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  • Writer's pictureKirk

The Killing Fields of Phnom Phen

This is tied with the worst place I have visited in terms of leaving sad and depressed. The other place was the Holocaust museum in Washington DC. I had heard of this place in my younger years but I never fully appreciated the events that unfolded until I came here. Seeing the real remnants of the horrors really brings it home.

A short history lesson: Pol Pot was the leader of the Khmer Rouge in this then communist country of Cambodia. He wanted to eliminate the people he thought posed a threat to his regime. He targeted ethnicities of neighboring countries, as well as Christians and Buddhist monks. He had them killed in a genocide move.

From the discovered grave sites of the Killing Fields, it was determined nearly 1.4 million people were murdered. Additional people were killed through starvation and other means. In total over 2 million died out of a population of 8 million at the time. That's 25% of the population! The genocide ended when neighboring Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1979.

I visited the most famous and memorialized site. The dread that overcame me was immense as I surveyed the handiwork of this despicable man. Don't go further if you don't have the stomach for this. Here are some photos:

Yes, these are real skulls!

This display was in a small building located in one of the Killing Fields. Outside this building you are free to roam though this particular field where many were buried.

The field itself is nondescript, but you can see the raised mounds located in this field.

Pretty gruesome. right? Most tourist areas don't get this graphic. I commend the current government for not suppressing the events nor the details of their past. But why should they? The current people and government had nothing to do with it.

Many bones on display. Many to choose from the 1.4 million deaths.

Read the sign (you may have to blow up the image). Too graphic? There's more.


I'm going to stop with the pictures now. I have more but you get the idea. This is one of the worst events in recorded history. It never got the publicity it deserved at the time in our country. This should have been headlining the news every day in the late 70's.

One of two things that struck me on my visit was how few visitors this site attracted, at least during my time there. A place so famous and profound demands more attention in my opinion.

The second thing was how small this field was in size. I expected it to be at least 100 acres or more. I guess you can bury a lot of people on a small property.

One of the ironies of the 1970's is the USA fought a war in Vietnam to stop the evil spread of communism. It spread through the country anyway. They are still a communist regime in Vietnam today. But it was this same evil regime that only a few years later invaded Cambodia to stop this truly evil regime. Go figure.

I realize the American people had no more stomach for war after Vietnam, but this was something worth fighting to stop, much more than Vietnam. I'm glad the Vietnamese were up to the task. But then they did have more at stake. Their people were being executed!

My total time spent here was about 1 1/2 hours. You could easily spend less or more time than that depending on your tolerance for such things. My tolerance is fairly high as I believe these things should be known. Not all things we do are enjoyable that help us to be better people. I think immersing ourselves into the past evils of our world to appreciate their significance makes us better. At least it helps us to appreciate more the gentler environment we grew up in

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