The Killing Fields

Cambodia is still emerging from the horrors committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in the 70s. Phnom Penh is the place which higlights this the most, being home to the famous Killing Fields and S21 prison.

The Killing Fields is an area only a few kilometres out of the city where dozens of mass graves were discovered after the reign of the Khmer Rouge. Millions died during the period and around 12,000 people were executed and buried in shallow graves at this one site. A stupa containing thousands of skulls recovered from the graves stands in the middle and gives visitors a shocking vision of the scale of the murders.

S21 is a high school that was transformed during the riegn of the Khmer Rouge into a prison facility. Out of the thousands of people imprisoned there, all but six were executed. Today the buildings house a museum with horrific photos of the prisoners and implements of torture. Many rooms are empty except for an iron bed and a photo showing a brutalised prisoner chained to the bed. The atmosphere is disturbing and eerie but very important in highlighting the incredible violence of Cambodian recent history.

Whilst in Phnom Penh we also visited the palace of the Cambodian royal family which had architectural features in common with Angkor Wat, but much better preserved. This helped us to get a sense of what Angkor would have looked like when it was built.

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