Visiting The Killing Fields In Cambodia

The Killing Fields is a major tourist attraction located in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  It is a place to visit to learn about the historical events that took place between 1975 to 1979 when the Khmer Rouge ruled.

Although it was just 3 years, it affected Cambodia so much that even today you can still see the affect it had on the country, even just from the young population.  Half of the population today are under 15 years old and 16% is under 30 because most of the older generation died or were killed during these three years.
Also, it’s still very common to eat insects in Cambodia, and a lot of people are confused as to why. There are stalls that look like pick-a-mix, but instead of scooping sweets out they are filled with cockroaches and grasshoppers.
A lot of the older population worked in the rice fields when they were young and didn’t get fed enough, so in efforts to try and fill themselves and get more nutrition, if they found a bug, they would eat it because they were so hungry. 

Anyway as this is somewhere many people go to visit, I thought I would tell you about the history of it and about my experience there.

An indépendant nation
In 1953 Vietnam and Cambodia became independent from the rule of the French Colonial Government.  The new Nationalist Cambodian Government was headed by King Sihanouk. Life became dangerous for the communists under the rule of King Sihanouk.  He outlawed the communist party and gave them a new name, The Khmer Rouge. King Sihanouk’s reign was violent, and because of this, it pushed the local people into joining the Communist party. Killings and general terror was stepped up as The King attempted to stamp out any opposition to his rule.

A new ruler
In 1970 King Sihanouk was overthrown by a military dictatorship.  He then tried to form an alliance with his former enemy the Khmer Rouge.  The supporters of Sihanouk followed him, and increased Khmer Rouge numbers by 60,000. In 1974, Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge felt in a strong enough position to overthrow the government. Pol Pot and his soldiers went to Phnom Pen, the Capital, and in 5 days the military government was overthrown and The Khmer Rouge was now in power.

The vision
Pol Pots ambition was to have a Society of equals.  Everyone would have the same food, the same clothing & the same wage, which meant everyone was to become peasants.
The people of Phnom Pen welcomed the Khmer Rouge, but their smiles didn’t last for long as Pol Pot ordered a mass evacuation of the Capital. The reason he gave for evacuating the city was that there was an expected air-raid from America. In reality though, he just wanted everyone out so he could concentrate on building a new society. The 2,000,000 people that were pushed out of the Capital were sent to various districts for re-education as field labourers.

Everyone was now working side by side in the fields. People who were once doctors and intellectuals were now working in the rice fields. They would be made to work 14 hours a day and be given very little food. Pol Pots’ men had a special hatred for the people who had previously been upper-class citizens, so they were only given half the food rations they were meant to get. Hundreds of people died daily from malnutrition and disease.

Private thoughts and feelings were considered evil.  Pol Pot wanted uniformity.  The state would choose which people got married, and anyone thought to be falling in love outside of this arrangement would be killed.

The interrogation
Pol Pot blamed the lack of success on his great vision, on the people who were against him. Because of this, he opened up a state secret interrogation centre, to imprison and torture those who were thought to be traitors.  The family of the traitor would also be tortured and killed.

I was able to visit the Tuol Sleng Prison where people were tortured and it was the worst place I have ever been to.  As we walked around the various cells you could still see the blood stains on the floor and the scratch marks on the floor.
Men and woman were kepped in different rooms. Men were believed to be stronger than woman so their cells were made out or bricks and woman cells were made out of wood panelling. Many women would break down the wood panelling and throw themselves out of the three storey window.

We were taken into a room and there were hundreds of pictures on the wall of young boys. I blurted out ‘awwww, are these some of the boys that were killed?’ I was then told that these were the soldiers that did the torturing.  I was in shock!  They were so young.

The young boys that became soldiers were uneducated and manipulated into thinking that the people they were killing were evil.  The scariest thing is that when Pol Pot lost power, these young boys went about living their lives, so you may find your taxi driver or the receptionist at the hostel that you are staying at, was once a boy that tortured and killed thousands of innocent souls. They are not dangerous but its sad for them, to have to live with that guilt.

The Killing feilds
fter visiting the prison where people were interrogated and tortured, we visited the killing fields.  After being tortured to within an inch of their lives they were then taken in a van to these fields, where they were clubbed to death and thrown in mass graves, some still alive.

As you walk around the fields there are signs that tell you what happened within each part of the field.
The ground is very lumpy and there are mounds and hills that you walk over.  The reason it is so uneven is because thousands of bodies are buried underneath. They consider it very disrespectful to disturb the dead in Cambodia, so no-one will ever touch the fields.

I will always remember being taken to a tree that was stained red from all the blood it had absorbed over the years.  I was told that babies would be taken off their Mothers and swung at the tree and killed.  The Mothers would be made to watch as their child was killed and then would be raped and clubbed to death. Bullets were rarely used as they were expensive and guns were too loud. 

Political music would be blasted out from a speaker so passers-by wouldn’t hear the screams, along with strong smelling incense to cover the smell of corpses. 

Out of the 14,000 people that went through the gates of the Interrogation centre, only 7 survived.

This wasn’t a particularly happy day but, I am so glad I was able to witness and learn about Cambodia’s history. Please go and take a tour if you find yourself in Phnom Penh. Its real eye-opener.

Hello, my name is Lucy, welcome to my little space on the internet! Through this blog, I hope to answer all of your crew-life/ cruising questions so, feel free to send me something you would like me to write about. I really hope you find this site useful and enjoyable!
Love Lucy xx

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