Depressing Killing Field in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is a city by the Mekong River. Every time I heard of Mekong River, I will always remember my geography teacher. During my school days, she would tirelessly explain to us how mighty the Mekong River is. It is the 7th longest river in Asia, the 12th in the world and it flows through many countries. The depressing Killing Field or Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre is located in Phnom Penh and visiting the Killing Field at Phnom Penh is an eye opener for me, as it will be for everyone else too.
Visiting the Killing Field at Phnom Penh is a must, but how to go there?
If you have any plan to travel to Phnom Penh, visiting the Killing Field is a must as it provides a thorough view of the dark era in Phnom Penh history. However, how to get to the Killing Field? Some accommodation providers will provide tours to go to the Killing Field but you can also go there by hailing taxis. There is yet to be a comprehensive public transportation system in Cambodia’s capital, so your choices are rather limited.
As for me, when we visited Phnom Penh, we hired a tuk-tuk for one whole day (rates differ and are negotiable). The tuk-tuk will then bring us to any places that we want to visit. Imagine having a private chauffeur in an open air vehicle. The experience that we had was priceless.
Entrance fees for the Killing Field or Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre
Foreign visitors must pay USD 5 as the entrance fee to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre or the Killing Field. Upon payment of the entrance fee, we were given a brochure and a map including an audio device.
To use the audio device is rather easy. Checkpoints are marked in the map with numbers. You just have to key in the number of the checkpoint on the audio device and the device will play information of the checkpoint. At times, it plays a disturbing original audio recording of the checkpoints. It is advisable for you to follow the numbering sequence of the checkpoints to get a better idea of the dark history of the Killing Field.
Visiting the Killing Field at Phnom Penh: What is this place?
Killing field was a genocidal centre during the Khmer Rouge’s regime headed by Pol Pot. This place reflects the cruelty of the Khmer Rouge’s regime. Visiting the Killing Field at Phnom Penh will give you more idea why.
Most victims were brought in from the Tuol Sleng Prison to be killed en masse here. It was so cruel that even babies were not spared from the genocide. This is because, according to Pol Pot, if you want to create a perfect society, it must be started from the root. And the babies are the root of the society.
During the visit, I walked from one checkpoint to another.
Visiting the Killing Field at Phnom Penh really gave me goosebumps. It feels very eerie when you are there. In fact, visitors are encouraged to be quiet while visiting the place.
It is really unbelievable that in the 1980s, local villagers accidentally stumbled upon a mass grave here at this place. It is a cruel dark history for Phnom Penh and Cambodia as a whole. According to the info, some of the corpses were found to be buried without head.
But wait, who is Pol Pot?
This is where the twist becomes unacceptable. Pol Pot, the head of Khmer Rouge’s regime, was not an uneducated man. He was a Western educated person who furthered his studies in France. Then, he returned to Cambodia to serve the country as a teacher but this is the end of the good things about him.
Later, he became obsessed with Communist’s ideology and turned into an extremist.
It was so sad visiting the Killing Field at Phnom Penh. There is one checkpoint near a lake where they said that bodies were thrown into the lake and never retrieved. The audio device played a solemn music and I cried. Overlooking the vast lake, I could not helped but to imagine the cruelty that the Cambodians had to endure then.
What else are there at the Killing Field?
I continued my journey walking in the Killing Field and I saw a huge tree with ribbons. An information board states that during Khmer Rouge’s time, a loudspeaker blasted loud music from the tree so that people from the outside will not hear what was going on there.
I clicked the audio device and my whole body was shaking. It was eerie. They played such loud music so that the cries of help from the victims will not be heard.
Not far from the entrance, there is a huge stupa standing. Curious, I went on to see what is inside the stupa.
It was shocking to see a lot of human remains inside the stupa. Skeletons of the victims retrieved from the Killing Field are put inside glass cabinets in the stupa, divided according to age and genders. It was a very devastating sight.
If you are visiting Cambodia and its famous Angkor Wat, try and make a time to visit Phnom Penh. Visiting the Killing Field at Phnom Penh might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is the place to learn more about the dark side of humanity.
(This post was first written in Malay and translated in 2020)
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