Cambodia – Phnom Penh, Toul Sleng museum & Killing Fields

23/05/16

I had 3 hours sleep from the night bus and had to search for a hostel that was open at 5am, we were taken to this new Unknown hostel called Khmer Village Hostel which has an almost empty dorm. It was quite pleasant as it was so empty and clean.

We had organised for a tuk tuk to take us to the Toul Sleng museum and the killing fields. It didn’t take long to get to the museum and entry was $6 and came with a free audio guide.

The audio guide was just incredible, one of the best guides I’ve heard in a very long time. It was spoken by a Cambodian so it felt even closer to the heart.

The guide took me around the main buildings and described what happened inside. I felt utterly saddened, shocked, sickened and just completely helpless. They had done such an excellent job in maintaining it and had left most of it exactly the same as it had been found. The images and the objects on the first building were just horrendous, you could see the blood stained floors and the scratches on the walls. The beds the people were tortured on had just been cleaned up but had not been changed. I just couldn’t believe that so many people had been tortured here. The audio guide gave an excellent account of what happened and what was found. In other buildings there was just photo next to photo of faces of victims before they were tortured. Looking at each one was so haunting, the faces of the missing, knowing nothing of their fate, some smiling in hope and some scared. It made me so sad to walk around and see all these innocent faces, lost faces, and I just couldn’t believe that Pol pot did this to his own people.

In other rooms you could see how they were detained, in the small confinements in shackles, and huge rooms for mass confinement. You could see some splatters of blood on the floor… It was truly heartbreaking. I heard stories about the survivors (12 out of 20,000) and other stories about confessions the people gave. Here at Toul Sleng they brought the innocent by the truck load and tortured them many times a day until they had a confession of their crimes against the Khmer Rouge which meant they could then kill them. What was crazy was that if someone died during torture, the guard who carried out the torture would then get sent into the prison. They really wanted the confessions before the death…

It’s just a place that really should have never existed.

I had to have a break before heading to the killing fields to help my heavy heart, I ate some curry at a nearby restaurant and braced myself for the next part.

The killings fields are where they killed everyone, once they had their confession they loaded the people up into trucks with blindfolds on so they would not know where they were. Most of the time they told the people they were being taken to a new home. Once at the killing fields they killed them in the most horrific manner, using the farmers tools to strike them until they died. It was not a quick death. There are mounds of earth here, where in the rainy season more and more bones and cloth come to surface. They described a tree where they picked up the children by the legs and swung them against the tree to kill them. When found the tree had brains, blood and bone all over it. It was here where I just cried… It’s just unexplainable how they thought it was a good idea to do this to their own people. The regime was just so paranoid that they rather kill everyone and restart the country again with people of little education so they could be more easily manipulated to follow Pol Pot. People were forced to marry and procreate as they thought the older generation would not understand or follow the regime so they had to start a new generation. It’s just so unbelievably horrid, and completely unnecessary.

That evening we were feeling quite down so it was really chilled. Later on I went to the night market only to find no market… And ate next to the river. I noticed that many of the girls here were dressed very provocatively a complete opposite to the rest of the country where they are all very modest. I was not sure if this was just city life or due to tourists…

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