Wednesday, 30 March 2016

S-21 and the killing fields

Anyone who stalks my Facebook will see the post I made about S-21 and the killing fields so today's post is essentially a modified version of that.

We got breakfast and headed off to S-21 in a tuk tuk we had agreed on a price on for the day. Here's an insight into the history and what we saw;

Between 1975 and 1979, one quarter of Cambodians died. A new government, the Khmer Rouge came into power and attempted to purify the nation, setting up collective farms with impossible production targets and forcing people to work up to 19 hours a day on a couple of spoonfuls of rice.
Anyone considered a threat was arrested and sent to prisons like s21. This could be anyone educated, skilled, who spoke a foreign language, wore glasses, had 'soft hands' (considered a sign of creativity) etc. These people had done nothing wrong.

Beaten, cut, electrocuted, shackled in rows by the ankles, forced to lick up their own defecation, starved, they were forced to write statements confessing to crimes they hadn't committed. One Australian man in his 20s sent here for sailing on Cambodian waters wrote a ridiculous & oddly humourous confession; accusing Colonel Sanders (aka KFC man) of being his senior in the CIA, as well as his own mother (to show her that he was still thinking of her before his execution).

Prisoners lay next to dead bodies for hours, sprayed through the window with a hose to 'shower' 4 times a year. These were men, women and children, many arrested 'of kin' meaning that they would be sent here because of their family. A Cambodian saying goes 'to kill a weed you must cut off its roots'; they would send the entire family to prevent anyone seeking revenge. There are thousands of mugshots; tiny children who didn't understand what was happening to them, accounts of newborn babies being murdered, children sent there simply because their parents were trained doctors or engineers.
Of the 14000 people to enter S21, 7 survived.

Though many died here this wasn't planned; executions were held in killing fields. Blindfolded and led to open graves the victims were beaten and cut to save bullets, babies and children beaten against trees (when discovered the tree had human remains on it from these beatings; these included hair, blood and pieces of brain). Later they poured chemicals over the graves to finish off anyone still alive and to cover the smell, while loud revolutionary music played to block out the screams so that local people wouldn't work out what was happening.

This all happened in the late 1970s, while our parents, and some of you, were alive, in a country not so far from ours. Yet we are not taught about the history or the aftermath it has left the country to deal with; many powerful western nations supporting the government responsible until the 90s.

There isn't a happy ending but I feel compelled to share this with people as prior to today I knew nothing of this nation's so recent suffering. Rest in peace to the 2 million victims, may no one suffer like they did

There's no way in words to express how horrific it was to see in person; the real cells these victims spent time in, the weapons used to torture them, walking through the killing fields where fragments of the victim's bones and clothing were coming through the shallow graves. People probably think of this as a far away, third world country, wildly different to our own, but this is a country full of people like us; it had cinemas, office blocks, houses, hotels, cars, televisions. This happened in a time of colour photographs and modern technology and it's still largely ignored by western countries. The victims are owed universal education about what they want through, and the Western nations included our own who supported the government responsible for years afterwards should be embarrassed.

After this emotional afternoon (hadn't anticipated walking round a museum crying to be honest) we got food at the hostel, went on a mini mart trip and are now watching the inbetweeners 2 in the communal area at the hostel.

No comments:

Post a Comment