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Phnom Penh

July 1st, 2009

Phnom Penh is the current capital of Cambodia, having succeeded Angkor in the 1430s. It’s also the place where the Khmer Rouge started their “social restructuring programme” in 1975.

We had two nights in Phnom Penh although essentially one full day for exploring. With it’s recent history of genocide the tourist attractions centre unsurprisingly around the Tuol Sleng museum (S21) and Choeung Ek (The Killing Fields).

S21 was originally a school but, under the Khmer Rouge, was turned into a detention centre for torture and, essentially, the killing of ~17000 people between 1975 and 1978. Every prisoner was photographed and had their details recorded which now provides a scarily detailed account of what went on. In the event that the prisoners survived their torture they were taken away to Choeung Ek for killing. In all only 7 people survived S21.

Choeung Ek is not as far from the town as you would expect (although this is probably due to recent development) but is a quite horrific site containing 129 mass graves. In order to save bullets many people were bludgeoned or stabbed to death or sawn to death - a tree growing there had sawtooth like leaves which would no doubt cause immense pain and a very slow death. At the entrance to the fields a temple has been built containing many, if not all, of the skulls exhumed thus far. It’s almost not shocking due to the sheer number of them.Skulls at Choeung Ek - The Killing Fields

The rest of the day was spent not going in to the National Museum or the Royal Palace. Instead we went to the local market and up Wat Phnom, the only hill and original birthplace of Phnom Penh.

We finished off the day with a trip to a restaurant/orphanage where we had great food and played with the kids, a good way to finish an otherwise sober day.

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
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