Whilst in Phnom Penh we visited S21 and the killing fields. S21 was a school in the city which was taken over by the Khmer Rouge in the 70s and used as the biggest torture and interrogation centre in Cambodia. It has been left exactly as it was found at the end of the khmer rouge rein in 1979, with large photos above the beds of the remains of the last victims who were found there. There is also photos of all the prisoners before and sometimes after torture. It is a haunting place to visit. One of the seven survivors (out of at least 20,000 prisons who did not survive) works at the prison everyday selling his book about his experience. When asked how he could come back here day after day, he said, his story needs to be heard, Cambodia’s story needs to be heard to stop this from happening again, go home tell your children, tell your grandchildren.
If the prisoners (some imprisons for having soft hands, others for being educated people) didn’t die from the inhuman torture or appalling living conditions, they were blind folded and trucked off in the middle of the night to the killing fields. When arriving at the killing fields we were given an audio guide which took us around the mass graves, explained the way the people were killed and the history of why it happened. It was very informative with no horrific detail spared. It’s a really weird place to walk around because it is so peaceful and quiet, a complete contrast from the stories being told in your ears. After learning only a small part of the history of Cambodia, it changed my perspective slightly as I travelled from place to place. The spirit, strength and determination of the Cambodian people to rebuild not only their country, but their culture, education, industries and families is truly amazing and puts my life firmly in perspective.