The Choeung Ek Killing Fields

After completing our human rights training on Friday, our group decided to look around Phnom Penh. We went to all the tourist spots: National Museum, Silver Pagoda, Royal Palace, Wat Phnom, etc. Our last stop on our tour was to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields. The tuk tuk took us 45 minutes outside the city and as we traveled the scenery became completely different. There were no building structures, only makeshift tents which served as homes/stores/ garages. Many people had no houses at all, only open beds made out of garbage living next to fields of rice paddies. Eventually we made it to our destination. We saw only an open field with a stand to collect money for tickets. Yes, we had to pay money to see the killing fields. I would have been fine paying for it until I realized that the money goes to a Japanese business who bought the field from the Cambodia government for profit. In the middle of the field were two buildings, one tall building (a Buddhist shrine) and a museum. The tall building was full of skulls. These were the skulls excavated from the site. There are arranged by age and gender. There were very small baby heads as well as older damaged heads. It was a site to behold. I lighted an incense and, after a short prayer, laid a flower in front of the memorial. From there we looked around the excavating site. There were sites where the people uncovered a grave with hundreds of headless bodies, hundreds of naked women and children, and a mass grave of over 400 people. All around the sites we could still see clothes and bone remains still in the ground. It was an indescribable experience. We ended with a tour inside the museum, there they discussed the genocide in more detail. This was just one of hundreds of killing fields throughout the nation. This site gives you a quick insight in to the history of the Khmer Rouge genocide: http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/pol-pot.htm. This was a amazing experience for me because it explained the current economic/political/cultural/health situation of Cambodia. There was a time when currency was invalid and all schools, hospitals, and business were shut down. Anyone who was educated was considered “impure” and killed. They targeted doctors, nurses, teachers, policemen, foreigners, even people with glasses. There was mass starvation throughout the entire country. Although it has been a couple of decades since Cambodia was liberated these scars are still present and have greatly hindered the personal and economic growth of these people. In the next couple of weeks I will be visiting different providences to observe the implementation of health programs in these areas. I will be observing birth spacing teaching, IUD training, postpartum maternal and newborn training, sanitation and clean water initiatives, and TB DOT testing and training. By learning the history of this nation, I hope I will be better able to better understand the Cambodia people who have suffered so much yet have so much strength.

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