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Published: September 27th 2008
I cross the Vietnam-Cambodia border by bus and head straight for the Capital, Phnom Penh. I only knew a little of Cambodian history - of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge and the Killing Fields. I was in for a shock.
We visited S-21. It used to be a school. In 1975 Pol Pot's army 'liberated' Phnom Penh, the people cheered and waved. Within hours the entire population were ordered to leave the city, being told it was only for three days.
Over the following four years, an estimated 3 million, yes, you heard me, three million Cambodians were tortured and murdered in the name of cultural revolution - this from a population of seven million. S-21 became the HQ for torturing citizens for information to find and kill academics, professionals, pretty much anyone with an IQ greater than 50. Children's playground equipment was turned into instruments of torture and the whole compound has now been turned into a grisly museum - lest we forget. What I saw and heard there made me feel physically sick.
Worse was yet to come. We then travelled 20km out of town to the Killing Fields - acres of mass graves were people
were taken to be executed. We were told about the vile methods the Khmer Rouge used to kill people, in order to save bullets. Worse was in store for the women and children.
Everywhere you walked, bones, pieces of clothing and teeth could be seen in the ground, where rain had washed away more of the top-soil.
Most of Pol Pot's army was made up of children between the ages of 12 and 18, as they were easy to brain-wash and control. More than 50% of the current population of Cambodia is 17 or younger. The Western world continued to recognise Pol Pot as the rightful leader of Cambodia til his death, from Malaria, in 1998. Vietnam was internationally criticised for invading Cambodia in 1979 to put a stop to the Khmer atrocities.
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