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30 December 2011 / leggypeggy

More heartbreak in Cambodia—the Killing Fields (including a photo that may upset)

Memorial Stupa at the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek

Perhaps you have seen the movie The Killing Fields, or read Beyond the Killing Fields. I recommend both, but be prepared to be upset. They recount some of the horrors and cruelty of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime.

Our recent overland travels took us to Cambodia, where Poor John and I had the chance to tour the actual Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. These are the most well known of more than 300 killing fields throughout the country.

These ‘fields’ are only 15 kilometres from the capital Phnom Penh, and were originally a longan orchard. Their peacefulness today masks the horrors they saw in the late 1970s. That’s when about 17.000 people of all ages, who had been detained and tortured at the S-21 security prison, were sent to be executed. The victims were often bludgeoned to death to avoid wasting bullets and each night, as the killings were being carried out, music blared over loudspeakers to hide the cries of those being exterminated.

We got the audio pack with our tour, and I was glad we did—and if I recall correctly, it was included in the admission price. The audio gives a lot more detail about various points on the walking tour, such as mass graves and killing tools. There is also a collection of moving survivors’ stories.

The tour ends at the Memorial Stupa which was built in 1988. The stupa holds more than 8000 skulls that were exhumed in 1980. Many were found to be bound and blindfolded. The skulls are arranged by sex and age, and the visual impact is overwhelming.

Some of the many victims

The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek have at least 129 mass graves, with about 43 that have been left untouched. When there is heavy rain, bits of human bone and clothing often rise to the surface. Some are collected but many are left as visual reminders of the tragedies that took place.


Leave a Comment
  1. Brian Lageose / Aug 14 2016 1:26 pm

    I think I would have a tough time doing this one, but I would certainly give it a try…

    Liked by 1 person


  1. Heartbreak in Cambodia—Security Prison 21 (S-21) « Where to next?

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