From The Best to the Worst of it
26.07.2011 - 30.08.2011 33 °C
In less than 3 days I went from seeing the jewel in Cambodia's crown to the ugly thorn in it's side.
About 15 kms from Siem Reap is the truly majestic ruins of Angkor Wat, built of sandstone in the 12th century and has remained a Buddhist religious centre ever since. The scale of temples is breath taking, the moat surrounding Angkor Wat is 190 metres wide and forms a rectangle 1.5 kms by 1.3 kms & this is just one of the many water reservoirs that dot the temples. All up the temples cover an area of over 9 square kilometres & at its peak it had a population of over a million people. There are sculptures, steps & corridors everywhere, the size of it is jaw dropping.
Then 2 days later in inner city Phnom Penh I visited the Tuol Sleng Museum, known colloqially as S-21. This is where a school was converted, by Pol Pot and his genocidal revolutionaries, into a detention, interogation and torture centre The Kymer Rouge led by Pol Pot came into power in 1975, around the same time the Americans were fleeing South Vietnam.
At S-21 between 1975 & 1978 over 21,000 people where tortured into confession and then where transported around 15 kms out of town to to place known now as the Killing Fields. The killing squads, played loud music from loudspeakers hung in trees, so the nearby community could not hear the screams of the victims being bludgeoned to death, with tools that you would find in most garden sheds.
In the end, it was an invasion in 1978 by the new Socialist government of Vietnam that removed Pol Pot from power. Under his dictatorship, over million and a half Cambodians lost there lives,
through murder, torture, starvation and forced labour. Pol Pot never went on trial and died of natural causes in 1998.
After visiting these two sites in Phnom Penh, ones jaw also drops.