Monday, March 2, 2009

Phnom Penh's dark past

There's so much to say about Cambodia as a whole.... My experience differing drastically between one town to the next. For the most part, I found the Cambodian people to be friendly, kind and especially beautiful. Their exoticism spans widely through music, food, art, language etc. Unfortunately they are still very much haunted by recent history.

I've just begun reading a book called, "Off the rails in Phnom Penh: Into the dark heart of guns, girls and ganja." This is an excerpt that I found very fitting of my experience, "There is an overwhelming rawness that confronts the visitor: the trash on the streets, the little children running around naked (and begging), the dust, the unpaved roads, and the shacks. And amongst all of this one regularly chances upon a beautiful wat [or a private mansion] rising up into the sky. While stunning in its own right, the sight is even more amazing in the middle of all the shit that surrounds it."

I'm shocked that nothing in my school was taught about the massive genocide which took place only 30 years ago. The number of lives taken by Pol Pots regime, during Khmer Rough rule is believed to be a higher number than all those killed during the holocaust. Pol Pot and his men killed around two million intellectuals and artists; doctors, lawyers, engineers etc. As a result, many Cambodians are are still afraid of education.

Rice paddies just outside the city on the way to the Killing FieldsThousands of sculls on display, excavated from the grounds along with bones, teeth and clothing of the victims.Quite eerie walking through these corridors, knowing they were once high school classrooms, turned into S-21 prison cells and torture chambers.Ghostly photograph of an S-21 prisoner, from the viewing rooms of the old school - sparing you the graphic, disturbing images that were also on display. Small children taking an afternoon snooze, right in the middle of a central market.The stunning National Museum in the city center, near Royal Palace.