#9: Reflect on the Khmer Rouge by commenting on some of the following: the ECCC trials going on now, our dinner and time with Theary Seng (Daughter of the Killing Fields), our visit to the Killing Fields Memorial outside Phnom Penh, and our visit to the detention and torture center museum/memorial in PP. You might choose to include insights into how this holocaust history perhaps affects Cambodia today or how these experiences affected you personally.
Its been a sobering couple of days, taking a closer look at the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. Yesterday we visited the infamous Tuol Sleng torture prison. An estimated 15,000 Cambodians were detained here over its three years of operation – just around 200 survived.
What struck me most about this facility was its location; Tuol Sleng sits right in the middle of Phnom Penh. It blends into the city – you wouldn’t even know it was there if you weren’t looking for it…I didn’t. We ate dinner at a restaurant right across the street from it earlier this week and I had no idea. I didn’t even realize we had reached our destination yesterday until the bus stopped. I guess I had expected most of the detention camps would lie in the countryside rather than the city. Though during its time of operation Phnom Penh had been evacuated, everyday life now continues all around the grounds of Tuol Sleng. Its walls and barbed wire provide an ominous reminder of the horrors of the Khmer Rouge to countless locals every day.
It has been apparent since being in Cambodia that the reign of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot still affect the people here. Which is completely understandable – it’s hard to believe these atrocities occurred just 35 years ago. In other words, everyone in this country over the age of 35 felt the effects of the Khmer Rouge first hand. When we met with Theary Seng, she agreed, mentioning that Pol Pot’s regime destroyed Cambodians trust in one another. She also stated that Cambodians have put up with a subpar governnment for a long time now but are afraid to do anything about it for fear of a repeat of a painful history.
The pain of an entire country is not easily healed…