Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, Phnom Penh
The Khmer Rouge reign over Cambodia was brutal and horrific and no other location signifies the extent of the senseless killing as much as the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. These innocent green fields were the setting for mass executions and mass graves of opponents of the Khmer Rouge regime and below the ground thousands of bodies are buried. The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek are a harrowing tourist attraction but the Cambodian government encourages tourists to visit so that the terrible history is never forgotten.
Tourist Guide to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
The entrance fee to the Killing fields is $5 and includes an audio guide. The fields are located 17Km south Phnom Penh but the journey takes 40 minutes by tuk-tuk due to the traffic and state of the roads in Phnom Penh. A return tuk-tuk ride should cost US$9-11 and for an extra US$3 the tuk-tuk includes a visit to the S1 Genocide Museum. The audio guide is excellent providing survivor stories and background information. Expect to spend 1 hour at the site, as this is the length of the audio tour.
The killings were hidden from the locals with music droning out the screams...
The memorial dedicated to all of the victims who were executed at the site is large Buddhist stupa. Contained within the stupa are 5,000 skulls that were recovered from the site. Many of these skulls have been smashed and this was caused during the time of execution. This is a powerful and symbolic monument. Surrounding the stupa are the actual killing fields, visitors are permitted to walk around the edges of each of the fields.
Remains of the shallow buried bodies can still be seen in the fields
Small fragments of clothing and bones from the victims can be seen jutting out of the mass graves exposed yearly by the season rains. The small museum shows the documentary that details the discovery of the mass graves in 1979 and is certainly not for visitors who may have younger children.
History of the Choeung Ek Killing Fields Phnom Penh
The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek has always been a location associated with death. Prior to the Khmer Rouge regime the fields were used as a Chinese cemetery. The role of the area became much more sinister when the Khmer Rouge came to power. During the four years of the regime it was estimated that over 16,000 people were brought to these fields and executed with their bodies thrown into huge mass graves. It has been documented that many of the prisoners were brought to the fields during the night and during the journey were blind folded and kept disorientated, so they kept the chance of resistance to a minimum, but after torture in the S-21 facility, for possible up to months, few had any fight left in them.
The barbed wire was added to the S21 facility to stop prisoners from committing suicide
Towards the end of the regime, to save the number of bullets used on the prisoners, executions were performed by the most simplistic, but barbaric methods. Loud speakers were erected around the site to drown out the screams and cries from the unfortunate victims.
In 2005, a private company with the aim of making profit purchased the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. It is a shame that no government official made a stand on that remembrance and respect should come before money.