Choeung Ek Killing Fields, December 2015. After a couple of hours wandering around the unwaveringly grim Tuol Sleng Genocide Centre, the last thing I felt like doing was going out to The Killing Fields, the place where so many Cambodian prisoners were finally put out of their misery in the mid 1970s. But in many ways seeing Choeung Ek felt like a rite of passage, as if my travel mate and I had no right heading off for the beach oases of Sihanoukville and Ko Rong until we’d finished the historical journey we’d started.
Choeung Ek Killing Fields, December 2015. 189 mass graves were found here in 1980, containing an estimated nine thousand people. Today it’s hard to reconcile the actions of the past with the tranquility of the present, as the entire area has been transformed into a gorgeous conservation zone, which includes this dyke, constructed in 2000 to protect the area from flooding.
Choeung Ek Killing Fields, December 2015. A peaceful nature trail runs all the way around the dyke and onto the largest collection of mass graves. Somewhat strangely, a section of the path is also open to the general public, with old men cycling through and groups of school kids cutting through on their way home from school.
Choeung Ek Killing Fields, December 2015. This is the site’s largest mass grave, located nearby the infamous Killing Tree where, according to a sign, children were routinely beaten to death. An audio guide also gives you the lowdown on how the executioners often had to improvise due to a lack of available weapons. It is not pleasant listening.
Choeung Ek Killing Fields, December 2015. More than 8000 skulls, arranged by sex and age, are visible behind the clear glass panels of this Memorial Stupa, erected in 1988. There’s also a small museum with an exhibition on the Khmer Rouge leadership. A memorial day is held here annually on May the 9th.