Cambodia today is a beautiful country with amazing architecture, people and culture. But they do also have a dark and ugly history as well. It saddens me that horrific events have taken place against innocent people. The Holocaust being a major example, however another genocide took place in Cambodia during the reign of the Khmer Rouge, and that is something I wanted to share today.
**I will try to deliver the facts on this topic, however it may be too much for some readers, please use discretion. I do not agree, accept, nor believe that these actions described below were good, proper, or needed. Acts of this caliber are horrific and those responsible I hope are receiving the karma they earned.**
The Killing Fields term was coined by a Cambodian journalist, Dith Pran, after his escape from the regime. It is not only one location within the borders of Cambodia, but several locations.
How it all started: The Cambodian Civil War was fought between the Communist party of Kampuchea (known as the Khmer Rouge) and the government forces of the Kingdom of Cambodia. It lasted from 1968 to 1975. The Khmer Rouge then took over the governance of the country.
Starting in 1975, The Khmer Rouge, led by dictator Pol Pot, began arresting and eventually executing everyone suspected of connections with the former government or with foreign governments, as well as professionals and intellectuals.
It is estimated that between 1.7 to 3 million people lost their lives during the genocide, which lasted until 1979.
How it happened: The “judicial process” for minor or political crimes began with a warning from Angkar (the government of Cambodia under the regime). If you received two warnings, you were sent for “re-education” which meant certain death. People were often encouraged to confess their “pre-revolutionary lifestyles and crimes” which would then be forgiven and the slate wiped clean. They were then taken away to a place such as Tuol Sleng or Choeung Ek for torture and execution.
Those that were executed were buried in mass graves. Not only were the adults who “offended” the regime executed, but their children as well. The rationale was “to stop them growing up and taking revenge for their parents’ deaths.” Some victims even dug their own graves.
In 1997, the Cambodian government set up a genocide tribunal. In 2006 the tribunal was presented with five names for prosecution. Two of those men, Nuon Chea and Kang Kek Iew were found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes. They were sentenced to life in prison.
There are two well known location memorializing and commemorating the genocide. The Memorial Park in Choeng Ek has been built around the mass graves located there. The other location Tuol Sleng has a museum regarding the genocide. A survivor of the genocide, Dara Duong, founded The Killing Fields Museum, in Seattle, WA.
For those who refuse to believe these types of events take place, I encourage you to look at the facts and see the reminders that remain. Not only in Cambodia, but across Europe, the United States, and Africa. These types of events have occurred, and sadly may still be happening today.
Be kind, always