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Shocking thoughts and genocide

A monument to mass genocide

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: 11.04.00

Just came back from the killing fields. It’s a shocking story. It has happened within my lifetime. It will happen again. It is probably happening somewhere now. Why do we humans do these things to ourselves? Why do we create enemies with our fellow countrymen? Why do these atrocities continue to haunt the world? How can we prevent it from happening?

By moto taxi I travelled through Phnom Penh and was struck by the dichotomy of things here. Poor, and a little bit of rich. There’s some wealth, people with nice cars and cell phones, yet mainly the others are all squashed on to a moto gripping their kids or their precious cargo for dear life, while navigating a death trap. The main boulevards are lovely, wide and paved, lined with magnolias and other trees but every street leading off from it is muddy and dirty. The smell is terrible.

The people here seem to relate to each other with the easiness between strangers and the opposite sex which reminds me of Indonesia. There are smiles everywhere and bantering. The people seem happy enough. Which is weird considering their recent history.

From Phnom Penh we travelled down a pot holed road (what roads aren’t potholed here anyway?) to get to Chong Ek. This is the site of the mass genocide committed by Pol Pot and his clique of devils.

Cows were grazing in the killing fields adding a peace to the otherwise horror housed within. On entry there is a large pagoda containing skulls and bones and a few dusty clothes It was really tall– perhaps 8 or 9 levels high – skulls as far as you can see, shelves and shelves. The fields weren’t as expansive as I had imagined – fields being a euphemism for mass graves. The earth had sunk in, so the hollows and holes of the mass graves were all around. Some had pieces of cloth sticking out and I saw a few bones in one. I thought that the cows in there grazing was funny – but i guess they have to eat too. Are cows holy in Cambodia too? I didn’t think so.

Cows grazing in mass graves

One of the trees has a sign on it that said this tree was used to bash kids heads against to kill them. There were bones around it. Another tree had teeth around it. This gave me really strong images of someone’s head being bashed so hard that the teeth fell out. Shocking thoughts and mental images. As bad as the babies being thrown up and bayoneted from the S 21 museum. I have seen those pictures and I believe the stories to be true. I don’t think my imagination could be so gruesome.

These killing fields were only dug 20 years ago, and the whole thing happened 25 years ago. So recent. It’s hard to believe this happened in my lifetime. This country was stripped of its pride, and its educated people. Just like the heinous crimes of the cultural revolution – and about the same time too. I think i need to know more about what went on here. I’m really interested now I have seen it.

I’m also interested in Cambodia – I’m meeting people who have been all around to all these crazy places and I’m regretting my decision to skip through. I didn’t think there was so much to do – I was wrong. I guess I can come back. It sounds as if there is heaps of illegal logging of the jungle. The wildlife sounds great – no promises for the future with their homes disappearing. But I don’t have anyone yet who’s keen to go and I don’t think I would enjoy doing it by myself. Everything takes a large investment of time due to no public transport and the dangers of bandits.

Last week bandits boarded the boat that runs between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. They boarded the boat which takes the tourists up and bound and gagged them, then put a paper bag over everyone’s heads while they robbed their backpacks. What a reminder to be safe. I’m going to take extra precaution on the mini bus tomorrow although I am sure I’ll be fine. I just met two kiwis from Christchurch – I’ll add them to the short list. They didn’t seem the type to be here – but I guess there really is no ‘type’ as such – it’s a personality thing.