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Published: April 26th 2018
We have planned a day sightseeing in Phnom Penh today. We start with a visit to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. In a site a few miles out of town are the mass graves of up to 20,000 victims of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. An audio tour takes you round the site of the graves. Some have been excavated, leaving huge dents in the ground, others left untouched, meaning bone fragments and teeth are randomly scattered around. The tour finishes at a memorial to the victims, which contains over 5000 skulls.
After this, we move on to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This former school became a prison during Pol Pot’s regime. The 4 main buildings can be visited.
Building A was used for interrogation. Each former classroom contains a bed. Just before the regime was toppled, the final 14 prisoners were tortured to death and left in situ. There is a large photo in each room showing how its final victim was discovered, lying on the bed, covered in blood. You can still see traces of blood on the floor.
Building B contains thousands of mug shots of those who were detained here. There are photos taken
when prisoners arrived (plus a gruesome set of photos taken post torture). Building C houses the mass cells where inmates were shackled to the walls. Building D displays many of the instruments and methods of torture utilised to make prisoners confess to crimes or give names of CIA/KGB agents. One survivor explains that he’d never even heard of the CIA yet managed to name over 60 agents under torture.
It’s a long and draining morning, both emotionally and physically; we have spent 4 hours walking round the sites with temperatures in the mid 30s, so we cool off with a swim then go to visit the Royal Palace.
The Palace is a huge complex containing many grand buildings, among them the silver Pagoda which is named for its silver tiled floor. There are rooms full of treasures on display. It’s a strange feeling, viewing so much ostentatious wealth surrounded by so much poverty.
We round off our last evening in Phnom Penh with riverside drinks and dinner. Tomorrow child no 1 goes home and we set off by a rather long winded route to Sri Lanka.
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