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Published: November 15th 2009
Our bus journey wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be, though the mini van driver we got to the station was a lunatic. Traffic was bumper to bumper, with traffic coming up and down both sides of the road. Our driver was more what you might call an ass ****. Three times young girls tried to cross the road in front of him and every time he blocked them off or got faster. Each time he only had the space of a person between him and the car in front and when they tried to move through that space he just closed it off. Not one person on these roads has any respect for others, or even for life. It’s amazing how much life has no apparent value. I have talked a lot in my blogs about Asians and transport, but Cambodians have brought it too a new low. I just pray Vietnam is not as bad. Of course our bus dropped us well outside the city centre, right beside all their tuk-tuk buddies. I negotiated a price with a driver for $3. I knew from the map that our hostel was a good distance away so we jumped
in with him. In fairness to him he turned out to be sound and we arranged with him to bring us to the Vietnam embassy for our visa’s and then to the Killing Fields the next day.
For those who have never heard of Pol Pot, he was about as evil as they come. He was the leader of the Khmer Rouge, which was responsible for genocide from the years 1975-1979. Pol Pot was born in Phnom Penh and educated in Paris. When he returned and came to power he wanted to create a communist utopia. He abolished money, religion and wanted everyone to work on the land. Hundreds of thousands were moved to the country side to try and create an agricultural country. Those who were intellectuals or religious were murdered.
We visited the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. This was a disturbing experience, which brought to light the brutal regime which these people had lived under. The killing fields are where everyone was murdered. Men, women and children all suffered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. In total there are 320 killing fields in Cambodia, containing 20,000 mass graves. The one we visited was a
Pagoda of Skulls
This Pagoda contains the skulls of 9,000 people
former Chinese orchard. Now it is a reminder of the horrible cruelty which the Cambodian people went through. It contained 129 mass graves and the bodies of over 17,000 people. One mass grave alone contained the bodies of 450 people. It was no bigger than two rooms. One grave contained 166 headless bodies. Another grave was full of women and children. We also saw a tree which was used for beating and killing children. It was sickening to hear how the carried out the murder of children. They held their feet and smashed their heads into the tree until dead. This included babies and young children. Whole families were murdered in case one held a grudge and waited for their time to gain revenge. Just to save on precious bullets, most people were bludgeoned to death. They would be clubbed around the head until there skulls were crushed and then finally their throats slit to make sure they were dead. Some were even buried alive. Cloth from the clothes of the people still protrudes from the ground around the graves. A loudspeaker was hung from a certain tree as it was louder and drowned the sounds of the people been
beaten to death.
A memorial now lies on the grounds, containing 9,000 skulls that were recovered from the graves. Only 80 of the 129 graves have been excavated. It is surreal to stand there looking at the skulls, most bearing the scars of been beaten to death. Some still have healthy looking teeth. Pol Pot escaped to Thailand and in 1998 he died, denying the Cambodian people truth and justice. One man is currently standing trail for war crimes and genocide. He alone is responsible for the deaths of over 15,000 people. He has admitted he is guilty and although he says he never murdered anyone, he admits he gave the orders to do so. How someone could be this evil is beyond comprehension. All the executioners were between the ages of 12 to 20. It was a case of do or die for most of them. Cambodia is obviously still recovering from the atrocities. I find it a confusing place. The people are nice, friendly and always have a smile. There is the other side where the green colour of the dollar makes them lose all moral’s just to make a quick buck. You never know if
you are being taken for a ride, until you sit down later on and evaluate it all. Its frustrating. I really cant comment on the rest of the country, but its two main cities are exactly like this. To me anyway.
Next up is Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh city or Saigon as most people know it, is our first port of call. Time is getting shorter. Its strange also every now and again to see or hear something about Christmas. You think to yourself, hey….. it cant be near Christmas, it’s sunny outside. But unfortunately it is. 40 odd days until we are home. Probably less by the time I put this on the internet. Two weeks in Vietnam, before we kick back on the Thai islands, relax and think about everything we have done. Its places like today that give you character and not third class trains. It puts us in our place and makes us realise just how lucky we are.
In a bit. DH
Song of the blog: Oasis - Idlers Dream
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