January 31, 2013 by brasiersarah
This is the infamous school turned prison S-21 in the centre of Phnom Penh. This housed an estimated 15,000 to 30,000 prisoners who were tortured and made to confess to crimes they did not commit. Though there were many other prisons in Cambodia this was the most renowned and as recorded out of all the prisoners that past through this hell only 7 survived. As soon as you step foot into the classrooms an eerie feeling washes over you. The combination of a classroom life and a torture room bound by blood is a sick sad feeling that leaves you with more questions than answers. You can imagine where the desks would go and where the children would laugh, learn and muck around instead all that remains is the chalkboard where the rules of the prison were written. Prisoners were shackled by the feet and all locked onto the same cast iron rod and forced to lay down and not speak until they were hauled into interrogation. Prisoners were beaten with bamboo batons, whipped, water-boarded, had the fingernails pulled out and some were tied with their hands behind their back and lifted until they passed out then dunked into festered water. After days or weeks of torture prisoners would confess to fraudulent claims of betrayal sometimes writing hundreds of confessions. The prison was well documented and there are 6,000 photos of some of the people that passed through here taken in the form of a mug shot. As well as these photos of the living there are the photos those relived by death, those that could not brave the conditions. The deaths were so well documented because if a prison guard could not prove the death of their prisoner then they themselves were suspected of freeing them and subjected to the same atrocities they had been forced to commit. This is where the prisoners from S-21 were brought, told by their guards that they were being moved to a different prison. Blindfolded and put in a truck they were transported here to the Killing Fields. At first it was a couple of trucks of 30 a week then it exploded to 300 people a day. They could not kill people fast enough so they put them into tin sheds and had propaganda music playing loudly and the generators constantly going to drown out the sounds of the screams. Imagine being faced with the problem of not being able to kill people fast enough? To save bullets they used palm leaves that worked as serrated machetes.One could look at the Khmer Rouge as a poor or efficient regime, bullets where not used here because they were expensive and needed elsewhere so other methods where put into place. The person to discover the Killing Fields was a local and this was once where his village stood. In an interview he explains when he came across this tree there were bone fragments stuck in the tree as well as brain matter, when he looked into the pit next to the tree he then knew the blood belonged to.These are some of the cloths excavated from the pits if you look closely you can see shorts of a child.This is the monument to all those that died here all 8,895 of them. Inside the stupa (monument) there are tiers containing the bones of the slaughtered the bottom levels are skulls sorted by gender and age, in the middle are the limbs and at the top are a miscellaneous assortment. It is crazy to believe that this happened such a short time ago age done by Cambodians to Cambodians. The senseless slaughter of people is overpowering, as it was put simply to me “can you imagine one in every four people you knew was either killed or died of starvation” no one was left unaffected. After experiencing this place a question kept playing on my mind, why must each country not learn from the past, the mistake of others? Why must this many people die for the greater good whether it is a religious sect, a race or an indigenous tribe. Is it pride I ask myself? So proud that you cant admit defeat? So proud that you will inflict as much damage as you can before go down. Maybe it is just a characteristically deranged sense of mind scented with cunning and mixed with a dash of influence as simple as that. I hope we have learned from our mistakes that through speed and ease that information can flow we can educate generations to come that this is NOT acceptable, not just to whoever is involved but the world. Look beyond your neighbor, beyond your allies and look at people as people, the same flesh and blood and lift them up if they are fallen as you would your brother or comrade. I know that deranged minds are still out there and I know they are still doing damage but all I can hope is that their time is coming. I hope that their window is closing that ability to rein is not becoming an option but a dream that will never come to truths, to never again drench the history books with blood. I have faith in the human race though it is tested, I still believe that the majority of people are good and united the good will defeat the bad……eventually. I guess I’m an optimist what can I say.
So after all that ranting here is a picture of a heavily overloaded truck or a perfectly loaded truck depending how you look at it. The people in Cambodia, a couple once told me that they are charming people and they weren’t wrong. So quick to smile and always willing to help out they are awesome! I could easily live here because they are so inviting and quick to have a laugh straight away. The kids here have this cute mischievous smile plastered over their face and are not afraid to say hello.The things you can put on the back of a motorbike are amazing.