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Cambodia - Phnom Penh (Killing Fields)

Written on: Saturday April 11th, 2009

When we arrived in Phnom Penh there was horrendous traffic because of the Khmer New Year. Every vehicle from bicycles to lorries, trailers (with makeshift benches) and tractors was made use of, piled high with people (sitting on top if there wasn't space inside) and their belongings.

We stayed in a cheap guesthouse overlooking Boeung Kak Lake.

April is the hottest time of year to go to Cambodia, and all the guide books advise against it, but you can't be in every country at the right time. We really struggled with the heat and humidity here though, and for a few hours a day were immobile, but still sweating!

Cambodia has a history you can only have nightmares about. 

On April 17th 1975, after a three year revolution, Pol Pot's communist group,nicknamed the 'Khmer Rouge', proclaimed victory over the Cambodiangovernment and marched into Cambodia's capital city, Phnom Penh.

Thefollowing day, the Khmer Rouge orderedeveryone (including the elderly, children, and all hospital patients)to leave the city for "re-education" in the rice fields. What followedwas an ethnic cleansing upon their own people like no other in recenthistory. The middle classes were completely erradicated. Over the nextfour years over two million people (over 20%of the entire population of Cambodia) were murdered or died ofstarvation as a result of the Khmer Rouge. All doctors, policemen,teachers, lawyers or politians were murdered without exception. Anyonewho wore glasses or spoke a foreign language was killed due to theapparent proof of their being middle-class. Religion, schools,currency and freedom were all banned, due to being middle-class.

A former school, ToulSleng, was renamed S21 by the Khmer Rouge and became the headquartersof the Cambodian secret police, and a notorious torture chamber anddeath camp in the process. Outof the 17,000 inmates over a period of four years, only twelve formerinmate survivors were found in Cambodia in 1979. To be sent to S21 forinterogation, was to be sent to death, regardless of guilt.

Cambodia is today still picking up the pieces, and is one of world's poorest countries.

J.

(Happy Guest House - recommended, although staff a bit apathetic)