Posted on June 13, 2011 - by Mira
There’s an eery calm in the natural beauty of this area, and in how the chirping birds are oblivious to what took place here over 30 years ago. But nature takes everything back and conquers even the evil of human beings – maybe we can try to take comfort in that, and in the fact that all things come to pass in the end, even the horror and madness of a man nicknamed Pol Pot.
Now a tourist attraction (!), and as a reminder so that history does not repeat itself, beyond the gate is what became known as the killing fields (also the title of a movie on the subject). Pol Pot studied Marxism and had a mission to turn Cambodia (Kampuchea) into a self-sufficient agrarian society in what he thought would emulate the ancient Khmers in their great empire in Angkor. He also wanted to rid Cambodia of external influences (and French colonial influences). After his forces took over Phnom Penh in 1975, he emptied the city entirely – by forcing people out into the fields where these urban dwellers became underfed, overworked slave farmers.
He imprisoned intellectual and educated Khmers: teachers, diplomats, scientists. Wearing glasses and speaking a foreign language would have automatically made one a target. Using the most hideous torture methods, his henchmen extracted “confessions” from prisoners in the infamous S-21 prison. They were then bound and blindfolded and driven out by the truckloads to the killing fields just outside of Phnom Penh, in Choeung Ek. Around 20,000 people are believed to have been killed at this site alone. Between 1 and 3 million people died of executions, starvation, and disease in under four years of Pol Pot’s rule.
Click here to enter the genocide center. The content might be disturbing.
(Read more on Pol Pot on Wikipedia, which also has more links under “References”.)
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