Cambodia

Left delightful Vietnam and headed for Phnom Penh in Cambodia. For some reason experiencing a mix of emotions: nervous, apprehensive, excited. Even after 40 years of travelling it still stimulates the senses especially when the destination is new and carries such a checkered history. Visiting countries which, even within my lifetime, have been cut off from the wider world is somehow more exciting and certainly more enlightening. Algeria during the civil war in the 90’s, Lybia during Ghadaffi’s regime, Syria albeit pre ISIS, Iraq, West Bank / Palestine: all produced similar anxious expectations and all without exception demonstrated that the locals, mostly just want the same as you and I – a peaceful and happy life.

I guess it is not unusual for many people to think of the countries in South East Asia as being more or less the same, after all they are in close proximity to each other and share common borders. The reality is that they are very different- not only today but have very different histories which inevitably shaped who they have become. Colonisation (or lack of in Thailand’s case) played an important part in shaping the differences. Cambodia, for 2000 years has absorbed influences from India and China through extensive trade routes; Hinduism and Buddhism being prevalent religions with 20th century French colonisation adding to the mix.

Pol pot and the Khmer Rouge

Recent history has been particularly destructive. During the 3 years 8 months from 1975 to 1979 there were acts of appalling genocide causing up to 3 million deaths from a population at the time of just 8 million. Pol Pot’s pursuit of an extreme form of communist state sounds like it comes from medieval times not just 40 odd years ago…

First early morning visit was a 50 minute very bumpy Remorque (Cambodian Tuk Tuk) ride to Choeung Ek one of the more than 300 sites across Cambodia known infamously as the Killing Fields. Phnom Penh is a really cosmopolitan city now with all the normal western brands (Starbucks, KFC, Dominos etc) mixed in with local flavours and the inevitably crazy traffic. The road or rather tracks to Choeung Ek went through very different areas which reflected the poverty in many parts of the country.

Choeng Ek – Killing Fields

No need for words…

Tuol Sleng Genocide museum….on the site of the infamous S-21 Khmer prison.

Prisoners were tortured until false confessions were extracted and then transported to Choeung Ek to execute them…

Used to be a school….

There were only 12 confirmed survivors out of the estimated 20,000 prisoners in this particular prison; two of which were present today during my visit….really brings it home that this was not some centuries old event but very recent history….have we learnt form previous catastrophic periods….It would not seem so……Balkans and current situation in Yemen would suggest not…

3 thoughts on “Cambodia

  1. Hi you are certainly seeing some places loving all the photos although these latest ones must have been rather emotional for you . Enjoy your last week and you are certainly not missing this awful weather we are having . See you soon xxx

    Like

  2. Be kind is the statement of the day in the UK. I think that it’s relevant the world over, respect one another, share love not hate. Strength comes from forgiveness & love.

    Liked by 1 person

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