Mellissa in Cambodia
Upon first arriving in Cambodia, you can instantly tell that the streets of Phnom Penh are much more congested than Chiang Mai and the Tuk Tuk drivers are much more fierce and flock from every direction trying to give you a ride. Unfortunately, I only got to spend a couple of days in Cambodia, but by far it had the strongest impact on me this trip.
Our second day was spent exploring the sites. Particularly, the Tuol Sleng Genocide museum (Prison S-21) and the killing fields. We learned about the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot, and the mass genocide that occurred just over 30 years ago, killing approximately 2 million, about 21% of the Cambodian population at the time. The Khmer Rouge sought to eliminate the educated. This included doctors, lawyers, teachers – even those that were believed to be smart because they just wore glasses. Men, women, and even children were sent to these prisons, and fields to be tortured and then slaughtered. The Khmer Rouge didn’t want to waste ammunition, instead, they would beat each prisoner to death and use other barbaric methods. Among one of the most heartbreaking sights was a tree situated in the middle of the field. When the field was first discovered, dried blood remained on the bark of the tree, and beside it, a mass grave consisting of women and children. They now know that this tree was used to smash the skulls of babies before throwing them into the mass grave. It is now decorated with colorful bracelets. Our way of saying we remember. The people of Cambodia are still be recovering from this tragedy that few even know about. It wasn’t until the other intern pointed it out to me that I noticed, but driving along the streets you see mostly younger generations. The elderly that you do see show pain in their eyes because they remember.
Cambodia remembers. We should all remember.