BootsnAll Travel Network

The Killing Fields: Tuol Sleng (S-21) and Choeng Ek.

Pretty gruesome stuff but like that CNN commercial with Cristiana Amanapour, again and again and again. Getting to travel the world you get to see some amazing sights. It’s also very educating when you absorb more by seeing than reading. Learning things in school especially in regards to the evils of us, it doesn’t really resonate that much. I guess that because it is so far away that it doesn’t seem real. What we do to each other.

I really didn’t know much about what occurred here and at the time neither did anybody else. There was that famous movie made about it but beyond that I can’t actually remember ever learning much about it.

Two million people eliminated in three years, eight months, and 21 days in a nutshell.

This was an offshoot of the Vietnam War. The leftist political group Khmer Rouge was a conglomeration of rebel groups and those loyal to the disposed King Sihanouk. As the present leadership weakened during the Vietnam conflict, the Khmer Rouge was able to take control over the country. The leader of the movement was a Paris educated small village born man named Saloth Sar (aka Pol Pot or Brother no.1). On April 17th 1975 he began the implementation to transform Cambodia into a Maoist, peasent-dominated agrarian society. Basically what that meant was that he was taking his country back to the basics. What he wanted was a peasant society where everybody was a farmer and rice became the driving force for the country. No more technology, education or even towns. People were to give their lives to growing rice. With that, all persons were forced out of the cities and into the fields.

The first steps toward implementation was to cleanse the population. First to be exterminated were the politicians and military who were in charge prior or were against his beliefs. Second, those that were educated or even looked educated, ie. wore glasses. Third were the city dwellers as they were the opposite of the type of people that were wanted to make up the society. Forth were those affiliated with the Vietnamese and foreigners. Fifth anybody who rebelled . Sixth anybody else deemed necessary. There was no discrimination, all were killed, including children.

In Phnom Penh lies the notorious Tuol Sleng or S-21. It was originally the Toul Svay Prey High School. It was used as a centre for detention and torture. It cycled through approximately 17000 people in three years with most being taken to Choeung Ek for extermination. Like the Nazis they documented the people that were processed with most being photographed often times before and after torture.

Choeng Ek is the actual location for what is known as the Killing field. This is where prisoners were taken to be executed. It was thought to be a re-education camp. Most were executed the same day but often times there were too many people so some were held overnight before being processed. The cost of killing so many people started to rise so instead of shooting they converted to just bludgeoning them to death with farm implements. Mass graves were used to bury the bodies. Around 129 of these graves were found.

Although both of these facilities are the most known, there were hundreds of similar set-ups throughout Cambodia. It was actually pretty good timing getting to see and learn about what happened here. Right now the news is all over the story of the trial about “Crimes against humanity” against the man that was in charge of S-21. The relevancy level shot up ten fold. I think what I have learnt the most by actually seeing the places were how small and mundane they were. S-21 is just a small concrete style high school. It is tiny compared to the schools back home. Same with Choeng Ek where the people were mass killed and buried. When you thing killing fields of thousands and thousands of people you imagine these huge plots, but in actuality it all took place in a really small confined area.

Again and again? Yea, it will happen again. From my travels one scary aspect is that I have seen too many places where human life is valueless. I also know that the majority of people are followers and can be manipulated easily. With that you have a recipe for again and again. Hell, it is going on now. The things we do to each other.


One response to “The Killing Fields: Tuol Sleng (S-21) and Choeng Ek.”

  1. Karie says:

    Thanks interesting post

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