When conversation runs to the history of modern Cambodia, a grim picture unfolds. A picture of displacement and genocide and pain. A chasm-like wound that occurred over three decades ago yet remains fresh to this day.
Our guide Sorn Ram was especially candid about his youth in the mountainous jungles on the Thai border in Western Cambodia during the latter stages of the unimaginably cruel Khmer Rouge reign. A childhood in which the sound of artillery and news of fallen relatives was the rule and not the exception. He has spent the entirety of his life like most Cambodians: trapped in penury, burdened by a dark past and a present-day kleptocracy in the government ranks.
This precious, gaunt boy was born HIV positive and now spends his days in the orphanage next to the pagoda.
Although tiny in comparison with the infamous Tuol Sleng killing fields and prison, these grounds just five minutes down the road from Ankgor Wat were once used as a forced labor camp and human abattoir.