Case inside Killing Fields monument with 20,000 skulls
Never had planned on visiting Phnom Penh before – only came this trip because it was “on the way”. Glad that I did as I learned much more about a terrible part of world history that happened during my lifetime and I was not aware of how bad it was.
The Khmer Rouge was an ultra-communist movement that filled the vacuum after a civil war in Cambodia – the ultimate objective was an utopia where everyone was equal – equally poor and uneducated living on farms away from cities to maximize production of rice to sell to China and everyone equally benefiting from the proceeds. Anyone who disagreed was killed – then the rest of their family was killed to avoid “revenge” later. Over 40% of the population of Cambodia was killed or died from starvation between 1975-1978 with educated people disproportionally killed at a higher rate. The rest of the world was generally unaware in the aftermath of the Vietnam War ending and Cambodia stopping its civil war. The leader was a highly educated man from a leading family who changed his name to Pol Pot. Using similar tactics as ISIS, he convinced young men that they had no future (and most didn’t) unless they followed him in the civil war and killed off the “elites” and anyone else against their idea of utopia. He was able to get most of Phnom Penh abandoned in just a few days by dropping leaflets that claimed the USA was going to drop a nuclear bomb on Phnom Penh – once on the farms, the people were easy to control. I visited a prison in town where people were tortured (S1) and also visited the “Killing Fields” where the people were ultimately sent to be murdered. No bullets – too expensive. Clubs and knives only. Hard to believe the evil people will do when it is justified by others.
S21 Prison and Killing Fields
Quick tour around town
Accommodation and logistics total disaster but given what I saw – it was a minor inconvenience in life. Of note, when I was dropped off at a square (far from my guest room in someone’s personal residence) by mini-bus from Siem Reap, I was greeted by numerous tuk-tuk drivers trying to help me….including confusing my arm sling for a bag strap and grabbing it and pulling me away from my mini-bus. Then the mini-bus left with my suitcase….I ran as fast as I have this century but could not catch it, broken wrist and all. I got really really lucky when two 12 year olds on a scooter noticed I was chasing and caught up and banged on the mini-bus window while it was accelerating away. He stopped and gave me a disgusted look until he opened the back and my suitcase was there…he then said I shouldn’t have been messing around. Took 1.5 hrs to find the house…I ended up switching as it was too far from the areas of town I wanted to visit. Only real bad experience with cheap AirBNB accomodations on trip.