Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, Phnom Penh (a.k.a. Killing Fields).


Despite having visited the Sachenhausen Concentration Camp in Berlin last year, I stepped foot into the Choeung Ek Killing Fields about 17km away from the centre of Phnom Penh.
The place was highly recommended to me by some friends and also the multiple travel articles I've scrolled through.

Prior to visiting Cambodia, I have to admit that I didn't know that much about the country aside from the Angkorian Empire facts that were hammered into my head during my high school days.

Hired a tuktuk for the trip (return trip from my guesthouse which is located in near the city centre). Standard price for a round trip is approximately $15-$20. Lucky you if you get any deals below $15. The trip is approximately an hour from the city centre via tuktuk.
The tuktuk driver will wait outside the area.

The entry fee for Choeung Ek Genocidal Center is $6 for foreign visitors, inclusive of an audio tour which comes in multiple languages so just pick one that is most comfortable for you and you'll be on your way.
* unfortunately, student discounts are not available

Here's a map of the area. It isn't huge but it was horrifying enough for the people who were brought here 40 years ago.

Choeung Ek used to be a Chinese cemetery but it all changed during the Khmer Rouge.
The Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot lasted from 1975 to 1979. 20,000 people were executed in Choeung Ek. Hence, it was dubbed as one of the many "killing fields". 

Of course, there are other killing fields in Cambodia but Choeung Ek is by far the most frequented one by tourists as the other sites might not be cleared of landmines and shrapnel. It was estimated that more than 1.5 million people were killed during the period.

The audio guide gave an insight as to what really happened on these grounds during Pol Pot's regime. It was said that hundreds of people were executed per night during the earlier days and they had to resort to keeping "prisoners" overnight.

The worst part?
During WW2 (1939-1945), concentration camps favoured toxic gases and guns but the majority of victims here were killed using whatever that was available (i.e. hacked and chopped) as bullets and gases are expensive.

The stories revolving around Choeung Ek and the Khmer Rouge were all too gruesome.

Hand-woven bracelets were left for the victims of the mass graves. Women and children were also killed alongside the men.

There's also a lake in the killing field where visitors are encouraged to sit on the benches provided or take a short walk while listening to the survivors' stories. It was also mentioned that there might be numerous underwater graves which were all left untouched.

A memorial stupa was constructed within the killing fields for visitors to pay respect to the ones who were brutally murdered during Pol Pot's takeover.
Flowers and donations are welcomed but please do not litter or spit in the area.

Hundreds of skulls were stacked on top of each other for nine tiers. There had to be at least a thousand of them! Other parts of the human skeleton were also displayed and they were catalogued according to their age and COD (cause of death).

The woman in front of me couldn't suppress her grief and started crying a little.
It was truly heartbreaking, seeing all those skulls in front of me. The 20,000 killed here was just a number at first but after going into the memorial stupa, they were seen as individuals in a nationwide tragedy.

Up till today, Cambodia is still slowly recovering from the disastrous 4 years but so much has changed. The poverty rate has fallen in the last decade or so. Foreign investments and international food-chains have found their way into Cambodia (imagine my surprise when I saw myBurgerLab in Phnom Penh).

Choeung Ek Genocidal Center (Killing Fields) 
Roluos Village, Sangkat Choeung Ek, Khan Dangkor, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Tel: +855 23 305 371
CE Killing Fields
Opening Hours: 0800-1730 everyday

More posts up soon! (skipped selfies and touristy photos while visiting the killing fields because I just find it disrespectful)

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