Phnom Penh has a history going back thousands of years and of course it’s all very interesting to those like me who are interested in stuff like that.
But of course Phnom Penh is infamous for what was described in the 1984 movie The Killing Fields with Sam Waterston.
This afternoon, willing participants were given an opportunity to go with a professional guide to the actual sites and see, first hand, the killing fields themselves, to hear and read some of the stories of that dark time in history.
Now, I’m not going to get into the details of how these atrocities were carried out. Interested people can find out for themselves either online or in history books.
What I can and will tell you is that the atrocities that you see take place in the movie are just a shadow of the real thing.
I figured I’d find it interesting from a historian’s viewpoint, and I’d be to maintain an almost clinical and dispassionate arm’s length distance.
And I did. For a while.
Then the enormity of what I was seeing (and hearing) seemed to tumble on top of me and knock me sideways. My heart raced, my skin grew clammy, my head pounded and there wsd no escape. Any direction I turned I was greeted with yet another atrocity.
A tower, 6 stories high, filled with human skulls. Great pits in the ground where mass graves once were.
And a tree, the graceful branches of which held up a loudspeaker. The speaker used to play loud music, to overcome the sounds of people being tortured and dying.
I have pictures of all this, but maybe it’s just as well I can’t upload any thing.
Phnem Penh has the potential to be one of the most beautiful cities in Asia, but I can’t ever see it coming out from that dark shadow known as The Killing Fields.