A Brief History Of Cambodia
Below are a number of images from the Killing Fields and S-21 I took whilst visiting and paying my respects to the deceased.
I am not in a position to give you a history lesson on the politics or issues surrounding Cambodia's troubled passed, nor am I here to do so. However, I feel it is very important for the country, the charity and the ride, that you have at least a very basic understanding of the terrible atrocities the country has had to endure.
In order to highlight these, I have compiled some information from the BBC and Peace Pledge Union, links to which, are at the bottom of the page.
In 1975 (year zero) under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge, occupy Phonm Penh, overthrowing the prime minister. They introduce a totalitarian dictatorship and under threat of death, forcibly remove city dwellers to the countryside, in order that they work in huge federation collective farms. Children were taken from their parents and placed in separate forced labour camps and those who refused to leave, or who were to old, or ill, were killed, along with those who did not leave fast enough.
Anyone in opposition - and ALL intellectuals and educated people, including lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, scientist and professionals in any field, including the army, were assumed to be - were categorically eliminated, along with their extended families.
Factories, schools, universities and hospitals were shut down, money became worthless, basic freedoms curtailed and all political and civil rights abolished.
Religion was banned, all leading Buddhist monks were killed and almost all temples destroyed, 90% of teachers were murdered, music and radio sets were banned and it was possible for people to be shot simply for knowing another language, wearing glasses, laughing or crying - One Khmer slogan ran 'To spare you is no profit, to destroy you is no loss.'
When I was in Phnom Peng, my friends and I, like backpackers before and after, felt compelled to make the journey to "The Killing Fields" and "S-21", so as to better understand the tragedies that had forgone the nation and to pay our respects to all those innocent lives lost. It was here where you got a better idea, of the horrendous and barbaric things the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot were capable of, from linning prisoners up head to head in a firing line, so as to only use one bullet to execute them, to holding young children by the ankles and swinging them into a tree head first, in order to cave their skulls in, before throwing them into a mass grave. A fact which was only discovered when skull & brain fragments were discovered, enlodged in bark, half way up a tree & alongside a mass grave.
In the four to five years that The Khmer Rouge were in power, between 1975 and 1979, civilian deaths have been estimated at well over 2 million (which many consider to be a conservative estimation). 1 in 4 Cambodians were killed, either directly at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, or as a result of their actions, setting the countries development back, half a century at the very least. Despite all of this, the Cambodians remain one of the most friendly, generous and caring nations you could ever be fortunate enough to meet - which shows the strength of their unfaltering character and it is for this reason, amongst many others that I feel so pationate about starting up