I dreaded this day, but I knew it was something I had to do. The killing fields, genocide museum, and the prison were hard to visit, but it was necessary. Only from learning about the past can we prevent history from repeating itself.
I went with a group of people to the killing fields first, which were wonderfully paired with a very well-developed audio guide. It was slightly eerie to know that underneath the ground I was walking on were hundreds of bodies of innocent Cambodians who had been slaughtered during the genocide. Not a good feeling at all.
By far the worst of it was the killing tree. Children would be smashed against the tree and then thrown into the nearby pit. I don’t understand what kind of person would be able to do this. A few of the leaders of the genocide who are alive and have been captured don’t admit to this crime. Absolute insanity.
Graves of those without heads, graves of soldiers, graves of children… it goes on and on. The Cambodian government has chosen to leave many of these graves alone. No one was smiling as they walked around peering into the graves.
There were legitimately bones and shards of clothing on the ground, clearly visible.
It didn’t fully hit me until walking into the memorial monument in the middle of the killing fields. Inside were the skulls of hundreds of Cambodians who died. You could see holes and cracks in all of their skulls, indicating exactly how they died.
This entire experience was extremely depressing and it only got worse once we went to the prison. Walking throughout the prison, all I could see were the faces of those who had been imprisoned and senselessly tortured. Literally. They have huge posters with the pictures of those who were killed at the prison. Identification pictures were taken when someone was brought to the prison. I was shocked by just how many there were. Oftentimes the ‘before’ photos were paired with an ‘after’ photo of the person: malnourished, bloody, and dead. A number placard hung around their necks. The children in photos stared back at me. Their faces were haunting. I wondered if they knew their fates.
It’s horrible to commit genocide against a group of people, but it is so much worse when its orchestrated by their own kin. I can’t believe that tragedies like this are still occurring and probably will happen again in the future.