Friday, May 11, 2012

Phnom Penh: The Choeung Ek Genocidal Center (The Killing Fields)

"Silence is not what remains when all noise has been suppressed" - J. Baudrillard 

 A rickety ride to The Killing Fields in Charlie's tuk-tuk.

Traveling from city to country...

An ominous sky opened its angry maw soon after we arrived, drenching the land below, flooding the mass graves, and bringing the horrific past bubbling to the surface.

The Khmer Rouge set up hundreds of prisons and killing fields throughout Cambodia.  As Choeung Ek was only 15 km southeast of the city, this verdant swathe of once peaceful countryside was transformed into an extermination center where at least 17,000 people were killed.  Below, the bamboo stakes mark off a single mass grave where the remains of hundreds of women and small children were discovered.

This gnarled, ancient tree once held blaring loudspeakers that spewed the sounds of Democratic Kampuchea throughout the night.  The swirling cacophony created by the speakers and the thundering electrical generator that powered the music was an effective tool to block the sounds of suffering and death emanating from the camp.

The ground appears to be littered with old rags, but in fact, the remnants of the dead surface from the mass graves after heavy rain.  Interspersed with colorful bits of fabric are more grisly reminders of the past.  Including teeth, pieces of jawbone, and shards of bone.  

Some forty mass graves remain on the site, left undisturbed. 

Over 5,000 human skulls interred from the graves now rest in this Memorial Stupa.

They are surrounded by thousands of multi-colored cranes.

Choeung Ek Genocidal Center is a forty-five minute drive from the city center. 

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