Brief History Lesson That is Totally Worth Your Time - Phnom Pehn, Cambodia
This Educational Warning is a warning of 2 things. One, well...it's education. And two, it is actually very harsh. If you want to backtrack out of this, go ahead. I am actually reluctant to describe everything so i'll start with the key points. Enjoy i guess?
So basically, right now, around 2/3 of the Cambodian's population is under 30 years old. Between 1975-1979, a group called the Khmer Rouge rose up after the Americans ceased to support them. And because of all the bombing from the Vietnam War (remember the other educational reference?) hundreds of thousands of villagers living in the jungle returned to the bigger cities like Phnom Pehn. BAD IDEA. The Americans didn't take very good care of the citizens and therefore boosted the Khmer Rouge's popularity. While i'm screaming 'NOOO' the leader named Pol Pot was cackling evilly. He actually was inspired by the communist leader of China, you might have heard of Chairman Mao in my Chinese blogs? Well he basically brought up the peasants and persecuted the rich or educated.
But, Pol Pot was a "little" too enthusiastic about that idea. He killed teachers, doctors, lawyers, nurses. Monks and nuns. Students — anyone with an education, anyone who spoke a foreign language. Those who wore glasses. People with soft hands. The man became paranoid during his four-year reign of terror, he even killed off members of his own army.
Every city was then emptied. He flushed 2 000 000 out of Phnom Penh on foot by saying that the Americans were going to kill anyone who stayed and soon, almost everyone became peasants and farmers. They were classed as the new people, (those driven out of the cities) and old people, (the poor and lower-class peasants) who had remained in the countryside even through the bombing. The unfair part was that the people who came originally from the country-side, and moved into the larger cities for safety, were classified as new people.
Let me define new people for you. The new people were treated as slave laborers. They endured the hardest labors, especially in the most inhospitable, fever-ridden parts of the country. Privacy was rare and the food portions they received weren't even enough for a pudgy domestic cat. They had to walk miles away for medical care or it would be, nonexistent. People were growing desperate with starvation and some even ate bugs off the ground. Families were separated, the new people could be killed without a trial, and your life would be transformed into hell. Basically attempts to kill off all the rich or educated while gaining crops and money out of it.
Cambodians were expected to produce three tons of rice per hectare throughout the country. Which meant that anyone above the age of 10, would be forced to work 12 months a year more than 12 hours a day without rest. You know what that means... The new people had to work even harder. Less food and less rest. Any clothing other than black was destroyed and anyone who possessed anything that stood out, you were about to live in extremely difficult conditions. People in your camp would be so desperate for more privileges that they would go to the extent of betraying friends. If you were caught possessing anything of your old life, the penalty would most likely be death. But the Khmer Rouge soldiers would call it simply "to do extra work" or "he/she'll be back the next day." The person would never return. Where did they go?
The person would be squashed into a trunk with other men and women and even children. All blindfolded and bound. They were told that they would be going back to better lives. While being blindfolded and stuffed in a truck like garbage! They are all dead now. Put into individual cells then killed one by one by being beat on the head with clubs, hoes and axes and whips and sharp instruments and, umm other stuff.
Bullets were too costly and they didn't want to waste them. The Khmer Rouge blasted Angkor slogans and propaganda over the speakers to blare out screams and killing sounds. HOW INHUMANE! Later, people found bits and fragments of bone and dark clothing in mass graves and thus, they opened a memorial for people to learn about the horror of the Choeung Ek Killing Fields. It was a very informative museum outside of Phnom Pehn.
Sometimes, before they died, they would continue on laboring. All labor was without machinery, by hand and perilous. The Khmer Rouge's attempts failed but not in a positive way. Their attempts to create a completely self-sufficient agrarian society led to thousands of deaths from starvation and overwork. Medicine was rare and sometimes they just gave their patients sugar cubes. And thanks to Pol Pot for executing all the doctors and nurses, no one was there to tend to wounds. Which also led more people to death.
There was 3 up to 300 killings everyday. Continuing for 4 years. There's a reason why that place is called the Killing Fields.
Some of the people brought to the Killing Fields were old politicians coming from a place they called S-21. (Now it's called the Tuol Sleng GENOCIDE Museum.) It was formerly a high school in Phnom Pehn. Ugh. It was a HIGH SCHOOL. They transformed it to a genocide prison. Where people were detained, interrogated, tortured and eventually, executed. Almost everyday up to 6 months. Leaving barely anytime to sleep or to do anything. The compound was divided into 3 levels. The main floor was for the more important prisoners where they were chained to the bed 24/7. Okay. Listen, the leaders of the Khmer Rouge were delusional, they believed that the prisoners were plotting with the FBI or anything against their beliefs. So they interrogated them (a.k.a. falsely accused them.) When they didn't confess anything, the torture began.
You might ask about potty-time. It was in a small bottle. If you didn't-
I'm ending there because the truth is that it's not exactly hygienic.
It's terribly harsh and if you ever visit the museum, you can listen to the stories by yourself. Some parts, i had to turn the volume off for the sake of Lucy's innocent mind. (Because we both shared a device with two sets of earphones.) So, every prisoner was photographed and in the museum there was walls and walls covered with haunting eyes and faces of innocent people. If you want to read well read on. And if you want to umm...skip, well go ahead. Probably best for those who are feeling sick. (Even i feel sick but i still want to continue.)
I'm going to pass some horrible images into your brain unless you're tough and prefer to be disgusted then go ahead.
(To be honest, i am disgusted right now, from reading the information that once entered my brain, and i'll cut out some very gruesome parts)
(read with caution)
Oh well..Good Luck.
The ways of torture were barbaric. Prisoners were tortured with battery powered electric shocks, searing hot metal prods, knives and other terrifying implements. For example, in the prison courtyard, there was a large wooden frame once used by students for gymnastics practice. The Khmer Rouge converted it into gallows for the hanging torture and execution of prisoners. This one story was told where the soldiers hung people by their wrists at the top until they passed out. You know how they roused them? Dumped them head first into human waste in a large jar. I repeat, BARBARIC AND INHUMANE. Although many prisoners died from the constant abuse, killing them outright was discouraged. The soldiers who took the torture too far, it led them to their own torture from higher ranked leaders. Apparently getting false confessions were much more important than their own men's lives. Over time the Khmer Rouge tortured as necessary in order to extract whatever confession was needed.
One solider said he saw another solider kill a 7 to 8 month old baby by dropping it from the top floor to the bottom. But why kill a baby?! They have these sayings that they follow, "Better to kill an innocent by mistake then to spare an enemy by mistake.” Another quote, “To dig up the grass, one must also dig up the roots.” As in, if you kill the parents, better to kill the child so that they won't seek revenge. Why not kill people in the first place...
Alright sorry if that broke your heart as much as i broke mine. But i thought that it was vital for people to know some of the history outside of our own countries. In the end of four years, over 20 000 prisoners were kept here. And only 6 of them survived. Artists, painters, mechanics, and other "useful" men. But despite all the pain the soldiers committed against these people. I searched it up (haha sorry) and most of the soldiers were mostly illiterate and between my age and nineteen. I can't imagine what i would do in that situation. It's all you know, where else would you go? Run away? Probably to Thailand or something?
I just feel fortunate with the life i have, (even if I've gotten wider and i'm less fit) at least i'm fed and have freedom. In the 4 hard years, there has been over 3.3 million deaths in the Khmer Rouge regime. Sorry about turning this blog into a straight out Khmer Rouge report but it seemed essential while i visited the sites that i needed to talk about the outrageous events. Eventually, the Vietnamese (who the Cambodians were afraid of thanks to Khmer Rouge propaganda) interfered with the working camps. And the hold around the Cambodians loosened and slowly, they lost power.
Still, there was a large problem with land mines. There are still thousands out there in the forest that they have yet to explore even at the killing field museum. They are meant to maim not to kill so it would be harder for the Khmer Rouge's opponents to survive with wounds. It takes more time to tend to and was intended to do that. We also visited a land mine museum in Cambodia later on. Oh yes, and wondering about what happened with Pol Pot? He lived a good long 73 years and never had to face any sort of consequence. Yep.
Hopefully this wasn't too painful for you and if it was, i'm sorryyyy!!! The next blog will be all happy experiences because i visited one of the largest temple complexes in the world! Christmas is in the next blog!! Excited to finish it soon! Alright thank you for your time! And don't forget to read First They Killed My Father.
If you don't get a chance to visit Phnom Penh just read a book. A book? That's it? Yes please read a book called First They Killed My Father by Luong Ung. It was a true story based on the horrible events that she had to deal with during the Khmer Rouge age. Her father worked for the government and her mother was a fair-skinned beautiful Chinese lady. So yes. Lots of trouble expected in her family of 9.
(If that doesn't convince you, Angelina Jolie is making a film based on this book. Yes you should