Killing Fields Choeung Ek, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

For those who have been to Cambodia, the term Killing Fields is very common there. In fact, it is one of the to-do list in Cambodia. The entrance fee is about USD5 or 6 per person (sorry i cant seem to recall how much it cost) but it comes with an audio guide. The audio comes in many languages. I listened to the english version which was narrated by an ex-survivor of the killing field which was awesome and heart moving.

The Killing Fields are a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the communist Khmer Rouge regime, during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979, immediately after the end of the Cambodian Civil War (1970–1975).

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Buddhist stupa that houses the skulls.

Analysis of 20,000 mass grave sites by the DC-Cam Mapping Program and Yale University indicate at least 1,386,734 victims of execution. Estimates of the total number of deaths resulting from Khmer Rouge policies, including disease and starvation, range from 1.7 to 2.5 million out of a 1975 population of roughly 8 million. In 1979, communist Vietnam invaded Democratic Kampuchea and toppled the Khmer Rouge regime. Cambodian journalist Dith Pran coined the term “killing fields” after his escape from the regime.

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Buddhist stupa

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Close up on the skulls placed in the Stupa.

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Buddhist stupa

Choeung Ek, the site of a former orchard and mass grave of victims of the Khmer Rouge – killed between 1975 and 1979 – about 17 km south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is the best-known of the sites known as The Killing Fields, where the Khmer Rouge regime executed over one million people between 1975 and 1979. Mass graves containing 8,895 bodies were discovered at Choeung Ek after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime. Many of the dead were former political prisoners who were kept by the Khmer Rouge in their Tuol Sleng detention centre.

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One of the many mass graves.

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Mass grave site. The colorful handmade wrist band probably is a well wishing sign for the soul to rest in peace.

Today, Choeung Ek is a memorial, marked by a Buddhist stupa. The stupa has acrylic glass sides and is filled with more than 5,000 human skulls. Some of the lower levels are opened during the day so that the skulls can be seen directly. Many have been shattered or smashed in. Human bones still litter the site. On May 3, 2005, the Municipality of Phnom Penh announced that they had entered into a 30-year agreement with JC Royal Co. to develop the memorial at Choeung Ek. As part of the agreement, they are not to disturb the remains still present in the field.

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Apparently this tree was used to torture and kill innocent women and child.

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Passing through the mass grave site.

Towards completing the tour of the site, I had to sit down for a while to take it all in. I still cant believe that such cruel mass murder had happened in late 70’s. Its was not as scary as I thought it would be. However it was very sad and a small part of me was angry that it had happened. I cant imagine how the locals would feel. But honestly I think they are also trying to move on from this. Every time when we speak about this with a Cambodian, you can sense the emotional feeling through their tone. I’m glad that they are in much better place now.

Apparently this has been made into a movie, called The Killing Fields. What you seem the movie?

 

Visited in July 2014.

Credits: Wikipedia only for some facts and figures. All photos are taken by me.

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