A tower of skulls casts a shadow providing momentary relief from the offensively hot rays beating down on us from the midday sun. Many of the skulls are barely bigger than my fist. One young Cambodian man told me, “we don’t think about the past, we only look to the future”. At the Killing Fields it’s hard to think of anything else. Fragments of bone jutting out from behind wild flowers act as gruesome reminders of the horrific truth that lay buried in these lush, green meadows. Palm trees shiver as a gentle breeze occasionally blows like so many dead souls whispering their terrible secrets to the hoards of perspiring tourists. Everything here is vivid green, healthy and alive and the paradox is almost unbearable
Standing in the middle of this oasis is a thick-trunked tree with long, powerful branches and an unmistakeable, negative energy. The brown stains on the trunk is all that remains of the thousands of infants whose skulls were smashed against the rough bark of the Killing Tree as they were swung by their ankles by Khmer Rouge soldiers. Satan himself couldn’t have found a more evil use for one of nature’s finest creations.
A small wooden bench nestled in an orchard is the perfect place to sit and digest everything I’ve learned about Pol Pot’s regime during my tour. “A Memory from Darkness”, Him Sophy’s haunting response to the tragedy plays in my ears and fills me right to the core with unmitigated sorrow. The ground is uneven and beneath every rising mound lays thousands of innocent men, women and children who were systematically murdered as unceremoniously as a colony of ants in someone’s kitchen.
|Left exactly as it was found|
|One of the rooms of cells|
It is a very sobering experience but one I recommend to anyone passing through Cambodia's oppressive capital, Phnom Penh. The poverty and destruction wrought by the genocide is still omnipresent throughout the country so be prepared to tip generously everywhere despite the fact that the lonely planet says it is not customary here.