For several years, I have wanted to visit Cambodia. The history of the horrible genocide that started in 1975 was the main reason.
The strong desire came after studing genocide during my beachelor degree eight years ago. I might be over average interested in this topic, but I think that everyone would get a wake up call visiting the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh.
Located around 20 km outside the city you find the Killing Field Choeung Ek. You can take a tuk tuk here and it will be waiting for you while you are inside. You will get an audio that will tell you parts of the sad history as you walk around. There are not many of the original buldings left, but you will still get a good idea of how it was.
Most Cambodian villages and prisons had a killing field. This was the place where those condemned were taken for execution. Most people who were executed were killed with a club to the head. You can see many skulls here where you clearly can see that this was used. Normal reasons for be taken there and killed were that you had soft hands, that you were intelligent or used glasses. Pol Pot the leader of the Khemer Rouge regime did not want intelligent people in his country. Just farmers. The ones that were not killed were sent to the fields to work. Many of them died from overwork and malnutrition. It is estimated that one and a half to three million people died in the genocide in total.
After visiting the Killing field we went to the The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This is also a museum that is important to visit for understand more of the history. The site is a former high school, that was made into a prision during the genocide. People were held here before taken to the Killing field. Here they were also tortured. Between 1975 and 1978 there were more than 17.000 people that were held here and taken to the killing fields.
In the museum you can see pictures of people that were held here: from small babies to old people. All victims of the genocied was photographed. It was one of the most stuctured genociedes in the history in that matters.
It is impossible to not be affected by visiting these two sites. It is very sad, and I shed several tears. However, it is important to visit places like this: To not forget the history, to learn, and be aware. So that hopefully the world do not repeat such horrible incidents in the future.