Cambodia 2009: The Genocide Memorial


Bizarre. Chilling. Macabre.
These are a few of the words to describe the Genocide Memorial in Cambodia. But as I stood there looking at it, I couldn’t help thinking that there are no words adequate enough to define one of the most horrendous and tragic events of the 20th century.
1975 marked two momentous events for Cambodia.
The first was the end of their civil war.
The second was the coming to power of the victorious Khmer Rouge [Red Khmer]. Their leader was Pol Pot, an admirer of Maoist and Chinese communism and he set about to “reconstruct” Cambodia into an agrarian classless peasant society.
The Khmer Rouge forced the inhabitants of towns and cities into collective farms. They abolished civil and political rights, shut down factories, closed schools and universities, and banned music. Religion was forbidden; all leading Buddhist monks were killed and their temples destroyed. Children were taken from parents and placed in forced labour camps. It was possible to be executed simply for knowing a foreign language, wearing glasses, laughing or crying.
By the time the Khmer Rouge were overthrown by Vietnam and a peace agreement signed in 1991, nearly two million Cambodians had died from execution, disease, exhaustion or starvation. This amounted to about twenty percent of the entire population of Cambodia!
Mass graves discovered since 1995 reveal the extent of the genocide. Reconstructed bones and skulls have been preserved as a memorial of the dead in the Killing Fields where people were slaughtered mercilessly.
The exercise of power simply to prove that it exists or Man’s inhumanity to Man?
PS: In case you’re not impressed enough, there is a close up view of the memorial.

POSTSCRIPT 27 June 2011:
Having waited for three decades to see architects of the Genocide brought to justice, the people of Cambodia will finally see four surviving leaders go on trial in a UN backed court in Phnom Penh. 
One of the four is Khmer Rouge security chief Kaing Guek Eav, aka Comrade Duch who ran the notorious S-21 prison where more than 14,000 adults and children were tortured and killed. Another is 84 year Nuon Chea, deputy to Pol Pot and known as Brother Number Two.
And the reason why it’s taken so long to bring them to trial? Is it because the current Prime Minister is a former Khmer member? Or could it be that the country has acquired a case of collective amnesia?