Day 12 Saturday 27 December 2014

There was a programmed visit this morning but this included a school visit and silk weaving.  We had seen silk weaving earlier on our travels and I felt it unlikely that a planned school visit would be particularly educational.  My wife agreed with me and so we remained on board and I spent the time on some earlier days of this blog.

Link to photographs:

Rivages du Monde who operate the river cruisers jointly with a Vietnamese company have dropped the Killing Fields visit from their own itinerary as it was felt that combined with the S-21 the impact was overpowering.  Our booking with VJV did include it in the itinerary at the time of booking (this may well have changed).  Our itinerary was honoured – so whilst the other passengers went to visit Wat Phnom in the afternoon we were off to the site of one of the Killing Fields – Choeung Ek – which lies on the edge of the City and is also close to the river’s edge.

There are no pictures of our visit.  All of the buildings at the time of the deaths have been removed and the mass grave areas, not all of which ahave been excavated, are marked.  They have audio guides and marked locations around the (to me) surprisingly small area of land.  The audio guides have been well produced and relate the stories of events in the period of the Pol Pot regime and the terrible deaths inflicted on this site.

There is a peaceful area where one can sit alongside a small canal to listen to some of te stories of those who managed to avoid death during this period of dispossession and in one case escape to USA and return as part of the team overseeing the first elections.

Centrally on the site is a building which houses human bones – skulls are visible through the glass doors – of some of those who died.  We do not feel we can enter as it somehow would further disturb those no longer with us.  Whilst we have not visited the scenes of mass murder arising during the Second World War, the events in Cambodia, as retold seem removed as there is no underlying schism of religion, race or politics which drove the happenings of which this is the result.

Around the site even now bones and rags of the departed rise to the surface and are collected by the staff.  Perhaps the most horrendous and chilling area surrounds a tree against which babies were thrown in view of their mothers.

It is as if all sense of reason and logic had left the Khmer Rouge army and the people.  There is more on this aspect tomorrow.

The day ends with another Khmer Apsara dance troupe – this time of children and once again the coconut and other dances are portrayed – remarkably well.  This tradition is obviously set to continue in Cambodia for a long time.Ap