has weathered the ground. After the country was liberated from the Khmer Rouge the families and friends of those killed came and trashed the buildings at the killing fields so none of the original prison buildings were left. There is a memorial stupa with 17 levels of skulls excavated from the area. There are skulls that clearly indicate the person was killed by a blunt object. Our tour guide rattled off a whole bunch of methods they used to kill people and pretty much all of them were violent. Strangely enough there is a shooting range just 5 kilometres away where you can try shooting an AK47- not quite my thing.

Tuel Sleng Prison
We didn't make it there the first day because Mia Farrow was holding some kind of protest to bring attention to the events in Darfur. This prison was one of where many where Pol Pot's regime were held people before they died. Tuel Sleng Prison used to be a high school and is located near central Phnom Penh. It's strange because it does look like a regular school from the outside and seems in good condition. Inside though, you can see how the classrooms were divided into concrete or wooden cells 2x1 metre. The Khmer Rouge did systematically document all the people that entered the prison with a photo, and apparently a biography too. There are thousands of portraits on display of those that entered the prison. The photos shocked me because they looked like such healthy people, and probably were, upon entry to the prison. Some even managed a smile. It also creeped me out that a large proportion had their hands tied behind their back- the prisons where I come from aren't allowed to do this. There were also photos of people laying dead in pools of blood and mothers with their children. There were torture instruments for display used to make people give confessions. Very scary stuff- I hope we can learn something from what happened. Only 7 prisoners survived of the 17, 000 imprisoned there.

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