When going to Cambodia I had no idea how sad and at the same time interesting is the history of this country. This story partially explains why this place is so poor. In will give it a try and share with you.
In 1975, after a civil war, the Khmer Rouge party seized power in Cambodia. They were an extremist, communist party led by Pol Pot. He wanted to create a state in which there are no class differences between people. To achieve his goal he ordered all inhabitants of cities into rural areas and villages. Those who had “soft hands” or wore glasses, meaning doctors, teachers, scientists were murdered. Then he decided that each citizen must produce 3 tonnes of rice out of one hectar per annum. As it was not possible to achieve this goal, the local leaders of the villages were taking rice away from people to meet their quotas imposed by the party. As a result over a million people died of starvation.
Now the story of Prison S21 and The Killing Fields.
Every person opposing the regime or who made any mistake was taken to Prison S21. The prisoners were kept in cells 1,5 x 0,5 meters. In total over 20000 people became prisoners here and only 3 survived. Some deaths were accidental (as a result of tortures) as normally no one was allowed to die without an order. Those meant to be killed were taken to The Killing Fields. Their location was secret. When the killing was about to start, the soldiers turned on partiotic songs loudly so that the screams were not to be heard outside. Now imagine you sit chained in a tent with other convicts. They take you out and then you hear this music announcing your death. The Killing Fields were not only for adults – children were killed here too. The soldiers were grabbing them by their legs and crushing on the trees. Adult convicts were not shot as Pol Pot did not want to use precious ammunition. Most often their heads were crushed with a bat or other tool. They killed 1,7 million people this way.
The Khmer Rouge ruled for 4 years. In 1979 Vietnam troops intervened and overthrown their government. Despite that their guerillas went undercover and were fighting against the new government till 1999. Their regime was supported by the US, China and ASEAN countries. The first hospital was opened only a year after the Pol Pot Regime was overthrown but it took 10 more years to open the first school. Out of 8 million Cambodians only 5 million survived.
I feel very sad after visiting The Killing Fields and S21. Seeing the skulls and photographs made a huge impression on me. I hope such story will not happen ever again.