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I have to admit, I had heard a few things here and there about Cambodian history before arriving here to Phnom Penh, but I was totally unprepared for what I was about to experience. The magnitude of destruction and suffering that occurred under the Khmer Regime is staggering. There were times I physically felt ill seeing the sights. It was absolutely repulsive. For those who aren’t familiar with the history, in brief, during the 70’s the Cambodians suffered a mass genocide at the hands of the Khmer Rouge dictatorship. The atrocities that the people faced were just unfathomable. Two million were killed in about 4 years in utterly cruel and sick ways. Much of this went unnoticed by mainstream media, and many stories claim that there were coverups and lies leading up to the horrific events. Tortured at the S-21 prison (a former school) or sent directly to death at one of the many mass graves around Cambodia, the population of the country diminished rapidly. No one could get in or out of the country and the world was in large oblivious to the atrocities.

I went along to the Killing Fields memorial via tuc tuc a few kilometers outside of the capital city. Ironically the setting for much of their torture was in beautiful countryside. Similar to Auschwitz in Poland, the surrounding landscape is simply breathtaking and thus makes the reality of the situation all the more shocking.

The high towering memorial looked like just another modern temple from afar, green fields, children playing… that is until I approached it furthur and realized that the beautiful glass structure was filled with over 8000 skulls recovered from one, just one, mass grave. It’s sick, but a necessary tribute I suppose. It’s been over thirty years now, but there are still reminders that are unavoidable. There are scattered bones, teeth and clothing bits sticking out of the dirt. Not to mention the land mine victims that you can see EVERYWHERE (playing football outside the killing fields with no limbs). There are amputees left, right and center. It’s apparent that locals are STILL uncovering bombs all the time.

My tuc tuc driver inappropriately asks me as I leave the killing fields if I fancy going to a shooting range to shoot some guns. They may be kind at heart but they’ve still a long way to go with showing compassion it seems.