Reflecting on Cambodia’s killing fields

THE little girl stares at the tree in front of her. It looks wet and sticky and black. She tries not to sob, but she misses Mummy, and Daddy, and her toys. And the little boy she plays with next door. Why can’t she go home? Why won’t this angry woman look at her?

(The big, fat man dressed in black grabs the little girl by her ankles, and starts to swing her.)

She is frightened … confused … everything is a blur …

The Killing Tree. Little children and babies were swung against it, to kill them. The Killing Field at Choeung Ek, just outside of Phnom Penh.

The Killing Tree. Little children and babies were swung against it, to kill them. The Killing Field at Choeung Ek, just outside of Phnom Penh.

Skulls from some of the victims at the Killing Field at Choeung Ek, outside of Phnom Penh.

Skulls from some of the victims at the Killing Field at Choeung Ek, outside of Phnom Penh.

Clothing and bones belonging to victims continuously surface as rain washes away the dirt. The Killing Field at Choeung Ek, just outside of Phnom Penh.

Clothing and bones belonging to victims continuously surface as rain washes away the dirt. The Killing Field at Choeung Ek, just outside of Phnom Penh.

Visitors don't realise they are stepping on clothing and bones from victims, as rain washes away dirt on the walking paths. The Killing Field at Choeung Ek, just outside of Phnom Penh.

Visitors don’t realise they are stepping on clothing and bones from victims, as rain washes away dirt on the walking paths. The Killing Field at Choeung Ek, just outside of Phnom Penh.

Examples of weapons used by the Khmer Rouge executioners. They did not want to use valuable ammunition. The Killing Field at Choeung Ek, just outside of Phnom Penh.

Examples of weapons used by the Khmer Rouge executioners. They did not want to use valuable ammunition. The Killing Field at Choeung Ek, just outside of Phnom Penh.

More bones of victims are unearthed every year. The Killing Field at Choeung Ek, just outside of Phnom Penh.

More bones of victims are unearthed every year. This is a collection of unattributed bones from the 1980 excavation of the site. The Killing Field at Choeung Ek, just outside of Phnom Penh.

About 20,000 mass graves have been discovered across Cambodia, from the four-year rule by the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979). Of a then population of 10 million, between 2 million and 3 million were killed, at least half by execution and the remainder by starvation and disease… some for opposing the communist regime, but most simply because they were educated.

This is a very sad, but I believe essential, day trip on the APT Mekong River Cruise.

 

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