Phnom Penh, Cambodia: the city behind the Cambodian genocide

Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia since the French colonization of the country. With a population of 1.5 million people, Phnom Penh is an important  hub of Cambodia.


Our initial day, we had a took-took tour of the city. It included many national monuments. Within the square was the independence memorial. The National Assembly building that was swarmed with policemen because the king of Cambodia was in. Most of the government elected today was somehow involved with the Cambodian genocide. The elections in Cambodia are not free because the party in power jails most of its opponents.


Wat Phnom was another stop on our took-took tour. I found this Buddhist temple complex to be mesmerizing in the dusk. Across the street is a monument erected for the Lady Penh who is said to have founded the city because she found a tree with Buddhas statues in it floating down the river after a flood.


The sheer size of Phnom Penh makes it hard to maneuver around the city. Took-took seemed to be our only form of transportation. We had dinner at a lovely restaurant overlooking the river. The light wrapped palm trees were reminiscent of Miami, Florida.


Because of the inaccessibility we decided to go to a boxing match one night. Kick boxing is a favorite past time in Cambodia. The Cambodian kick boxers faced off against kick boxers from Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. It was fun to partake in such an adrenaline filled night. Plus, with a few US dollars, you can get yourself front row VIP tickets.


I wanted to go to Cambodia because I knew it was so beautiful but also to learn more about the terrible history of the Khmer Rogue and the Cambodian Genocide. The second day of our tour was filled with visiting the killing fields and a former prison camp.

The Cambodian genocide was so recent and so devastatingly large that the path we walked on to visit the mass graves was a shallow grave itself. Parts of skull were poking through the dirt path. So many of the bodies go unidentified and are never put in proper burial. Our tour guide explained that many of the locals believe that the grounds are haunted because the souls never were laid to rest.


About 3 million people were killed in the genocide, and we were in the spot of the most frequent killing because it was close to the main city. The mood was solemn. Many people leave offerings such as bracelets on the fences of the mass graves.


Next, we visited a former prison camp where innocent people were jailed, starved, tortured, and killed. The Khmer Rogue killed any opponents of the party: educated people, teachers, government officials, monks, religious figures, people with glasses, and any people on the fringes of society. They did this with their brainwashed child soldiers. We visited the barracks and see where people lived for only a few short days before they were tortured to death. Blood stains were still in the floor and ceiling.


In the courtyard, a man told us a harrowing story about how he survived. He vowed never to return to this wrenched place but the economic strains forced him to work on the prison grounds as a janitor today. He was only a little boy when he was sent to the prison camp. He and his brother escaped to the kitchen where they hid until the Vietnamese army came to liberate the camp.

The man who survived in the prison camp showed us a picture of the Vietnamese army saving him as a little boy. 

The US government was aware of the Cambodian genocide but did nothing to stop it. It finally was halted when the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia.


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