Saturday, 8 September 2012

Phnom Penh Part 2: Killing Field of Choeung Ek

I came to pay a respect to the victims of the Pol Pot Regime.

Points to be Considered

One: Chronologically, we should be visiting Tuol Sleng Museum first because the prisoners were taken to the S-21 prison before they were bought here - to be executed. However, for you to truly understand and appreciate this place better, it is advisable for you to visit Killing Field early in the morning, before buses of tourists started to fill the parking spot and somehow causing the place to be crowded. For photographers, early in the morning is the perfect time.

Two: No tour guide needed. Upon purchasing ticket, you would be given an audio. This is your tour guide. Don't worry, I don't think anyone would scam you on this. 

Three: This is the place where thousands of people were unfairly executed to death. Pay some respect. Even if you do not care that much about what had happened, do not laugh or smile. Or strike funny or model-like poses in front of the camera with the skulls of the victim. I've seen people blogging about Killing Field, with photos pointing to the skulls and smiling like it is something cool. Seriously?

Admission Fee is USD 5 per person. Operating hours are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Situated 19 km from the city of Phnom Penh. Hence you might want to consider starting your day early leaving hotel at 7:30 am. Normally Tuk Tuk will take about 30 minutes. Depending on the traffic condition, and the fact that Phnom Penh is becoming a busy city, my journey to the Killing Field took almost 40 minutes. 

About the Place
Located far far away from the city, 500 metres from the main road, Choeung Ek was once a longan orchard. The first time I stepped my foot in Choeung Ek, birds were singing on the trees, the wind was blowing moderately, chickens searching for food and the sun was starting to shine for one fine day. 

Who knows, such a serene place had once witnessed gruesome execution of million innocent souls?

About the Tragedy
Prisoners were taken to this place by trucks to be executed at night around 8 - 9 pm. Initially about a dozen prisoners. Later on, more trucks coming at a time, carrying almost 300 prisoners to be executed. When the prisoners had outnumbered the cadres, the prisoners were forced to dig their own graves. While the soldiers were unable to finish the execution in a day, the rest of the prisoners will be kept in a dark room to be executed the next day. 

To avoid chaotic situation, while in Tuol Sleng Prison, they were told that they would be transferred to another place. Some of them already knew that they would be slaughtered to death. Some were clueless. Some were hopeful that they will be allowed to return home, where there would be decent food to eat and proper medication to heal. 

Method of Execution
The prisoners will be blindfolded and lined up. Generators were used to provide some lighting. Cambodian national song will be played out loud to hide the screaming of death by the prisoners. Chemical substance were used to disguise the smell and quicken the death process. 

The use of bullets were strictly prohibited since they were valuable. Hence, they prisoners will either be bludgeoned or clubbed with heavy metals on their heads. Once or twice. It did not matter. Throats were cut either using sharp knife or sharp leaves of a nearby tree. Babies' were swung to the trees  (to smash their heads) in front of their hysterical mother, before the mother were executed. 

It is Khmer Rouge's policy to eradicate the whole family members. To avoid revenge later on. That is why the children became victims too. 

One of Thousands of Killing Fields
Choeung Ek seemed to be a pleasant and a peaceful place today. While having a nice stroll under the shady trees, you will find random litter of clothing, teeth and bones. As a prove of children and teenagers executing helpless adults and children. And some of them are living among the community of Cambodian today, leading a normal life like anyone else. And Choeung Ek is one of thousands killing fields all over Cambodia. There were also unexplored portion of Choeung Ek. It was decided that it should be that way. The 17 stories of skulls at the stupa could not afford any more skulls. 

Memorial like this was set up to remember those who had left us and to teach younger generation not to do the same. But I believe it will only serve the first purpose. History taught endless lecture on humanity. But mankind does not seem to learn from it. But I am thankful that my beloved country, Malaysia is a peaceful country and I wish for it to remain. 

Selamat Hari Merdeka, Malaysia. 

The end, 

Hairi Tahir

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3 Nukilan:

Janggel / Rain said...

Dah study pasal Pol pot regime ni. Baru paham.

Hairi Tahir said...

Sad kan? More reason why kita appreciate own country....

Mimie said...

nice writing and photos...will be visiting Cambodia next week...

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