The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, Phnom Penh


Cambodia has an extremely rich history. However, like many nations, there are dark spots that litter that history. One of which occurred very recently and still effects the collective psyche of the country - the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge regime. Having learned about the Khmer Rouge genocide during a course in college on human rights and genocide, we made it a point to visit two of the most notorious sites of this tragedy not only for ourselves but also for the people of Cambodia. Our first stop of the day was the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek just outside of Phnom Penh. Arriving at the fields is a strange ordeal. You make your way through narrow country roads with small shops and dwellings until you see the gates that guard the 14 acre site. Almost at the center of the site is a memorial stupa that was recently built to house skulls and bones of the victims. For the small entrance fee everyone receives an audio guide available in several languages to help guide them through what they're seeing. The recordings are not just explanations of important stops along the tour but also first hand accounts of survivors. As you begin your audio tour the guide thanks you for visiting the Choeung Ek memorial. To educate ourselves and keep the memory of the atrocities committed here alive helps keep us vigilant and prepared to stop horrors like this from occurring again. Every stop along the way is a somber reflection of our humanity and the propensity for violence in human beings. Having occurred just over thirty years ago the scars of this genocide are still fresh. Scarves and bone fragments still riddle the landscape and emerge from the earth every passing year. New mass graves are still being discovered as well. It's unbelievable this could even have happened. Over three million Cambodians were killed during the bloody reign of the Khmer Rouge. At the time Cambodia had a population of roughly 8 million people. Almost half of the population slaughtered. To this day relatives of the victims have no idea where their loved ones were taken and where they lay. There aren't words to describe the horror. At the end of the tour, you're asked to write your reflections in a book to share with the people of Cambodia. The memorial at Choeung Ek, though somber, is an amazing place to visit. Tourists from all over the world need to see it for themselves as well as for the people of Cambodia. After our visit, our amazing tuk-tuk driver, Mok, was excellent on filling us in on political landscape of Cambodia today and how it meshes with what occurred in the past. He was extremely insightful. More info on hiring him below...

Mok is the best TukTuk driver in Phnom Penh! Not only is his English impeccable, he gave us great insight to the countries history and current events. If you are going to be visiting Phnom Penh contact him HERE.

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