Tragic Legacy of the Khmer Rough in Phnom Penh

In Phnom Penh, the most famous tourist attractions all relate to horrific tragedy - killing fields, prison camps, rampant torture and violence, piles of human skulls and a painting of a baby getting its skull smashed against a tree. In the 1970's the "simple" and "farmer" Communists known as the Khmer Rouge (Red Cambodians), took over the country and killed roughly two million people, nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population. Above is a room (former elementary school classroom) that housed prisoners who were shackled to the bed with the steel device on top of the bed. The box is an ammunition case used by the prisoners as toilets. New York Times just posted an article on the current UN trials against some former Khmer Rouge leaders.

In Phnom Penh, there are tuk tuk drivers waiting to drive foreign visitors to the sites of the city just like in other Southeast Asian locales, but the tourist sites are quite grim and different for tourists coming from Angkor Wat or sandy beaches. Beggars with missing limbs outside the Genocide Museum do nothing to dispel the forlorn and tragic energy surrounding the school turned prison camp turned museum, also known as S-21, the school's original name.

These classrooms were divided up into many tiny cells made of wood and doorways were made through the walls to create a line of cells. Visitors can still see blood stains on the tile floors.

Of the thousands of Cambodians who were checked into this school turned prison camp in Phnom Penh, only 12 survived. After extensive torture, starving, suffering and interrogations, they were summarily executed - usually taken to outside of the city to "killing fields" where the bodies could more easily be buried.

Blocks away from the school, the modern city pushes up high rise condos and office buildings.

Skulls line the shelves at S-21.

A few kilometers outside the city, many of the prisoners were brought to an area known as Choeung Ek or the Killing Fields. 17,000 humans were murdered here between 1975 and 1979. Some of the many mass graves were excavated and later on a stupa was built to house these remains.

Looking into the Buddhist stupa on site that contains 5,000 human skulls.

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