Cambodian Memorial. By Ian Layzell
A Commemorative Stupa filled with the Skulls of the Victims of Choeung Ek.
Arriving in Phnom Penh we settled into our hotel inside Cambodia's extremely busy capital city. After a short while we headed for the Choeung Ek Killing Field. Feeling quite emotional at this point anyway, due to saying goodbye to some friends which I had made on the Thailand leg, I really wasn't prepared for this part of the itinerary.
Our first stop was at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. One memory I have of this day is of the many people begging for money as we left our vehicle and walked the short distance to the Museum's entrance. Two individuals particularly stay in mind. Both of them had been disfigured in land mines our guide explained. Scenes I won't forget. I had experienced people in Thailand constantly trying to sell me things but not beggars. Made me feel just awlful and we were told to ignore their pleads for "american dollars" by our guide which made it even worse.
Entering Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was not easy either. This is a site of a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge Communist Regime. Tuol Sleng means "Hill of the Poisonous Trees". A very tough part of the trip which I can't really explain in words. Many of the group members were showing very emotional as we were lead around the Genocide Museum.
After this very moving morning we then headed towards the Choeung Ek Killing Field. The site contains a Buddhist Memorial to the evil and terror. The Memorial Park has been constructed around the mass graves of the many thousands of victims of the Khmer Rouge Regime, during it's rule of Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, after the Vietnam War.
Many mass graves are visible above ground and many still have not been excavated as of yet. Often, after heavy rainfalls, victims bones and clothing are moved to the surface due to the extremely large numbers of bodies still buried in the area.
17,000 people were executed between 1975 to 1979 by the Regime. Many of the dead were former inmates in the Tuol Sleng Prison, which we had just previously visited.
The Skulls, pictured above, are held in a Buddhist Stupa. This Stupa contains acrylic glass sides and is filled with over 5,000 human skulls. We were allowed to enter the Stupa's lower level where we were able to circle the skulls. Many of the skulls had been shattered and smashed in.
Sight's, smells, stories, descriptions and feelings will always be part of me after visiting these two very emotional memorial sites.