Wednesday, 7 July 2010

S21 and the Killing Fields, Cambodia

It was a very interesting but quite harrowing afternoon at S21 and the Killing Fields. In 1975, Tuol Svay Prey High school became Security Prison 21 (S-21). The Khmer Rouge created the detention centre for interrogation, torture and killing prisioners after confession was received. Our guide was quite explicit in describing the methods of torture and how the prisioners were treated and it made me feel quite sick. He himself had lost his father and 5 brothers and sisters during the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot was their leader and ordered the deaths of over 2 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. He was a communist who killed the educated and middle classes as he wanted everyone to do as he ordered, and uneducated people were less of a threat to him.

After the prison visit we went outside of Phnom Penh to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Prisoners were taken there after being held at S-21 to be killed. There are 129 communal graves, 86 have ben exhumed and revealed the remains of 8985 people, many bludgeoned or stabbed to death to avoid wasting bullets. There was a killing tree which was used to bash children and babies to death, held by their feet.
It was very sobering to walk around and think abour the horiffic things that had happened there. Children were brainwashed to become soldiers and could kill members of their own family if ordered to. Soldiers were also killed at this site as after a while they knew too much about the regime. Only peasants were safe and they remained in the countryside. It was a very interesting day with lots of food for thought.

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