Choeung Ek

We drove past the National Museum, past the Royal Palace. The wide, paved road turned into a narrower asphalt road. That road then turned into a well kept dirt road which turned into a rutty, utterly impassible path that violently jostled us as we neared Choeung Ek, The Killing Fields. A few tuk tuk drivers waited for their passengers in the hot afternoon sun. We approached the ticket booth, a simple wooden structure in which sat a solitary employee. Not quite sure what to expect, we entered the makeshift gate, walking towards the Choeung Ek Memorial. We placed our shoes on the rack provided and I took off my hat, as was requested by the signage. We lit incense sticks to pray for those who suffered under the regime of Pol Pot. As I knelt, I realized the tower before me housed shelves and shelves of skulls disinterred from the mass graves which once surrounded us. I thought of all the Cambodians I currently work with and all those I don’t, I won’t. I realized tears were streaming down my face and I closed my eyes. How was Pol Pot able to convince children to kill their parents, neighbors to turn against one another? As it was happening, did the world view it as barbaric as we judge it in hindsight? Did we know a genocide was occurring? I think about the atrocities that are presently taking place. Will future generations wonder the same about us?

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